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Thread: Choosing a planning specialty

  1. #1
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    Choosing a planning specialty

    Hello, I'm posting again with another question about beginning a planning career. I've found out, through several jobs, classes, and other experiences, that I tend to be more of a conceptual thinker rather than a detail-oriented person (ideas over details). I don't mind doing detailed work, nor am I at it, but I've come to find that my strengths are my creativity and original thinking (Some people would say that's laziness, but I don't listen to those people ).

    My question is where do you think that someone with my strenghts fits in in the planning field? Is there any type of work for me? I've heard about long-range planning and comprehensive plans, but I thought I'd get some expert opinions.

    Thank you in advance!

    D/M

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by D/M View post
    Hello, I'm posting again with another question about beginning a planning career. I've found out, through several jobs, classes, and other experiences, that I tend to be more of a conceptual thinker rather than a detail-oriented person (ideas over details). I don't mind doing detailed work, nor am I at it, but I've come to find that my strengths are my creativity and original thinking (Some people would say that's laziness, but I don't listen to those people ).

    My question is where do you think that someone with my strenghts fits in in the planning field? Is there any type of work for me? I've heard about long-range planning and comprehensive plans, but I thought I'd get some expert opinions.

    Thank you in advance!

    D/M
    I wouldn't hire anyone who is not detailed oriented. Of course, that's government speaking. Designing new urbanism communities for a private consultant, you might do OK.

    Failing that, writing romance novels is always an option. (per sc...)

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Conceptional thinking without the ability or motivation to formulate the details to implement your ideas? Hmmmmm.....
    RJ is the KING of . The One

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Most areas of land use planning require a certain level of detail. The purposes, goals, and objectives of zoning ordinances, design guidelines, comprehensive plans, neighborhood plans, master plans, etc. are often very broad and conceptual. However, these statements often require careful attention to word choices, so a high degree of detail may still be required.

    Looking at the big picture is a good skill to have, especially up the career ladder, and will help you stay on track when working on projects.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    All of my romance novels were banned for inducing insomnia in readers

    Thanks for the replies! When I was talking about detail-oriented, I was speaking more in terms of design and measurement. The situation that brought this to mind was a project I did in a townsite development class in which each group was given a plot of land to 'develop' along with some factors. I loved it, especially writing up land use proposals, RFP's, procedural documents, etc, in fact, by the middle of the project, I was writing most of the paperwork. I also loved coming up with the ideas for what type of development would work best in different places and even helping decide how it should look in general.

    However, when it came around to exact measurements and scales of different plots and landscape items, I have to say I wasn't as enthused. I didn't hate it and I got a better appreciation of that aspect of land use planning, it just wasn't my favorite part of the project. Even though I did my part, there were a couple of people in our group who were architecture majors and that's the part they really got into.

    So I guess I'm wondering how much design and architecture elements come into planning?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    I can tell you this- I'm not a detail-oriented person and work in land use planning. It's rather challenging- basically, you have to acquire a lot of dicipline to do well. Still working on that. I tend to do a best when we're at staff meetings discussing how we should change the ordinance, and worst on making sure staff reports are perfect, etc. You can do it, you just have to train yourself.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    The devil is in the details. You can dream the dream, and paint pretty land use plans all day long, but if you can't implement the thing through the numbers and design details, then that's what that is, a pretty picture with a pretty story that sits on a shelf and that is coming from a planner who works for a firm that specializes in design. If you want to see a project built, and the way you or your client intend, you need to have at least a solid foundation on how it will be built down to the niddy griddy. Good Luck!
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    You are on teh right track. Current planners, transportation planners, and the like spend more time on the fine-tuning aspects of planning. Measuring setbacks. Modeling traffic. That sort of thing. Long-range planning tends to be less specific in the detail. Present a conceptual sketch, summary, etc. The engineers and landscape architects can take it from there.
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  9. #9
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    Thanks for all the advice everyone. I definitely do not wish to make my self so specialized in conceptual thought and such, so I'll work to keep myself well rounded. And giving that I lean that way naturally, I think I'll take Cardinal's advice a closer look at long-range planning.

    Thanks!

    D/M

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    Try real estates sales....

    All of planning whether it is big picture (comprehensive) planning or site specific requires attention to detail as was mentioned early on. Heck, even wedding planning requires attention to detail
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  11. #11
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    Most of my sales experience involves an unsuccessful summer spent with Kirby vacuum cleaners in 1998.....

    I think I should have substituted physical drafting and measuring for attention to detail in general when I posted. I'm not looking to divorce myself from laying out the details of a project at all, and as has been mentioned here, you can plan all you want but if you're not willing to do the work make them into something tangible, then all you've got is plans.

    What really led me to post this thread was the realization that when I looked over my total skill set, I had more of an aptitude for identifying problems and coming up with tangible solutions for those problems than for drafting or reviewing site plans or measuring setbacks etc. I'm not horrible, but I'm not going to set the world on fire with anything I would do on AutoCad.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm fine with working with physical design and there's very little that I would refuse to do in order to see a plan put into action, (because that's really the best part) but I want to find out which careers within planning tended to lean more towards problem solving and analysis and less towards drafting and physical design and measuring. It's not that I want to choose one over the other, just find the right balance. Are there any planners heavily involved in long range planning that can give a basic description?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Basically that's what i do all day. As a consultant, i work on a variety of long range plans such as specific plans, master plans, and community plans. There is a lot of analysis done such as project populations, how large communities should grow in a given year, or how they would grow if a certain land use patter is chosen over another. With most plans problems spring up, so my team and I mull over how to overcome those obstacles, such as changing the curvature of roads to accommodate existing houses, creating overlay zones to ensure comparability with existing neighborhoods, etc.

