The Future of Municipal Planning: Is John Nolen rolling over in his grave?

This is not the planning profession John Nolen built. A century later, our great recession has sparked a full re-evaluation of what a city’s urban planning department should be ‘doing’ for its citizens. As witnessed in Los Angeles and San Diego, the planning profession is being measured by its eternal conundrum between Forward Planning Departments that plan for future development projects and Current Planning Services that process today’s development applications.

And, it appears that a few radical devolutions are taking place.

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Next Urbanism Lab 01: The layers that built San Diego

My city’s downtown is built on decades of layers. Planning trends layered upon planning trends. Over its history, through a long list of award-winning vision plans, San Diego has earnestly followed what every other city has done.

Not to discount the quality of the plans, mind you. After all, John Nolen did two. Kevin Lynch prepared one. Mike Stepner, FAIA, FAICP, gave us several. Incoming APA President Bill Anderson, FAICP, did our latest city plan, and John Fregonese is preparing a new one this year.

The point instead is to illustrate a legacy of following rather than one of leading. Consider, for example, the history that led us to where we are today.

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Money, It’s a Gas: New Economy development financing

In startling alignment with James Howard Kunstler’s stark predictions, ULI’s 2012 Report, ”What’s Next: Real Estate in the New Economy,” bubbly concludes: “The real estate world is hurtling into a different place and time. Change is coming at a faster pace with more uncertain consequences. Success will take on different forms and risks will increase. Standing pat or ignoring new realities is not possible. Notably, investment will gravitate to places that welcome business and view public investments — in education, infrastructure, and innovation — as prerequisites for progress and economic sustainability.”

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