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Thread: Regional planning

  1. #1
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    Regional planning

    Curious if anyone could enumerate differences between regional and city planning positions/organization and what entry and mid-level jobs might be like

    I have a strong interest in regional and policy issues yet it seems that in the Bay Area (where I am from) ABAG is a fairly weak organization that holds little power. With transit planning is seems our MTC does hold the purse for transit monies but I am still trying to figure out where I might fit

    I am entering grad school, MCRP, and the program is strong in physical and land use planning

    As I mentioned I am as interested in the policy aspects of planning as much I am in physical planning though I don't have any other options with regard to schools. I am content making the best of my opportunities

    Any advice or encouragement on the possibilities?

    I do know what I am getting into and have done research but watching San Franciscan planners adjudicate little development battles is starting to scare me a bit.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Are you looking to stay in the Bay Area? Looking into public or private? (You seem to be indicating public, but I just want to make sure)

    And by the way, ABAG is a total joke. It has essentially no real power, but serves almost entirely as an organization that exists only because it was formed at some point in time. Even organizations like SPUR have more influence than ABAG. MTC does hold the purse strings, but is still too easily manipulated by the counties themselves (and the politicians within the counties).

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Have you looked at the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) website: http://narc.org/newhome.html

    That might give you some insight into regional programs and policies.
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  4. #4
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    Thanks

    Yes I am interested in the Bay Area, especially SF and the inner East Bay

    Public or private would be fine. Just so it’s interesting

    I guess I am really more interested in policy that impacts planning such as parking regulation, exclusionary housing, congestion pricing, carpool, employee shuttle programs (just off the top of my head), landuse/transit coordination etc etc. Of course also cool stuff such as TOD, urban design and ideas such as CalTrain electrification and the Transbay terminal rebuild, HSR are also cool (sure most everyone thinks so in the field).. Some of these seem to be more regional issues, others policy. I realize that policy comes from the top and from politicians but do planners do the analysis? Is this the distinction between near term and long term planning in some cases?

    Sort of rambling here but I guess in summation:

    watching neighborhood planning in San Francisco and watching activists and BOS fight over whether an abandoned paint store was PDR and watching them assail the EIR over "social impacts" is starting to scare me a bit.

    Is this just a matter of paying dues?

    Is there a place in the Bay Area (or Sacramento?) or maybe working for a transit agency to work on something more big picture or regional? In the Bay Area in general the lack of regional coordination seems to be a major porblem

  5. #5
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    And thanks for the (NARC)

    link

    I think this is what the much maligned ABAG (Bay Area) is

    although i wonder, maybe I would be more happy doing great analysis for ABAG on regional issues that nobody follows rather than fighting in the overly politicized hyper citizen involved near term planning in San Francisco?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    There is something to the "paying dues" thing in the inner Bay Area.

    There are tons of non-profits in the area that work on the type things you're mentioning - I already mentioned SPUR, which has a lot of support from regional governments (which actually hurts it in some ways, IMO - too often much of their research is more politicized than it should be). In addition, there are several prominent private groups like Prowler.org (a great org, by the way) that work to implement large-scale plans for neighborhoods and larger developments.

    Regional planning is definitely something we need more of, and something that I spend some time working with several different groups on. You might want to check out the City of Oakland and AC Transit. Oakland has a lot of big plans right now that could end up being quite significant, and AC Transit is the best-run transit agency in the Bay, IMO, with Caltrain as a close second.

    If you're looking at staying in the City, even a short internship at a place like the Greenbelt Alliance, SPUR, or even City CarShare can get you in contact with a lot of people that are good to have as contacts. The non-profit sector is probably more developed in SF than just about anywhere else in the US - but it's very club-like and hard to break into - the places I mentioned are a little easier than most to "get into".

    And don't worry about MAC and their shenanigans. They only really focus on the Mission, which is a shame for that neighborhood, but it's really not as hard to get something done in other places around the City.

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    Thanks

    When I think of non-profits I always think low pay and more of less activism rather than any sort of analytical aspects. Is this the case in your experience vs. private and public jobs? (all relative I know-planning isn't Ibanking or hard science)

    Also if you don't mind my asking do you work for SF planning?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    In the areas I am familiar with, regional planning often has a very strong transportation emphasis because it is a central issue that effects multiple municipalities (say that 10 times fast...). This stuff can be really pretty exciting when you consider they involve not just roads, but bikeways, trails, transit and a host of other factors that impact how people get around (and involves phycials planning elements as well). Around here, the Mid Region Council of Governments (Mr. COG - sad but true) does a lot population projections, demographic work and housing studies (as in how many units will be required to meet projected population growth).

