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Thread: What makes for a good urban planner?

  1. #1

    What makes for a good urban planner?

    Hello everyone, I am looking to attend graduate school soon for urban planning.

    I have a very general question: what makes an urban planner a strong urban planner? (supplements and weight training aside)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Woolley's avatar
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    Someone who acknowledges the natural environment and takes into account the differences of others making sure no one is left out of the planning process. Putting yourself in other peoples shoes and circumstances.

  3. #3
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by antwonmerriweather View post
    Hello everyone, I am looking to attend graduate school soon for urban planning.

    I have a very general question: what makes an urban planner a strong urban planner? (supplements and weight training aside)
    Thick skin. Ability to consume heavy volumes of alcohol and still return to work in the morning. Ability to compromise. Political savvy. Giving up your "here to save the world" attitude that your college professors poured into your brain. Ability to communicate your message efficiently and effectively both verbally and in writing. Consistency. This is all gained through on-the-job experience.

    When I sober up, I might have some more.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    All the best urban planners that I have had a the pleasure to work with and for have several admirable traits. The ability to stand their ground, but know when to compromise. A good planner knows the community they work for and what works and what won't. They have good communication skills and can take complex legal terms, engineering tech talk and architecture babble and communicate that to everyday citizens and politicians. One of the best traits an urban planner can have in my own opinion is the ability to think visually. Being able to think visually has been the most important skills I have learned and utilized in my young career.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Ability to multi-task and be a little bit knowledgable about a whole lot of different subject areas, at least knowledgable enough to BS your way out of situations when necessary.

    I also agree with everything RJ said. You have to understand that you are just a cog in the wheel, not the wheel itself. You will be confronted with many different people, with many different perspectives, and they all think they are right. You have to be able to get through all of this to find concensus (more effective than compromise bit more difficult to attain). You also have to know when to be the nice guy/gal and when to whip out the jerk card.
    Satellite City Enabler

  6. #6
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Thick skin. Ability to consume heavy volumes of alcohol and still return to work in the morning. Ability to compromise. Political savvy. Giving up your "here to save the world" attitude that your college professors poured into your brain. Ability to communicate your message efficiently and effectively both verbally and in writing. Consistency. This is all gained through on-the-job experience.

    When I sober up, I might have some more.
    This. Although I replace the booze with exercise. You have to check your sense of purity at the door to survive as a planner. There's never a "right" answer per se in this line of work, only the brokerage of competing interests, and your interest is that of the municipality.

  7. #7
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    People Skills

    Have interpersonal skills, learn how to negotiate, learn how to make a good decision, learn when and how to say YES as well as NO.

    Just because we make decisions on a daily basis doesn't mean we make good ones. learn the finer points of communicaiton and you'll be successful.

    Act with consistency and integrity. I'm amazed at how little undergraduate and graduate studies prepare us planners for the planning world. you can be as smart as a whip but if noone listens to you...well...noone listens.

    Those who lead when noone follows are just taking a long and lonely walk

  8. #8
    Thanks everyone for the responses! I have an additional question: Idealism aside, how, and in what areas do you see Planners making a positive impact on the communities that they serve?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Problem Solving

    Be a good problem solver and be able to think quickly and effectively "on your feet."

  10. #10
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    that's a tough one. we are always balancing what we feel is best with the deisires of our communities and elected officials. i look at alot of this as an excercise in Geology - Pressure and Time - If it can create mountains it can help us out too. For example, I started a push to get LID standards into our development code about 2 years ago. at first it was a miserable failure (people are nasty). But now (today) with the new administration in the white house, and my continual discussion on the subject, sustainablity and green development are back in the forfront. My commissioners are finally buying into it and asking for that language in our codes. Furthermore I can ask developers to do alittle more environmentally sensitive horizonal and verticle design and they are working with me to do it.

    As simple as it may seem you need to get decisionmakers on your side to make any changes at all. it takes a bit of will, patience, and experience to make sure those changes are positive ones.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Humility, which is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Sorry you don't know everything, don't have all the answers and the locals get real irrated with the Missonary attitude. I have learned this lesson the hard way.

    Learning to pick your battles. You can win a battle and lose the war.

    The ability knowing when to build a consenus and when to pick it up and carry it over the goal line yourself.

    Knowing you are a visable part of the community and leading your life accordingly. You live in a fishbowl and people notice what you do and don't do,

    Learning to shut off the job at the end of the way and having someone to b*tch to.

    Other traits mentioned in other posts; flexibility, political savvy, the ability to think on your feet, people skills (something I'm still working on).

    Knowing when to be a jerk and when to be a nice guy.

    Communication, especially with the elected officials.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post

    Knowing you are a visable part of the community and leading your life accordingly. You live in a fishbowl and people notice what you do and don't do,
    Only if you live in the community where you work. I got sick of running into elected officials and board members while getting coffee or dinner, so I moved out of town. It was the right move.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Patience, perseverence, tact, and level-headedness.

    Patience - realizing that oftentimes the best laid plans and projects most often will be presented with obstacles along the way, and that it can take months, years, and even decades for them to finally come to fruition

    Perseverence - ties in with patience, but also includes realizing that many of your recommendations will be ignored and many of the projects you work on will never happen, and still having the will and desire to come to work each day and keep trying to make your community (or county, region, etc.) better

    Tact - knowing what to say, what not to say, and when to say or not say it

    Level-Headedness - the ability to not let your emotions control you, thinking logically and being able to deal with people in a civil manner know matter how much you might want to strangle them, give them personal advice, or tell them what you think!

  14. #14
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    In my opinion, a good planner is a:
    • problem solver
    • good communicator
    • natural (or well-practiced) leader
    • person that is politically savvy
    • person that knows or can quickly learn a little bit about all aspects of government, real estate, engineering, the environment, land development, design, etc.

    Also, I agree with what Rygor said above. One of my co-workers (that is a landscape architect but also does parks, rec & open space planning) said the other day that a good planner is a person with a design background. I am a good urban planner because I was able to resist verbally "b" slapping him for that comment.

  15. #15
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    Paul Zucker

    Inter-personal skills, Inter-personal skills, Inter-personal skills.

    As a trained architect, I'd also like to see more design professionals enter the field.

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