Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: I hope I am not the only planner questioning my career choice.

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Augusta, GA
    Posts
    1

    I hope I am not the only planner questioning my career choice.

    I have been a planner for the past five years and am feeling somewhat discouraged and cynical. I was a planner in Florida and have recently relocated to Georgia for a job. While I found the planning environment in Florida challenging, in Georgia it seems completely pointless. Long range planning is encouraged but not required and even if a local government has a comprehensive plan they are under no obligation to use it. I am currently writing a comprehensive plan partial update for a local government that sees it only as a marketing tool to attract development, and while they have had a comprehensive plan for ten years, I cannot see where they have implemented a single policy. This community is a strip commerical wasteland, and so ugly it hurts my eyes. How can a planner detach themselves from the outcome of a project and still create a quality product? If I want to get out of planning what profession should I consider?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    The Fox Valley
    Posts
    4,668
    Blog entries
    1
    Perhaps you just need to find a community or consulting agency to work for that values good planning and actual application of good planning.

    Maybe a younger community that hasn't already been over-run with ugly highway commerical and shoddy subdivisions.

    I know it's a terrible economy right now and you really just have to be lucky to even have a job right now. But things will get better and you'll eventually be able to find a community where your work is put into practice and appreciated. It seems a lot of places in the West, Midwest, and even certain sections of the South (metro Dallas, Austin, Raleigh) have communities that value good planning and will also continue to see growth, especially once the economy picks up.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    Posts
    9,747
    I think you need to find a new place of employment, one that challenges you mentally and you enjoy working for. In this environment that is a challenge, so you will probably have to stick with it for a couple years. Trying to come up with new ideas to change the way things have always worked it difficult. And unless you are considered a "higher up" there is a good chance you aren't going to be eliciting any change.

    When things are looking bad here, I always tell myself that the great part about my job is that tomorrow I could get a proposal and it would change our community. I always look at the context of where I am, and feel lucky to have a job at all.

    Keep your head up. If you work in local government, things change every four years (or whatever your political cycle is). If the important people get voted out, maybe the new guys will view your perspective better. Or maybe they will want to see a different future for their community, their comp plan, and how you fit in that puzzle. Good luck and keep your head up.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2010
    Location
    BC, Canada
    Posts
    218

    Similar feelings

    You can see my earlier thread to see I'm in a similar situation after 5 years, although this in a disfunctional college town with a lot of 1960s baggage. IMO, we as planners need to be careful where we work, knowing that all communities have their issues and contradictions. I'm sure there are cities even in your region that value planning? One question I wonder about, after a visit to Oregon, is how much state law matters. Planning seemed to be much more respected because of the state law mandating it and because professional planners at the state (I think) have to sign off on the plans. Isn't Florida the same way, although perhaps the results are different? I'd love to hear from others if there are "good" states to do planning, or if it is really more specific to the municipality. As someone who grew up in a politically conservative environment (Texas and NY state), I'm used to hearing the "public sector" denigrated, but in Oregon planners seemed to have a lot of self-respect as professionals.

    I worked in a sprawling community, but there were ideas about quality of life (greenspace/trails), infill development (downtown), and conflicts over whether new development should incorporate connectivity and decent facades ... I know this can be an uphill battle. In my humble opinion and myopic experience, many public sector managers (especially higher ups) are good at office politics and CYA but are not willing to push "new" ideas.

    I myself am considering a career change but not sure if that means going into a job realted to sustainability (non profit? green business?), getting skills to go into consulting (not subdivision design though), or just finding the right city for me. I would gravitate to a moderate college town, or an older city that is relatively safe (hard to find in most regions, I know!) Absent this, I found some rewards working in a "stand alone" community that had its own small historic downtown - even though it was not progressive, there were opportunities to work on preservation, revitalization, ped stuff and downtown parking - the decision makers accepted that these concepts were appropriate downtown if not elsewhere. Perhaps, time permitting, there are some good planning projects that are politically acceptable that your boss would allow you to work on?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    the old north state
    Posts
    2,708
    I too left Florida to plan in a state that doesnt have anywhere close to the state-mandated and regional planning required in Florida. The difference I have found it is much easier to focus on the smaller details of the projects and our ordinances. I really love that my small changes have together made big differences in certain areas in town and I have the freedom to do more things such as design standards, small area plans, etc. The situation for planners in Florida is so bad right now, I predict, that if I even want to go back, there wouldn't be a job for me to find for many years.

