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Regional Planning in America: Practice and Prospect

Contact: Anthony Flint 617-503-2116
For immediate release

        CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (April 8, 2011) – Regional planning is alive and well in the United States, but could benefit from a “region ethic” reflecting the reality that people live, work, and play across multiple local jurisdictions, according to a new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
         “As with Aldo Leopold’s land ethic, the region ethic is a call to recognize the central interdependencies that make our inhabitation of cities and landscapes possible,” said Armando Carbonell, co-editor, with Ethan Seltzer, of Regional Planning in America: Practice and Prospect . “We are optimistic about the future role for regional planning in the United States and expect to see more in the coming decades.”
           Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute, and Seltzer, professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, College of Urban and Public Affairs, at Portland State University in Portland, Ore., will be available at a Meet the Authors event  Monday April 11 at 11 a.m. at the exhibit hall of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, site of the American Planning Association’s 2011 National Planning Conference, where the book will debut.
           Regional Planning in America includes the historical foundations of regional planning, through the ideas of such figures as Ian McHarg and Patrick Geddes, and case studies underscoring the importance of regionalism in effective sustainability initiatives, infrastructure investments, and social equity. Portland, Ore. and Minneapolis are notable examples of regional governance; a system of megaregions linking major cities could be a framework for high-speed rail. Other case studies include the Adirondack Park Agency, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Envision Utah, the Denver High Mile Compact, blueprint planning in Sacramento, CA, and frontier planning in the Great Plains. In addition, the chapter on "green regionalism" cites regional initiatives in Vancouver, South East Queensland, Australia, and Greater London. 
             “We live in regions—territories defined primarily by function and only rarely by jurisdiction. The places where we work, live, shop, recreate, and socialize constitute a territory that seldom corresponds to a single town or city,” said Carbonell. “Regional planning is concerned less with the exercise of jurisdiction and more with the search for new forms of habitation based on a clear commitment to advancing sustainability.”
           In practice, the first critical task is defining the region—often using a complex set of overlapping attributes and concerns. Next comes organizing the region, because regional planners must go beyond being generalists with a specialty and become more like community organizers. Sustaining the region is accomplished by acting on regional plans at multiple levels of government.
            Regional planning, seen as both art and science, is probably best viewed as a craft that is honed and understood through practice and reflection, said Seltzer.
             Future generations of regional planners will need to understand local issues in a regional and global context; to define planning regions based on functional planning problems; to reach across boundaries to assess, identify, and act on common causes; and to navigate the currents of power and create the lasting relationships and institutions that are needed to implement plans.
            The state of our world and the realities of contemporary daily life make the case for robust regional planning, Carbonell and Seltzer said. With regional planning practice in the U.S. settling into a new century, and the challenges that face communities and institutions requiring boundary-crossing collaboration like never before, it is time to assess regional planning practice in anticipation of an approaching new era of conscious regionalism, they said. This book will be of value to planners, decision makers, and citizens confronting the need to plan regionally, but looking for guidance and inspiration for making that happen.

1. Planning Regions, Ethan Seltzer and Armando Carbonell

2. Plan with Nature: The Legacy of Ian McHarg, Frederick Steiner

3. A Region of One’s Own, Kathryn A. Foster

4. Planning for Equity, Fighting for Justice: Planners, Organizers, and the  Struggle for Metropolitan Inclusion, Manuel Pastor and Chris Benner

5. Regional Planning on the Frontier, Deborah E. Popper and Frank J. Popper

6. Green Regions, Green Regionalism, Timothy Beatley

7. Regional Planning for Sustainability and Hegemony of Metropolitan Regionalism, Gerrit-Jan Knaap and Rebecca Lewis

8. Engaging the Public and Communicating Successfully in Regional Planning, John Fregonese and C. J. Gabbe

9. Moving Forward: The Promise of Megaregions and High-Speed Rail, Robert D. Yaro

10. Regional Practice, Regional Prospect, Ethan Seltzer and Armando Carbonell

About the Editors

Ethan Seltzer is professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, College of Urban and Public Affairs, at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

Armando Carbonell is senior fellow and chair of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Contact:

Regional Planning in America: Practice and Prospect
Edited by Ethan Seltzer and Armando Carbonell
2011 / 296 pages / Paper / $35.00
ISBN: 978-1-55844-215-3

       Review copies are available by contacting The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high quality education and research, the Lincoln Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

Twitter: @landpolicy

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