Ever feel like planning has gotten too big?

glutton

Cyburbian
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#1
Planning nowadays, particularly if you're in a large urban area, encompasses so much more than traditional land use. Public health, technology, food systems, transportation, housing, law, environment, economic development, climate change, resiliency, public administration/public policy, land banking, sociology, cartography, community development, community organizing, criminal justice, social equity...they're all now considered within the realm of "planning". Add to that the explosion of professional and research organizations related to planning + a bajillion websites that write or disseminate planning news and you've got an information overload. Planning changes so much nowadays and everyone has so many opinions that it's so hard to keep up!

Anyone else feel overwhelmed sometimes? I feel like I'm missing out or behind the curve if I don't read at least 2-3 articles a day and listen to 1 webinar a week or something...and I don't even need CM credits! :-c
 

DVD

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#2
It kind of annoys me how many fields planning is trying to get involved in. I'm a pick something and be good at that kind of person. I understand getting into health planning or whatever is right for some places, but I would rather plan for a generally active downtown and if that happens to benefit public health that's even better. I'm like you, I just can't keep up.
 
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#3
Planning nowadays, particularly if you're in a large urban area, encompasses so much more than traditional land use. Public health, technology, food systems, transportation, housing, law, environment, economic development, climate change, resiliency, public administration/public policy, land banking, sociology, cartography, community development, community organizing, criminal justice, social equity...they're all now considered within the realm of "planning". Add to that the explosion of professional and research organizations related to planning + a bajillion websites that write or disseminate planning news and you've got an information overload. Planning changes so much nowadays and everyone has so many opinions that it's so hard to keep up!

Anyone else feel overwhelmed sometimes? I feel like I'm missing out or behind the curve if I don't read at least 2-3 articles a day and listen to 1 webinar a week or something...and I don't even need CM credits! :-c
I love how transportation planning is just thrown in with the rest of the lot. :D;)

This is probably another reason why there are so many varying views on the credibility of AICP. It's clearly more beneficial for traditional land use planners than someone doing transportation or economic development. Resiliency planning seems to be the new buzz word these days after the short-lived sustainability planning. Community development may also start to fade if the current administration get their way on the budget. In my community these days, economic development and growth Trump traditional traditional-land-use considerations. The field is still evolving.
 
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#4
Years ago a college professor told us that "Planning" is an attempt at social engineering while attempting to navigate the world of politics. Things like transportation, historic preservation, landscaping, form based codes, context sensitive design, parks and recreation planning, zoning codes, future land use plan, sub area plans, area specific plans, DDA, TIF districts, overlay districts, main street programs, tourism, and all the other aspects of planning are tools in the tool box. And much like building a house, different people need to use different tools and varrious points in the process with the expectation of having a predetermined outcome.

"Planning" the way I learned it was not just about land use, but it was how people interacted with the environment and each other.
 

Maister

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#5
It does seem like our fingers are in rather more pots than they used to, doesn' t it? But it seems like more often than not it's been things thrust upon us, not something we actively sought out. Kinda like public school teachers.
 
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#6
My take on this is slightly different. The challenge in modern, scientific society is to compartmentalize. Planners try to get society to think about negative impacts from one improvement on another field. It's messy and hard to measure but that's what I see as the quintessential "there" in planning, unless you are thinking about planning as land use regulation (which is a lot of what is done today, I get that.)
 

DVD

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#7
My problem goes more with how we talk about all the topics. If we take land use and transportation with a couple others as the biggest parts of planning. At least daily function terms. That's great, but we talk about at conferences are all the little fringe topics like resiliency, sustainability, and more. If I have to here one more lecture on bike lanes I'll have to shoot someone. If you did one of those key word things where the most common words are huuge I'd bet resiliency or health planning are on top and land use and transportation are tiny words. It's like we don't talk about the core part of the job and try to get people going on new stuff. I understand the push to get people excited on new projects, but I still like hearing about transportation stuff or basic changes in land use. Maybe I'm just boring, but maybe it's just that a lot of the fringe stuff doesn't affect me as much in the middle of nowhere.
 
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#8
"If planning is everything, maybe it is nothing?"

I do agree with the OP, especially now that we have now evidently taken on fields such as public health and workforce development within the auspices of planning. I don't have a problem being a multi-disciplinarian, but if I'm going to have the cognitive workload of a practicing attorney, why aren't I making attorney money?

