Planning and Design
 improve our local buildings, architecture, streets and public spaces, taking in account its technical and bureaucratic processes; public feedback; use of shared space; and the participation of stakeholders in the planning process and community vision.  Participants advocate for public policy and development that creates (1) culturally diverse and economically dynamic neighborhoods; (2) safe and livable places that are designed for shared and complete use by pedestrian and transit as well as the car; (3) cities, towns, neighborhoods and districts that are comprehensive of well designed and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; (4) architecture and landscape design that is comprehensive of local history, climate, ecology, public safety and sustainable building practices.

Participants consider the use of land within neighborhoods, districts and outlying areas that are comprehensive of urban to rural issues; including a particular community, its greater region, as well as its surrounding open spaces; therein, improving a community’s way of life and orientation.


Stakeholders in the area of Planning & Design include a broad array of individuals, organizations, and interests.  It can include neighborhood residents, small business owners, working commuters, home and property owners, as well as recreational enthusiasts, such as trail hikers, horseback riders, bicyclists, etc.  Direct field professionals and disciplines include civil engineers, architects (building & landscape), public administration (city, county, state, federal); army corps of engineers; private developers; construction firms, etc. Other academic specialists often involve sociologists, anthropologists, environmentalists, economists, etc.

Within government, there include departments such as Transportation; and Parks and Recreation; Planning, Building & Code Enforcement; Environment; appointed commissions and inspectors; etc.

A diverse mix of private advocacy organizations, associations, and networks that are based on any of the above interests.


Most planners start as independent activists at the city and county level, often times working at large with local groups and moving towards state and federal acknowledgment.  Planners…

  • Identify the desired needs of a community that are not being planned
  • Review new development proposals and improvements, including buildings, properties, and sites within various neighborhoods and vicinities;
  • Make initial considerations of their Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
  • Estimate the amount of planning and maintenance to the concern; as well as
  • Estimate the  longtime financial and economic impact.
  • Campaign within government for legislation


Participatory planning is the primary objective and standard, raising grassroots participation by all the community stakeholders.   This engages people with strategic and managerial processes, training them to be part of the community-level planning process.

Whether urban or rural dwellers, everyone commutes to work and has an interest in community development.  Coordinating those interests and realizing their interdependence reduces conflict, obstruction of daily business and optimizes the quality of life for everyone.

A well-organized program adopts a transactive orientation wherein the group-think of planning “experts” is apprehended, nobody is marginalized, an opportunity is created and the overall causation is more prolific.  Common citizens, such as with their everyday approach to life and work are not only a normal part of the planning process but a central requirement.

Ideas are developed in ways that ensure that they will have real application; whereas, town meetings, committees and the venue of public dialogue make that feasible.  Planners act on information shared with the community as they develop relationships with citizens and become more educated about stakeholder needs, desires, and orientation.

Public administration — at the municipal, county and regional level — must be the primary target and objective for grassroots observers, participants, and beneficiaries. To achieve strategic and sustainable goals in the policy that affects design planning and vision, we must influence government and bureaucracy at every level, initiating at the local and affecting the county, state and federal.

To understand the significance of urban and regional planning, consider its roots, starting with paradigm shift as of the turn of the 20th century.  We see mass-made architecture, but industrialized cities have also witnessed a population explosion.  The conditions of urbanism and modernism, by which most of the humanity now lives, includes a fast pace and style of life; whereas, building development was once largely dictated by private business concerns, if not by large government bureaucracies.

The evils of urban life, such as with the conditions of the working poor, were the chief concern of progressive citizens of times past; whereas, we are now moving to further champion those ends, developing models that not merely mitigate the consequences industrial life, but empower and provide citizens with healthier environments.

The relationship between urban planning and design, as well as that of conservation ecology, is found in landscape architecture.

Participants in urban planning look at existing neighborhoods and districts as they are planned and zoned, accordingly with the authority of city building codes and land use designations.  This can include everything from residential, commercial and mixed-use zoning; historic districts versus redevelopment areas; as well as places that are previously undeveloped or shall be set aside for ecological restoration and conservation.

Participants can advise planning commissions or participatory planning committees; therein influencing the various land use designations and overall planning and design.

Various planning and land use districts are formed as the greater network of residential and commercial developers; ecological conservationists; heritage preservationists; as well as well as various industry stakeholders and governmental departments become involved in a community’s overall planning and design, including it’s greater vision.

Within these various districts, there’s several of such properties and buildings designated for a specific use or design; including specific or groups of buildings, properties, and sites.  Each and every entity is either a public or private concern, nevertheless within the domain of local, state or federal ordinances and regulations.

