Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Which U.S. city has best planners?

Which city in the country has the best planning department?
I'm on the e-mail list for a group of planners-architects-landscape architects-nonprofit activists and journalists who've all taken part, as I did in 2005-06, in the Knight Program in Community Building at the University of Miami. A question went out recently to the group:

  • Which mid-sized to large cities have the best planning departments in the country?
I was interested in the dozen or so responses that came in. They went about like this:
  • "Nashville?"
  • "Denver?"
  • "Rick Bernhardt Nashville" [That was from a Tennessee developer. Bernhardt is Nashville's planning director.]
  • "Montgomery, Ala." [From the same developer. He had a lovely quote at the end of his e-mail, which is worth repeating here: "Every increment of construction should be done in such a way as to heal the city." -- from Christopher Alexander, architect and author. ]
  • "I think Portland, Oregon, probably belongs on this list."
  • "Portland has done some great things. ... A list of other forward thinking departments should include Fayetteville, Arkansas."
  • "Now that Harriet Tregoning is heading the DC Planning Department, that could very well join the list."
  • "One would hope Milwaukee qualifies, having had John Norquist as mayor and Peter Park (now in Denver) as head of planning."
  • "The cities of West Palm Beach and Stuart, Fla., might be worth looking into."
There you have it. Totally unscientific and based as much on reputation as on reality, but interesting nonetheless. Any planner-types out there care to second the above opinions, or disagree, or brag on their own cities?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you paid a salary for this stuff, or is this just for fun ?

Mary Newsom said...

I have a job at the Charlotte Observer (associate editor) and they pay me to do many things. Writing the blog is just a small part of my duties. Sometimes it's even fun, too.

Anonymous said...

Not Atlanta. The most unhelpful people ever and not at all aware of anything that was going on in their city.

Charlotte has good planners- I don't think the powers that be always back them up. But they are helpful, work hard, have some creativity and seem to know what is going on.

Danimal said...

I think Greensboro has been one of the best planned cities in the state. Easy in, easy out, roads are good, Friendly Center and Four Season have stayed vital shopping areas, downtown is lively.

Any place in Texas or Colorado, where they have a good grid system in place.

Anonymous said...

I vouch for the professionalism and helpfulness shown to average Charlotte residents by this city's excellent planning department. The only thing that has ticked me off about it is that they let Keith MacVane get away.

But if it is so darm important to know which city has the best, maybe the media can lobby to have the issue added to the November presidential ballots nationwide. Otherwise, who knows?

Rebecca said...

Charlotte has good planners, but what is the point when the first time a devloper screams they chuck the plans!

Rebecca said...

Charlotte has good planners, but what is the point when the first time a devloper screams they chuck the plans!

Anonymous said...

It's hard to say how "good" a planner is, considering 90% of their ideas don't make it to reality.

Nashville could have the best planners in the world for all I know, but the city itself is little different than Charlotte. Overbuilt, overextended.

stephen said...

Charlotte has planners but you'd never know it. Doubt the City Council knows who they are.

Anonymous said...

City Council has a record for ignoring what their own professional planning staff recommends, especially regarding developers' rezoning petitions.

If councilpersons know so much, why are we paying good tax dollars for a planning staff?

Jumper said...

Hmm. Charlotte's motto is "Every increment of construction should be done in such a way as to destroy the environment."

Anonymous said...

"I think that I shall never see
a developer who loves a tree."

- from Joyce Kilmer's first draft of "Trees".

Anonymous said...

Nashville is fortunate to have had a metropolitan govt (city-county) structure for decades now plus a history of very good Mayors and a diverse economy. Now evolving to a more regional approach across Metro Middle TN.

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