    Every place has its set of planning challeges, but I something to keep in mind is that places that don't find a way to embrace change should be ready for irrelevance in the future. Nothing is hopeless, you just need to find the right honey to attract those flies! Best of Luck from another former-Floridian!
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by Coco123 View post
    I have been a planner for the past five years and am feeling somewhat discouraged and cynical. I was a planner in Florida and have recently relocated to Georgia for a job. While I found the planning environment in Florida challenging, in Georgia it seems completely pointless. Long range planning is encouraged but not required and even if a local government has a comprehensive plan they are under no obligation to use it. I am currently writing a comprehensive plan partial update for a local government that sees it only as a marketing tool to attract development, and while they have had a comprehensive plan for ten years, I cannot see where they have implemented a single policy. This community is a strip commerical wasteland, and so ugly it hurts my eyes. How can a planner detach themselves from the outcome of a project and still create a quality product? If I want to get out of planning what profession should I consider?

    I was born and raised in Alabama, went to school there and got my B.S. in planning. I could've stayed down south but I decided not to, precisely for this reason. Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Arkansas, etc. would be like that and I knew it. That, combined with the piss-poor economy, motivated me to head north and go to grad school.

    I find it interesting that you consider Florida a notable exception. I've done a little research on Florida and its planning practices. I know that it's a little more progressive than other southern states in that planning is a much more essential component of state law and planners have a bit more muscle to flex down there, so to speak, but I wouldn't have imagined that it would be night and day difference between there and Georgia. But of course I am only speaking from ignorance. *shrugs*

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    America's Happiest City
    Posts
    4,909
    Sounds like the OP needs a geographical change of scenery. Some planning jobs just seem like a never ending battle that you always loose. Just a cautionary note, th west may hold planning a wee bit higher, but the regulations that make planning is what it is in states like Ca and OR, can also kill great projects due to over-regulation and makes you feel like you were back in places like GA because of all the development regs.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2007
    Location
    the old north state
    Posts
    2,708
    Quote Originally posted by Jazzman View post
    I find it interesting that you consider Florida a notable exception. I've done a little research on Florida and its planning practices. I know that it's a little more progressive than other southern states in that planning is a much more essential component of state law and planners have a bit more muscle to flex down there, so to speak, but I wouldn't have imagined that it would be night and day difference between there and Georgia. But of course I am only speaking from ignorance. *shrugs*
    Jazzman-planning in Florida is very much specialized to the state, due to state mandated Growth Management Laws, Transportation and School Concurrency, impact fees, etc. The Georgia DCA is set up in a similar fashion to Florida's DCA, but from what I hear, the enforcement is very different and regional planning makes all the difference in Florida. In particular, the regional planning agencies are stronger or weaker depending on the urbanization/strength of government in your area of Florida. Its like night and day planning in Florida vs. many other states in the South.
    Last edited by beach_bum; 14 Jul 2010 at 12:49 PM.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  9. #9
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oklahoma City
    Posts
    2,904
    There's a phrase we (planners) use in Texas: "If you can plan in Texas, you can plan anywhere." It's largely the same way you described Georgia at the state level. Don't consider it a downside, necessarily - consider it a challenge. It's up to you, and your passion, knowledge, and experience, to advise and guide your elected officials in planning matters. That's why cities hire professional staff that are not elected positions. It can be (and usually is) more difficult, perhaps, but it can also be more rewarding because: [1] it reinforces your persuasive skills (and this will be a good thing if you ever do want to change geographic locales); [2] when good planning principles are adopted, the elected body/ies are on board with the ideas on a level often not seen in entities with mandatory planning outcomes like Florida; and [3] as beach_bum noted, you get a lot more say over the contents and policies in your plans (as opposed to state governments telling you what to put in them).

    For example, my coworkers and I have adopted form based codes, drew up a downtown redevelopment plan (which our preservation commission, council, and community are staying on top on for reasons I noted), and we have a strong annexation plan for surrounding areas (counties in Texas have no land use authority). In other words, keep your head up. Look for a new position/locale, if need be, but also look for the challenges in your present job and consider the higher rewards if/when you are successful. Or consider (and I know the economy is rough right now for public and private sector planners) switching to the private sector. You don't like the built environment? Then look for work with a development firm and directly shape it. The possibilities are endless...

  10. #10
    Move to California.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,790
    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Move to California.
    Greece.....
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 20
    Last post: 09 Apr 2012, 5:21 PM
  2. Questioning public art
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 42
    Last post: 31 Mar 2009, 2:11 AM
  3. Career Change Planner in NYC
    Introduce Yourself
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 28 Aug 2006, 5:42 PM
  4. Help: career choice
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 27 Apr 2006, 11:03 AM
  5. Replies: 2
    Last post: 18 Apr 2005, 9:50 AM