As such, planning and land use districts are typically diverse, since each entity that applies for or is publicly designated with a particular status, many times with different levels of designation as to how it is regulated, as well as recognized and significant to that district or region.

Each designation, with its definition and boundary, is relative to another; optimizing the  contributing factors to the overall vision, while targeting those that are not.  Urban planners assess the footprint of every building, property, zone or disrict; thereby ensuring the continuity of use, as well as the optimization of the strategic plan and vision, which again includes conservation, preservation, safe and livable areas, etc.   It’s to provide an all-inclusive integrity and character to our neighborhoods and cities.

Indeed, a neighborhood or district can have various levels of planning and design, no matter its size or other aspects.  In other words, it can be a local, regional, state or national protectorate; planned for ecological restoration and conservation; heritage preservation; public safety and livability; commercial enterprise; residential living. 

A well-planned community includes mixed use, such as with cultural and economic complexity, green spaces and safe and livable neighborhoods.  In short, it is a place built of, for and by  “stakeholders for a safe, green village”.

Beyond city and county categorization of various neighborhoods, districts and zones are the greater context of regional or state planning. For example, planning and design can be considered with any of the following state department and divisions:

Division of the State Architect (DSA); California Architects Board (CAB); California Building Standards Commission (CBSC); California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA); California Department of Transportation (Caltrans); Landscape Architects Technical Committee (LATC); etc.

Nationally, urban planning and design are directed through the United States departments such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and its Community Planning and Development program; as well as the Department of Transportation (DOT). Various agencies within transportation relate to roads and bridges; pipelines; aviation; public transit; railroads; maritime and waterways; bicycles and pedestrians.  In recent years, the U.S. White House has issued “Build America Investment Initiative” (May 2015), pursuant to Presidential Memorandum “Expanding Federal Support for Predevelopment Activities for Nonfederal Domestic Infrastructure Assets”, signed January 16, 2015 Federal Resource Guide for Infrastructure Planning and Design.  (see PDF).

A  holistic context by which urban planning and design should be made is an elongated process that involves all these layers of strategy, consideration, and stakeholder participation. These contextual relationships provide the worldview by which participatory planners “Think globally, act locally”.   Often times, urban planners work in concert with ecological conservationists, heritage preservationists, agricultural and foodways advocates, as well as many others to improve, green and preserve a way of life.


 New Urbanism approaches are recognized by stakeholders and participants from the  Charter of the New Urbanism, as well as the ten Principles of Intelligent Urbanism; thereby, helping create the many shared values, concepts, and guidelines.

“The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one interrelated community-building challenge.” (Read more in PDF format)

 Bright places, as habitatsharmonize with geography, conservation of its ecology and preservation of its historic use; but, also realizes the evolving dynamic of an environment, allowing regeneration.    We are influenced by a natural (unbuilt) environment surrounding us; whereas, it’s our interest to address public welfare and ensure clean air and water, without blighting the outer bounds.

 Infrastructure influences how we travel in and out of areas, such as with our choice of transportation, frequency of communication and the productivity of superstructure, including the mapping of distribution systems and networks.   Nowadays, planning and design is as much instrumental to the (local) in-town way of life, as it is to the outer reach of regional planning and links to the rest of the state, nation and world beyond our immediate microcosm.  In the greater scheme, each community is a satellite to another: large or small; urban or rural.

 Technologically smart and sustainable cities reflect new and enhanced directions towards social change, but this is not contrary to the preservation of our traditional ways of life.   The fast-paced, technological world at which we now live, planning is subject to constant research, analysis, and strategic thinking; but, it can include more immediate needs or long-term considerations.

 Architecture, while seeming to be one of the most obvious structures elements of our civilized world, can be  perceived as an aesthetic paradigm and masterpiece in our midst, exemplifying our achievements and values; but, it can also influence our functionality, sense of industry and creative imagination.  Our buildings are as much a place of home and sanctuary, as they are workshops, factories, and places of transactions.  In that sense, we should build an architecture that is both productive and sustainable with the environment; that brings harmony between its material structure and use by its inhabitants; as well between material and technology that build that structure and its relationship to inhabitants and environment.

936202_465005300249820_1619179089_nIn this day and age,  the input of grassroots participation is more relevant to contemporary architecture than perhaps ever before.   The age of buildings that are designed by a singular expert is diminishing quickly.  The needs and standards of buildings are more complex, causing their creation to be multi-disciplinary in the process.   Design and vision of a building can be a separate consideration from its actual development and construction.

That can include public standards; liability; environmental impact reports; longevity of use; sustainability; quality of material, the construction, and design; budget and finance; local and state laws.

