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Thread: How much actual planning?

  1. #1

    How much actual planning?

    I've been worried lately that I'll come out of several years of schooling to be in a job where all I really do is stuff like code/zoning enforcement and regulation. How much actual creative planning do ya'll get to do at your jobs, and how much is just making sure developers follow your cities ordinances? My school advisor said that if I really want to do mostly actual planning, then I should try to get into a private sector firm, but that those jobs are harder to find and competition would be stiff.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    see the following thread

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...061#post366061

    I think that is how you hyperlink a thread on here.

    i will also add another thing, private firms do not always advertise positions, you have to do a lot of canvassing door to door, informational interviews, and developing a strong network to get your foot in the door, but eventually it will pay off.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 16 Feb 2007 at 9:35 AM. Reason: double reply

  3. #3
    Can you explain why you can't do 'real planning' in a government job? Why is it that you can only do it in private firms? What is 'real planning', are you talking designing plans of neighborhoods, stree plans, urban design, etc? Or are you talking about writing new policy? Cheers, from a prospective planner.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Design is a lot more than just making pretty pictures on paper. You have to spend a lot of time generating ideas internally, and then either presenting those images to the client, at a hearing, or holding additional design charettes to get input from the community. After the design is approved, then the plan is sent out to bid, where contractors will bid to earn the construction contracts. So, then there is also the cost to physically implement the design.

    Not every community has these resources to build build build. You are going to find public sector designers in rapidly growing cities that have the money and resources to keep design staff gainfully employed year round (I mentioned this in an earlier thread somewhere). Out of 100 communities in a metro area, maybe only 10-20 have a budget large enough, a demand high enough, and a city council supportive enough to allow RFPs for design work. This 10-20 number is a magic number. There are no watchdog groups for RFPs (although it would be nice). Design firms, locally and nationally, might compete within the bid process to get this design work. Firms stay in business by taking a design project for this community and a design project for that commmunity to hopefully net a profit.

    When it comes to policy, you can do that in the private sector as well. I think policy, whether it be writing comprehensive plans, zoning ordinance, or doing site review, is MUCH less expensive in terms of hours, staff, and materials than designing and BUILDING a streetscape. Deliverables from a policy perspective are a combination of a paper document and a series of meetings with the developer/client. Deliverables from a streetscape are a design on a paper, several meetings, hearings, charettes, actual asphalt, trees, pavers, trash cans, benches, monument signes, etc.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    My current job (in the public sector) allows me tons of freedom to be creative and do actual planning. I have the best Planning Commission I've ever had and I got the job at a time when the city was/is in a transition. They also had a lot of turnover and temporaries in my position before I got there, so they seem to have a much better appreciation for someone with my skills and experience.

    I would recommend small second or third ring cities in metropolitan areas. In most cases, you will be doing a lot of zoning/subdivision regs enforcement, but in a lot of these city's, you will have the opportunity to be exposed to all facets of planning.

    The private sector can be good if you're doing long-range planning for local government, but in many cases, you'll end up a whore for developers.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    It all depends on the type of job you take. I work for an urban county in the south that has a split between Planning and Zoning. The Zoning people are the regulators, the Planning people are researchers. It depends on the job, what the municipality prioritizes, what stage of growth they are in, etc.
    Satellite City Enabler

  7. #7
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    government planning is real planning - it's called the trenches...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    government planning is real planning - it's called the trenches...
    Amen to that!

    Working for local gov't is to see the nuts and bolts of community change. Whether you work for public or private sector depends on your wants and needs. If you want to design a subdivision, be in the private sector. If you want to influence policy at the local level, work for local gov't. Both sides are critical. Obviously, there's a lot more to it, but that's one distinction I see every day.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Civilivy View post
    My school advisor said that if I really want to do mostly actual planning, then I should try to get into a private sector firm, but that those jobs are harder to find and competition would be stiff.
    A big part of "actual planning" involves the behind-the-scenes politics, meetings, etc. which you would be involved with in local gov't work. It sounds like you are more interested in design work.
    In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by WouldBePlanner View post
    A big part of "actual planning" involves the behind-the-scenes politics, meetings, etc. which you would be involved with in local gov't work. It sounds like you are more interested in design work.
    I disagree with that.
    First, creative elements in planning do not always equate to design work. I have worked for clients where either we or the municipal staff has re-written and updated zoning ordinances, subdivision ordinance, comprehensive plans. So, creativity can stem from creative writing/wording of regulation.

    Second, code compliance through site plan review is done in both the private and public sectors. Instead of knowing just one set of planning documents (comp plan, zoning ordinance, subdivision regs, design guidelines, etc.) for one community (as municipal public sector planners are responsible to know) I know nine sets (for the nine communities I do review work for). Yes, it is much more intense, but I don't deal directly with residents in these communities. My clients from these communities are either the municipal planners, village administrators (if the communitiy is too small), or other planning consultants from other firms.

    Finally, I am assuming that WouldbePlanner equated actual planning with site planning, in which case, I would agree that more of these design creative
    positions are more prevalent in the private sector.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Finally, I am assuming that WouldbePlanner equated actual planning with site planning, in which case, I would agree that more of these design creative
    positions are more prevalent in the private sector.
    You are correct And I didn't mean to imply that private sector doesn't get involved with the administrative end of things. Many of the communities in my area do not have planning departments, they have consulting firms take care of all their business.
    In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    I just want to add that code enforcement isn't a bad place to get your start. If you are going to do site design for a firm, it is helpful to have a good grasp for how "the other side" (municipal planners) are going to look at it. And if you are going to be doing long-range planning it is important to understand the rules and regs that can help make those visions a reality.

    I really enjoy the long range planning I do at my job today, and I'm thankful to have some background in code enforcement.

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