Resilience, smart cities, and resolving land use disputes were among the topics explored by experts from the Lincoln Institute at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference April 25-30 in Atlanta.
Following fellow Peter Pollock’s all-day retreat with planners from the Atlanta region, the convening began with a rousing talk by Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, who underscored the importance of well-designed walkable communities to promote physical activity, and noted the long history of public health and planning, going back to Frederick Law Olmsted.
Statewide planning programs have gone up and down, from Maryland to Massachusetts to Florida and California, but states remain “engines of planning innovation,” said Timothy S. Chapin, associate professor at Florida State University, who joined Armando Carbonell and Maryland planning secretary Richard E. Hall in the discussion, The State of State Planning. The National Collaborative of State Planners seeks to establish a network for the exchange of best practices at the state level.
Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities: Big Data, Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopiasought to “cut through the hype” of corporate marketing on the subject of smart cities. “From an urban planner’s point of view, we need more things to hold onto,” he said at the session Intelligent Cities: Top-Down, Bottom-up, or Sideways, with retired IBM engineer Colin Harrison. Smart cities seem to be at a point similar to the differing visions of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs, he said: attempting to balance a top-down engineering approach and more citizen efforts in developing apps. He also noted how the collection of data – sometimes without public consent, such as through cell phones or toll booths – results in excellent planning outcomes, in analyzing commuter patterns, for example. The downside in terms of privacy is that “we as planners may end up doing things that make people angry just like with the NSA.”
Peter Pollock joined Ona Ferguson and Sean Nolon, co-authors with Patrick Field of Land in Conflict: Managing and Resolving Land Use Disputes for a “deep dive” in Managing and Resolving Land Use Disputes, helping planners navigate the increasingly contentious public hearing process. The key is determining the goal to be achieved, and taking advantage of the moment to spell out the big picture – before positions are entrenched. “Sometimes it may seem that there is not a lot of hearing in a public hearing,” said Pollock.
At the session that was the culmination of the annual fall gathering of planning directors, Big City Planning Directors on Climate Resilient Cities, Henk Ovink, senior adviser to HUD secretary Shaun Donovan in the much-anticipated Rebuild by Design competition, shared the innovations and, critically, implementation strategies for building resilience in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey post-Sandy. “You can’t do this overnight,” Ovink said. Working with water in The Netherlands goes back centuries, he said, and after “our Sandy,” a killer storm in 1953, the nation redoubled efforts in physical and social resilience. What communities don’t have, he said, is “time to think.” Rebuild by Design, where finalists are expected to be chosen in the coming days, is “not about making a plan, but changing the culture.”
Ovink was joined by senior fellow Armando Carbonell, APA research director David C. Rouse, San Francisco planning director John S. Rahaim, who detailed the Bay Area’s multi-agency adaptation planning, and New York City planning director Richard Barth, who lived through Sandy and shared insights from reports such as Designing for Flood Risk and A Stronger, More Resilient New York.
The co-authors of the Policy Focus Report Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, Lavea Brachman, executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center, and Alan Mallach, non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, led a workshop on incremental strategies to improve conditions in struggling post-industrial metropolitan areas. They were joined by Armando Carbonell, Gary J. Jastrzab, executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and Donald W. Roe, director Planning and Urban Design for the City of St. Louis.
The final sessions included Exploratory Scenario Planning and Emerging Tools, with Ray Quay of Arizona State University, one of the co-authors of the network initiative and report Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools, along with Ted Cochin, senior policy analyst at EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities, Hannah Oliver, program associate for Western Lands and Communities, the Lincoln Institute’s joint venture with the Sonoran Institute, Joe Marlow, senior economist at the Sonoran Institute; and Laura Tolkoff, associate planner at the Regional Plan Association and co-author of Lessons from Sandy, which incorporates scenario planning strategies into the recommended approach to rebuilding after disaster.
What’s Up with Planning Directors in the Atlanta Region, reflecting the traditional discussion – now celebrating its 10th year -- with Peter Pollock on Saturday, included Richard C. Bernhardt, executive director of the Nashville Davidson County MPC; Kathleen D. Field, Community Development Director, City of Milton; Jessica Lavandier, Deputy for Strategic Planning, City of Atlanta; William D. Meyer, Planning & Development Director, City of Rock Hill; Sue Schwartz, Director for Planning & Community Development, City of Greensboro PCD; and Mitchell J. Silver, Chief Planning Officer, City of Raleigh Planning Department, and now the New York City parks director.
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