    Attempts to impact development and growth of the built landscape at the regional level have, in many areas, been largely ineffectual because these regional entities are not real municipalities with the power to enforce their plans. Instead, they are often "recommendations" that don't do much if not everyone in the region is on board (which can be difficult when some areas are assertively looking to capture increased revenue for their tax base - "Welcome Wal•Mart!").

    If you are interesting in policy work, this is a pretty interesting area, I think, though whether the work you do will actually be adopted as enforceable policy is another question.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by frisco_zig View post
    When I think of non-profits I always think low pay and more of less activism rather than any sort of analytical aspects. Is this the case in your experience vs. private and public jobs? (all relative I know-planning isn't Ibanking or hard science)
    It's not really the case with the organizations I mentioned. There are certainly other non-profit groups which are primarily activism (Rescue Muni is a biggy in local transit), but the ones I mentioned, as well as many others here are really more "think-tankish" that actually do some real analysis and have some pull with local governments/press/businesses. On top of that, there are some decent non-profits that do everything from participating in planning to actually developing properties for their groups - think TNDC (Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation) or Bridge Housing.

    And on your pay question - whether or not you agree with SF's progressive (or socialist, depending upon your view) political climate, it helps with pay for non-profits. If you're working full time for a non-profit, you'll make decent money and get stellar benefits. You won't get rich, and you won't make enough to buy a place in the City (unless you can snag a BMR unit), but you'll get enough to live on (think 40-60k on average) and you'll get three or more weeks vacation to start - and you can be sure that you won't be paying for your Muni pass

    Also if you don't mind my asking do you work for SF planning?
    No, I'm in the private sector, working for a firm that basically works with developers and neighborhoods to come together on developments/changes in the area, along with city help/approval. This can involve everything from actual development to rerouting of bus lines. We're small (5 total employees) and work mostly on SF projects (about 50% of our business), but we have current projects in the East Bay, Seattle, and North Carolina. All of us have worked in planning departments in the Bay Area prior. Prowler.org is a very similar organization to us, but much larger.

  10. #10
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    great info thanks

    When you (or anyone) did work at a planning dept did you find that at some point people in long range planning did do analysis and contributed to policy? Is there a niche within larger planning dept. for this sort of stuff?

    Also with regard to pay though 40-60k seems ok for a non-profit job this is quite a bit less than a public or private jobs pay in t he Bay with a few year experience isn't it? I've seen planning jobs around 90K within 4 years.

    I guess I need to not worry and expect that you can do many things with a MCRP. I am just wondering about that early direction

  11. #11
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by frisco_zig View post
    When you (or anyone) did work at a planning dept did you find that at some point people in long range planning did do analysis and contributed to policy? Is there a niche within larger planning dept. for this sort of stuff?
    To be honest - that's why most of us left the positions that we were in. I worked for the city of Palo Alto, a couple others worked in SF, one in Oakland, and one in Santa Rosa. Long range planning in most of these cities is frustrating, to say the least. When you know that your macro-plan is going to be picked apart by community groups protesting, lawsuits, ballot propositions, etc - you begin to stop caring. Ballot propositions in particular are the devil.

    Also with regard to pay though 40-60k seems ok for a non-profit job this is quite a bit less than a public or private jobs pay in t he Bay with a few year experience isn't it? I've seen planning jobs around 90K within 4 years.
    You're correct. However, if you're looking to stay within SF, there are a lot more opportunities with non-profits than with the City. It depends on what your goals are long term.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Check out the Sacramento Region

    Have you looked into SACOG in Sacramento? They recently embarked on a blueprint project for growth in the region with good results and are now working with governments on how to implement the findings of the blueprint of growth. They also have a good hand in regional transportation projects. Their blueprint project was a success imo and really opened the eyes of many planning departments in the northern sac valley. They are also leading the charge in the advocating affordable housing policies for the region, to which some of my projects in the area need to abide by as directed by the planning departments we do projects for.

    http://www.sacog.org
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  13. #13
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    CPSURaf

    how are they able to enforce their recommendations? This seems to be the biggest issue that ABAG has in the Bay Area. Most cities just ignore what they find politically difficult

    I have heard that their might be new mechanisms for the State to withhold funding if local jurisdictions aren't meeting certain criteria though I am not sure if this is working or not. Are you aware of any of this? Is there a place for people with City Planning backgrounds in State government?

    I am more interested in macro issues and planning policy but it seems that local planning is really where I will likely end up at least at first as this is where the jobs are

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