My hometown is not a place where professional planning is prospering. Buffalo has only a small planning staff, with the number of professional planners numbering in the low single digits. Suburban communities, though large in area and population, typically don't have planning agencies or staff planners. Thus, an army of "armchair planners", those with no professional training as a planner, whose knowledge of the workings of the built environment was learned mainly from media soundbites, storytelling relatives, folklore, and local message boards, fill the void in the region's dialogue about the built environment and planning issues. The following are some of their commonly held beliefs:
* Urban downtowns and/or waterfronts are the ideal location for large football stadiums.
* Older houses and buildings are always built more solidly than newer structures.
* Rail transit should emphasize the interconnection of large destinations (airport, downtown, malls, edge cities, etc).
* Colleges, universities, and medical centers are always catalysts for growth in the surrounding neighborhood.
* Neighborhoods near urban downtowns are always prime areas for gentrification.
* Suburbs developed only after WWII, almost exclusively as a response to white flight, and today they are all affluent and ethnically white/homogenous.
* Chains comprise most restaurants and retail establishments in suburban areas and the Sunbelt.
* Young, educated college graduates and professionals leave a region only if there is a lack of jobs.
* Poorly performing urban schools keep families from returning en masse to cities.
As planners, we know these beliefs aren't rooted in reality. We've seen colleges and universities surrounded by rotting neighborhoods. We know that there needs to be sources or originating passengers to make rail transit viable. We know football stadiums -- the American football kind -- are massive, space-hogging facilities that see only infrequent use, with vast seas of parking that remain empty throughout most of the year; and not a contributor to the day-to-day vibrancy of a neighborhood or downtown. We know slums near otherwise busy downtowns won't gentrify if more attractive and safer housing and neighborhoods elsewhere in the region remain affordable. We know suburbs have been around as long as cities have existed, that the birth of contemporary suburbia had a variety of causes, and that today suburbs throughout most of North America are socioeconomically diverse.
What other beliefs are commonly held by armchair planners in your neck of the woods?