September 2009 Archives

Plans verus the Planning Process


Neuman (1998) warned us that since the 1960s the plan has not occupied the center stage and that more attention has been given to the planning process.  The emphasis on process is not without merit because cities were no longer thought of as simply as artifact to be shaped by physical design but were viewed as a mechanism of interrelated systems. Thus, how to plan, not what to plan, became to occupy planners' imaginations.  Consequently, planners tend to deliberately omit the land use element and the accompanying criteria for maps and diagrams when making plans, and prefer a verbal set of policies organized according to functional systems. Such practices have advantages. For example, they offer geographic flexibility, lead to better understanding of urban cause-effect relationships, and increase planning's legitimacy as they emphasize a participatory or advocacy process. However, such practices also have many shortcomings.


Please point out one shortcoming that you deem to be the most critical and discuss why it is the most critical one.

No Blogging Request in Week #4

In Week #4, each of you will deliver a poster presentation on the state of your hypo city.  Good luck!

Land use planning has always been a discrete or lumpy process, in part because land use decisions are interdependent, costly to reverse, and often involve large, indivisible investments in public infrastructure. In this context, planning support systems (PSS) are essential for the success of land use planning. One of the popular PSSs is land monitoring systems (see textbook, page 203) that contain an inventory of existing land use and an inventory of land available for future development.

Imagine that a region will use urban growth boundaries (UGBs) as a development control instrument. Planners could implement such development control in two types of land monitoring systems:

  1. Time-driven system: this system has been used by the State of Oregon. Under this system, UGBs must contain enough developable land to accommodate urban growth for a 20-year (or 10-year) period and must be re-examined, as part of process of periodic review, every 4 to 7 years. Urban area growth projections must be based on existing densities or the density of development that occurred since the last periodic review. This means the UGBs could be expanded every 4 to 7 years.
  1. Event-driven system: Under this system, UGBs are expanded not at predetermined times, but when the number of developable acres inside the UGB reaches a predetermined level of inventory-the reorder trigger level. For example, planners could set the reorder trigger level at 30,000 acres. This means that UGBs will be expanded when the area size of developable land within the UGBs falls below 30,000 acres.

So the questions are:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each approach? Do you think one of them is better than the other?
  • For event-driven systems, the determination of the reorder trigger level is a tricky task. What are the factors you would consider if you are asked to set the level?

Market adjusts future needs, why making land use plans?


Apparent order can emerge in systems without intentional directions.  Economists often argue that planned actions disrupt the behavior of a free-market system that would naturally arrive at a predictable, stable, and desirable equilibrium if just left alone. There is a famous quote from Bernard Siegan, which says "the least fallible of city planners is the free market." A recent article by Samuel Staley also suggests that Houston's non-zoning, market-driven land use approach helped housing weather the subprime mortgage storm.

You could also find heated discussion of land use regulations vs. libertarianism at the Cyburbia Forums - the oldest and most active English language urban planning message board on the Internet. See links below for more information on the debate.

 APA: not open to conservative planners?

What would be the role of urban planners in a libertarian society?

What is "conservative" urban planning?

So the questions are: If you are asked about the conflicts between urban planning and the free-market system, will you defend the planning profession? If yes, how? And if no, why? 

FYI: Response must be posted at least six hours prior to the next class (i.e., by Tuesday noon)

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