    But at the same time, i need to know what i am doing to analyze all this, so i do draft land use plans by hand, assemble them in CAD, do land use calcs in CAD, and draft design guidelines by laying out general housing pads or commercial pads in paper and making sure measurements jive with what we propose in our guidelines. I am doing more of the writing and analyzing 65% of the time and the other 35 goes to design, drafting, and the other nitty gritty that i can't hand off to someone else.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    You can always stay in school and become a professor. Since many of them have no practical expereince, they tend to think in terms of generalizations without getting into the nitty-gritty that makes a plan actually work. Plans developed by universities/students rarely have the details needed to actually implement a plan, little things like is the public ok with the plan, who/how will it be paid for, is that land owner really going to put a park on his 40 acres of prime commercial land, etc etc. And CPSURaf can probably attest that no matter how good the plan is, if the public doesn't like it, it will probably not be adopted, and if by chance it is, it will never be implemented.

    BTW it is amazing how many new grads don't know how to even use an engineering scale

    --Climbs off soap box--
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  14. #14
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Basically that's what i do all day. As a consultant, i work on a variety of long range plans such as specific plans, master plans, and community plans. There is a lot of analysis done such as project populations, how large communities should grow in a given year, or how they would grow if a certain land use patter is chosen over another. With most plans problems spring up, so my team and I mull over how to overcome those obstacles, such as changing the curvature of roads to accommodate existing houses, creating overlay zones to ensure comparability with existing neighborhoods, etc.

    But at the same time, i need to know what i am doing to analyze all this, so i do draft land use plans by hand, assemble them in CAD, do land use calcs in CAD, and draft design guidelines by laying out general housing pads or commercial pads in paper and making sure measurements jive with what we propose in our guidelines. I am doing more of the writing and analyzing 65% of the time and the other 35 goes to design, drafting, and the other nitty gritty that i can't hand off to someone else.
    Wow, thanks CPSURaf! That sounds like really interesting work. I like the idea of coming up with contingency plans with a group in the middle of a plan and I've done some work with laying out commercial pads in a past project. In an average day are the planning and design tasks fairly fluid and integrated or do the tend to be separated?

    Also, did it take some time for you to learn some of the aspects of planning when you first started out? Sorry about all of the questions, I just decided to pursue planning in the past year and I'm still trying to find out what the work is like and how I fit in.

    Thanks again!
    D/M

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Plan 9 View post

    BTW it is amazing how many new grads don't know how to even use an engineering scale
    My first day of work, i kinda looked at the thing, and was channeling the power of my 2 plus years design course and finally remembered how! I carry my scale with me to meetings all the time now.

    Our task are usually always integrated in one way shape or form, unless of course the contract is strictly a design based contract with no document or report, such as laying out a subdivision or designing a land use plan.

    Yes, it did take me some time to learn the aspects of planning (4 years as an undergrad in an city and regional planning program and 4 plus years of consultanting experience), and i still learn about creative design solutions with each project. Plan 9 is right when students come up with plans that are just generalized. As a matter of fact 95% of my plans are just dreams, with no real way of financing or just simply a punt to an engineer or architect to make sure it works. It feel it is best to know how the ins and outs of how things work to ensure as planners that plans that we produce are implemented with the vision we have in mind, and this usually takes a collaborative effort of not just planners, but engineers, architects, and landscape architects and how they will interpret the designs and policies we produce.

    Case in point, myself and my planning team are working with our landscape architecture group on a neo-traditional neighborhood design with residential units accommodating granny flats, detached garages through an alley. We have been told that the fire department wants a minimum 5 feet side yard for each lot, that is 10 feet min. between buildings, but the lots are small as is, so giving up an extra 2 feet (our arch. group design the homes with 3' side yard to maximize the home site) would kill a few units. So we proposed a common use easement that would allow the use of the side yard by the neighbor, thus saving the house placement, and accommodating the fire departments concern. Now this sounds like a solution for now, but other issues have arisen that we must now address like landscaping of that easement, access, etc and if the jurisdiction will even allow this. These are the types of solutions that are collaborative, but need an understanding from all parties involved to work, as well as an understanding of many issues in site design and formulating this as a neighborhood plan. Good Luck, and i will stop typing now.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    This should probably go in a new thread, but how did you get around the firewall issues CPSURaf? Or are there no windows on that side and one hour firewalls? I've worked on some zero lot line projects where on the non-zero side we used something similar to what you are describing, but the fire guys still made us keep 5 feet to the P/L if we wanted doors or windows.
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  17. #17
    Cyburbian D/M's avatar
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    My new mantra will be 'Be one with the engineering scale, be one with the engineering scale...'

    But seriously, thanks for the insight, it helped me shed new light on the question and was yet another reminder to stay well rounded. And I got some idea of what I'd like to do.

    Thanks again!

    D/M

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Plan 9 View post
    This should probably go in a new thread, but how did you get around the firewall issues CPSURaf? Or are there no windows on that side and one hour firewalls? I've worked on some zero lot line projects where on the non-zero side we used something similar to what you are describing, but the fire guys still made us keep 5 feet to the P/L if we wanted doors or windows.
    See me at the PM. We decided to not use windows there and have those be the utilities / garage areas.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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