*Looking at the APA's direction right now*
 
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#9
I think 'planning' has gone the way of 'architect'. You could be a brick and mortar architect, landscape architect, network architect, bridge architect, etc. But yeah, long range planning has started to encroach on a lot of non-traditional planning areas. That's why I prefer current planning.
 

The One

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#10
Wow

Years ago a college professor told us that "Planning" is an attempt at social engineering while attempting to navigate the world of politics. Things like transportation, historic preservation, landscaping, form based codes, context sensitive design, parks and recreation planning, zoning codes, future land use plan, sub area plans, area specific plans, DDA, TIF districts, overlay districts, main street programs, tourism, and all the other aspects of planning are tools in the tool box. And much like building a house, different people need to use different tools and varrious points in the process with the expectation of having a predetermined outcome.

"Planning" the way I learned it was not just about land use, but it was how people interacted with the environment and each other.
Your prof had a BLOATED sense of power in planning. Obviously wrong. In a capitalist democracy, the control, distribution and manipulation of money is almost the only way to accomplish social engineering (redlining is the most famous example). The social engineering we have in place right now is due to billionaires and bankers and their paid for politicians.
 

luckless pedestrian

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#11
Years ago a college professor told us that "Planning" is an attempt at social engineering while attempting to navigate the world of politics. Things like transportation, historic preservation, landscaping, form based codes, context sensitive design, parks and recreation planning, zoning codes, future land use plan, sub area plans, area specific plans, DDA, TIF districts, overlay districts, main street programs, tourism, and all the other aspects of planning are tools in the tool box. And much like building a house, different people need to use different tools and varrious points in the process with the expectation of having a predetermined outcome.

"Planning" the way I learned it was not just about land use, but it was how people interacted with the environment and each other.
I get the social engineering comment mostly at angry public meetings but I like the bolded text as that's what it is and so it does encompass everything

It does seem like our fingers are in rather more pots than they used to, doesn' t it? But it seems like more often than not it's been things thrust upon us, not something we actively sought out. Kinda like public school teachers.
at a past job, I took on economic development to save the position from becoming unfunded - it was a band-aid approach that only last a couple of years but I know many planners have done the same thing

in my past position they did it because they couldn't afford three people on staff so they threw all three needs (Planning, community development and economic development) into one person - it was exhausting though the skill set of a basic planner can translate into all three

My take on this is slightly different. The challenge in modern, scientific society is to compartmentalize. Planners try to get society to think about negative impacts from one improvement on another field. It's messy and hard to measure but that's what I see as the quintessential "there" in planning, unless you are thinking about planning as land use regulation (which is a lot of what is done today, I get that.)
this is the argument for a comprehensive plan - that all elements of community life impact each other so a plan, produced by a planner, coordinates and meshes all the data and policies together to help make it make sense and not be contradictory.

it's what I love about planning and it's what makes my attention issues go batty in planning lol
 

HomerJ

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#12
Great question and discussion.

In terms of sentiment I agree with the critique of planning in terms of social engineering, we can't be all things to all people. That being said, I also agree with The One in that most of the aggression displayed towards urban planning seems to be a misplaced assumption over how much control local gov't planners really have. Perhaps if comp plans were literally tied into annual/capital budgets consistently there would be a stronger argument over the amount of authority local government planners exercise.

Maybe the reality is that planners should embrace being a very unique kind of politician. We are long-term (perhaps 10-20ish year term limit) reps who have been administratively appointed, which is why it is so hard for us to take definitive stances on complex multi-generational social issues ;).

I would provide one suggestion for local planners, which perhaps ironically is to add yet another hat, that of the local historian. If we are going to be at the table for any and every possible decision being made that may have an impact on the built environment, there is a subtle artfulness in being able to show how a community's line of thinking and assumptions are usually parallel to situations we have already encountered in the past. We never seem to collectively take enough interest in untying knots we have already made, which seems to be a perfect recipe for creating new problems in the future.
 

hipp5

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#13
I think part of the problem is that the planning department is often the only city department that goes out and consults with people. So we become the dumping ground for all comments and suggestions for how to improve the city. And then we feel obligated to do something with the feedback people took the time to give us. So then we put "motherhood" statements in our plans about siting health facilities, and food deserts, and working with transportation authorities, and changing the building code, and blah blah blah.

For what it's worth, I've made it my personal mission to cut out as much of the non-core-planning stuff out of any plan I do.
 
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