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I have had a lot of really good moments as a planner, and generally I get a lot of satisfaction out of this job. I think it helps that I really *love* the job I have right now in Alberta. I was getting very run down at my last organization, due to some internal strife in the department I was in. But anyway... back on topic...
One example that I really feel good about was from when I was working in Oak Harbor, WA, a smallish city (20k people) on an island. The city has a long Dutch history, with a serious "good ol' boy" mentality. The landowners there were very prosperous, but they all liked the "do-it-yourself" approach (meaning that they rarely hired professional consultants to prepare plans, etc.).
Well this one big landowner was trying his hand at a new type of PUD, where he would basically be doing a detached condo type development with these god-awful loop streets. The development did not suit the area, had a lot of wasted land in streets, and not enough open space. I tried to explain site design theories and the advantages of certain types of cluster housing on the site, but the owner just didn't get it. So I took the plans home and very conceptually re-designed the site into three or four different options. I *very rarely* do this due to liability problems in many states, but it was really the only way to get the point across.
I ended up taking all the drawings to the Planning Commission (who really didn't have much planning background, and therefore needed some visual aids). I know that if I didn't put in that six or so hours of work on my own time at home (I was the only planner in the town, so I never had time to do this stuff at work), the PC most likely would have approved the terrible development. Sometimes a good denial is the only way to go.
The other thing I feel really good about, where I made a positive contribution to the built environment, is in Vancouver WA. I was working on a large development (about a million square feet of mixed use buildings downtown), which was located between a park and a transit mall. A public walkway/plaza will be located between the buildings. This was one of those "high profile", "fast-track" projects that comes in pretty much designed and we are supposed to rubber stamp it because of the revenue it would bring to the City. The initial design of the public corridor connecting the park and the transit mall was pretty narrow... maybe 25 feet. We didn't have interior open space standards at the time, but I remember negotiating something quite wider... maybe more like 40 feet. I wish I could remember the details... but in any case, it's going to make an awesome pedestrian link between the transit mall and the park, and I felt pretty good that I negotiated that little amenity. If you are really bored, you can check out the progress of construction of this project by clicking here. The two buildings to the right of the crane are seven stories or so and are purely residential (with some live/work potential on the bottom floor), and then the larger buildings will be office/residential/commercial mixed use (10 or 11 stories or so)and will be located to the left of the crane. The public walkway will go east-west (left-right from the web view).
Presenting at the APA in Chicago this past Spring...
bturk and I presented a Conservation Plan we did for our City down in Chi-town...needless to say he and I buck tradition whenever the opportunity presents itself. Appearance and presentation have their merits, but the real question is "What do you bring to the table?" Substance is KEY.
So, we are both young (and look younger than we are), motived, and don't give a f*** what the APA people think... We are very good at what we do and quite confident in our abilities (and maybe a little arrogant...OK a lot in this post...).
We strolled around the conference (typically hungover as hell) either in shorts, sandals, polo shirts, or clothes that seemed as if we were going out to trendy clubs, ANDour name badges proclaiming SPEAKER. Oh, and let's not forget the earring in the ear...(I don't wear it while at work, but I did present with it in.) The APA old guard repeatedly rolled their eyes at us, but it was so worthwhile.
You cannot believe the status the word SPEAKER on a ribbon provides for you. I personally believe it is one of the few things respected by the APA. It was as disgusting as it was worthwhile.
Conference presentations are such an ego boost. I did the U. Wisconsin zoning series thing a few years ago: Charlotte, Madison, and Albuquerque. Funny that the same presentation was received differently at each site. I was blunt and pragmatic about zoning administration issues. Very well received in Charlotte, a little less so in Albuquerque, but not so well in Madison. From evaluations, the Madison crowd did not appreciate my less than high regard for city engineers.
We didn't have "speaker" badges. That bit of APA elitist mentality probably deserves another post. Oh, but here goes anyway. In my last position, part of my job was exec. director of a small housing authority. At one conference for housing types, badges were either "staff" or "director". Wandering through the vendor areas, "directors" got much more attention and better freebies and better drinks/food that "staff". I guess they thought we made purchasing decisions.
I did a secondary plan / organization strategic plan for one of our Business improvement Area Organizations and got a standing ovation for it before I even started teh presentation to teh group. I was so put off by the affection I stumbled throgh the presentation.
Afterwards about 20 people came up and thanked me for my hard work and reflecting what they wanted in teh document.
The bigger boost is that the City has actually done quite a bit of the infrastructure and beautification that we proposed and did the initial concepts for.
Re-engineering the City of Greensboro plan review process and serving as the key planner that developed the new plan review tracking system, I had great co-workers but it was my ass on the line and Im proud of what I did.
It was 3 years of hard work, butting heads with developers, politicos, City Staff that don't like to be forward thinking and one sucky ass computer consulting company *Keane (sp?) bites* Sorry rant there
Anyway our review times were cut in half, staff and engineers were more accountable for their work and we were overall seen as more "user friendly" If I'm not mistaken Planning Mag did a short write up on this.
Knowing I was key in developing something that will change how development happens in Greensboro for quite some time-THAT is satisfying, very satisfying. Getting lawyers, engineers, developers and staff to speak the same language was nothing short of a religious moment.
Authoring the plan that won the Pennsylvania Planning Association's "Plan of the Year" award for 2000, and then having someone else take the credit and go to the awards banquet and receive the award.
You can say that was my best and worst moment all wrapped into one. It was right about then that I realized it was time to get a new job. I did, and now I love where I am at. I guess life has a funny way of playing out.
Hmmm... I guess that would be getting some pedestrian improvements implemented in the City I used to work at. They actually took my sketch of a pedestrian crossing, and used it as the engineering drawing to build the damn thing.
Well, Prudence listed a good (if not arrogant) moment. My personal favorite goes all the way back to my first planning job over 10 years ago. It was an industrial river bluff community with a true "working" river with hand-operated lock system dating to the 1800's.
I was the only staffer assigned to do the City's first open space plan. It went through the whole public participation process and had some awesome things in it. The "big dream" of the plan was a riverfront green way integreated with a historical interpretive path along the river, all tied to a downtown rennovation with demolition of a 1950's five-and-dime on the bluff which would make way for a park and scenic overview on the bluff (affectionately but not officially called 'Dead Feller Park' - see side story below).
(SIDE STORY: The building owner was old and grumpy man named Mr. Feller, and he battled the condemnation. We sought advice from other planners on how to deal with him - one woman said "Kill him. Send him code violation letters every week until he drops. Trust me, it works." So my boss did it, and sure enough he died. Rumor has it he was sitting on the crapper with a code violation letter clutched in his hand.)
A few years later, I ran into their new Planning Director at a state conference and he was raving about how all of those big plans had come true!
I love it when you plant a seed and watch it grow. I've only been at my current job about 4 years, so the seeds are still being planted here...
My best moment is recurring occasionally....finding out new communities that have used my thesis/model ordinance to do PSWF ordinances. At last count I'm up to about 40 communities (that I'm aware of...there could be more since it's up on the web for free viewing and plag..er...reference) that have used it is some manner.