I ran across this excellent piece from Thomas Campanella in Design Observer, discussing the deadly impact of Jane Jacobs on the planning profession. Campanella is a professor of planning at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning. I share it because I’ve encountered many of the same issues in my relatively brief time in the profession. An excerpt:
And all along I kept wondering: Why did this have to come out of a coffee shop and a classroom? Where were the planners? Why didn’t the town or county planning office act on this opportunity? A moment ago I argued that the public lacks the knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions about planning. If that’s the case, what does it say about our profession when a group of citizens — most with no training in architecture, planning or design — comes up with a very good idea that the planners should have had? When I asked about this, the response was: “We’re too busy planning to come up with big plans.” Too busy planning. Too busy slogging through the bureaucratic maze, issuing permits and enforcing zoning codes, hosting community get-togethers, making sure developers get their submittals in on time and pay their fees. This is what passes for planning today. We have become a caretaker profession — reactive rather than proactive, corrective instead of preemptive, rule bound and hamstrung and anything but visionary. If we lived in Nirvana, this would be fine. But we don’t. We are entering the uncharted waters of global urbanization on a scale never seen. And we are not in the wheelhouse, let alone steering the ship. We may not even be on board.
Lots of interesting stuff to chew on in the piece. I will say that vision isn’t in short supply amongst individual planners – from directors down to new staff – but articulating that vision within planning’s narrowed authority can be difficult.
Anyone in the field (or observing it from afar) should give it a read. I’m curious to hear what others think.