So, it goes beyond philosophical and aesthetic pursuits or even the theory of great men.  Instead,  it recognizes the needs of the grassroots; varied know-how; and the value of livable environments.  Some of the more relevant and contributing disciplines are behavioral, environmental, and social sciences.

 Landscape architecture sets the environment in which smart buildings and traditional landmarks are placed, such as by design outdoor public areas.   Landscapes inspire us with geographical and ecological elements, challenging us socially to conserve their aesthetic and harmonize with the soil, water, air and various forms of biological creatures that share our environment.  What impact does our population have on the ecology and how can we design our use of the landscape, such as by use of systems and interventions, to ameliorate and harmonize our relationship?  Consider the overall landscape design; but also: particular site; necessary water systems (drinkable, storm and waste); beneficial reclamation and restoration (of water, river, land, mine, air, etc); proportional reserve of parks and recreational (to population and other land use); unsustainable exploit of resources; and contributory green infrastructure.  Then, on a personal note, think of private residences and campuses, including their landscape and gardening, with their collective impact on a community or region.

✮  Civil engineering of our roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings also impacts our natural and built environment.  Lack of quality of design and construction can result in a burden of maintenance and improvement; if not, unreliability; and, ultimately, an out-and-out (unmitigated) removal and replacement.

✮  Technical aspects of urban planning involve planning for land use, urban design, natural resources, transportation, and infrastructure. Techniques consider population growth and demographic diversity; analysis of public zoning and the mapping of neighborhood planning areas; analysis of park space in ratio to population and other land use; water supply, distribution and its environmental sustainability; changing transportation patterns, their hotspots and necessary improvement; food supply systems and their demands and distribution; the provision, allocation and response times of emergency services and social welfare agencies; the accessibility and openness of the urban environment and its neighborhoods; the overall impact of land uses.

✮  Brownfielding of land is to be prioritized, whereas sites previously used for industrial and commercial purposes are to be decontaminated of hazardous waste and pollution, if not otherwise cleaned up, then appropriately upgraded.  “Mothballing” brownfield sites and its prevention is of strategic importance; whereas, productive reuse and redevelopment of land shall be planned in the greater context of  ecological restoration; plus, the homeostasis and continuity of an urban ecology.   Fundraising and grants for such projects shall be considered, if not necessary transfer ownership that has the appropriate capitalization to carry out the project.  If requiring more profound means of restoration,  it should be further mitigated beyond brownfield status and considered for federal assistance as a Superfund site by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Participatory planners can oversee the elongated process in any neighborhood or district, help organize community residents and stakeholders, as well as plan outreach and local feedback between the local residents, area businesses, building developers and government.

Neighborhood associations and participatory planners can supply tremendous resources and education to individuals in their community, including:

  • Lists of sites that have applied for permits from to the city to plan development.
  • Participatory planning meetings to discuss community needs, as well as to review new applications to the city for building and development, street and infrastructural improvements, and landscape architecture.
  • Discussion and review of Environmental Impact Reports (EIR), outlining the significance to the community, as well as any response or position statement.
  • Schedules and updates on building developments, once they are approved and construction is underway; therein, notifying locals of new features and benefits, as well as any changes to the original plan.
  • Examples and descriptions of architectural styles in the area and their significance.
  • Lists of notable property development companies, architectural firms, and their projects; therein including exemplary sites, businesses, residential projects, campuses, mixed-use developments, etc.  Contributions to the local economy and way of life should also be highlighted.
  • Connections to a broader network, including education and leadership in the field, advocacy issues, and resources showing smart planning and current trends.
  • Education on the private or public ownership of shared spaces and their role in the community, as well as their social, economic and environmental impact.
  • Advocacy planning, outreach notifications and meetings that represent people that are unorganized and unrepresented in the process.  This methodology takes into account the inequalities in the political system and ensures that all people are equally represented in the planning process.  It especially speaks for the underprivileged, those who are adversely affected, as well as the people who will most benefit from social change. Advocates facilitate a plurality of public interests, organizing meetings between neighborhood coalitions with the aim of raising grassroots participation.
  • Bargaining methods between various stakeholders that all have a number of interests in the project, as well as its impact on the community, such as by public meetings between residents, businesses, and government.   This could include position statements, as well as assurance that stakeholder bargains and decisions are recognized and affirmed by the building developers, official public planners, and government.
  •  Intercommunication and liaison are often an important technique by which to help different interests to understand each other in the process of planning and development. Planning is an ongoing discussion that often requires subjective opinion and experience that takes into account a conservation about shared goals and possibilities. Online pages and groups can be formed as a central marketplace of ideas and sharing, if not in-person introductions and meet-ups, the formation of joint projects, event sponsorships, etc.  Motivating people to come together can be enhanced by personal liaisons and other communications devices.