December 15, 2005 - From the December, 2005 issue

TPR Readers Recommend Priorities and Strategies for Incoming Planning Officials

Every year TPR rings in the new year with thoughts and predictions from a selection of its readers. Amidst the excitement, activity, and dramatic changes of 2005, one question emerged as the L.A. area looks to the future: "Several Southern California cities – including Los Angeles and Santa Monica – are expected to begin 2006 with new planning directors. What should be their approach to city planning?" TPR is pleased to share the following responses, which come to us from across a broad range of professions, interests, and fields of expertise.

Mayor Bill Bogaard

"A Planning Director is the custodian of every community's vision of the future. The question is: what kind of community do we want to be? The answer appears in the General Plan and other planning policies. The Planning Dir-ector's special responsibility is to balance the insistent development demands of the next five weeks, at any point in time, with the city's vision for the next five decades."

Bill Bogaard

Mayor of Pasadena

"The new planning director must project an urban vision which will educate the masses, raise morale of planners in the trenches, and command respect in City Hall. Be adroit enough to unleash the best to excel and inspire the rest to do better work than they have ever done. Put flesh on the bones of a ‘smart growth' agenda."

Michael Woo

L.A. City Planning Commissioner

"The planning director of Los Angeles must have the vision and political skill to transform our horizontal city into a vertical metropolis. This will require an appreciation of not only the obvious transportation issues, but of what density means for parks, open space, water resources, heat island effects and green building practices. The planning director must be that rare combination of leader who can tackle the nuts-and-bolts of case-processing, while challenging the city's leaders to integrate long-term environmental considerations into their day-to-day decisions."

Cecilia V. Estolano

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

"Conservationists are worried about the effects of sprawl on outlying natural lands. I am increasingly convinced, though, that the future of the American landscape will be decided not in the path of sprawl but in the hearts of our cities. We need to reinvent our cities to be not just livable places but lovable places, where people really want to live. We need to make them a desirable alternative to sprawl."

Will Rogers

President, Trust for Public Land

"Los Angeles needs to focus on solving the jobs-housing imbalance by creating new housing close to employment centers and diversifying price points so that people can afford to live close to where they work. When developing or redeveloping these urban areas, we can't forget to include public parks and open space."

Steve Soboroff

President, Playa Vista

"Cities like Los Angeles must grow up. The region's demographics demand it. Planning directors must have the back-bone to encourage greater density and growth in the right places. They need to develop a city-wide vision and tenaciously pursue it."

Carol E. Schatz

President, Central City Assoc.

"Are our cities making us sick? Will children born today die fatter, more sugar-saturated and at a younger age than their parents? Not if the next planning directors assure that the places we live, work, learn and play are planned and designed to promote health... designed to create safe and nurturing neighborhoods, vibrant and active public spaces and mixed-use high density communities."

Dr. Neal Kaufman


UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities


"Given the pernicious politics and petty parochialism that at present perverts most local governments, it is imperative that planners, including the recent appointees, be reminded that they are professionals, not politicians or bureaucratic pawns, and that they have an obligation as public servants to lend perspective to the planning process, perhaps even imagination and leadership."

Sam Hall Kaplan


"With billions in voter approved state and local school bonds, school districts should engage their communities in the planning of joint-use, neighborhood centered, new schools that intentionally include pre-k, recreational, library, and access to health care. City planning directors must champion this vision."

John Hurtado

Executive Director

New Schools/Better Neighborhoods

"Great cities need great planners, who combine a passion for place making with a focus on results. It's not enough to process projects or react to public frustration. Planners need to bring together the people in charge of parks, schools, streets, economic development and neighborhood organizing to create the livable neighborhoods and districts that are the foundation of great cities."

Rick Cole

City Manager, City of Ventura

"Beyond any planning director's responsibility to manage the provision of prompt and intelligent service is the necessity for civic leadership – to identify a set of transcendent issues and ambitious goals. The director of planning is the ultimate advocate for the public realm, and for the plan-by-plan, project-by-project transformation of the city as a life-enhancing setting in every district and neighborhood."

Robert Harris, FAIA


USC School of Architecture

"Now that Santa Monica has selected its new city manager the search for a new planning director can proceed, which is of great urgency as the Land Use and Circulation elements are about halfway through their updates and alternative concepts are being formed. The new planning director will need to parse a solution out the ‘Beach Town/No Growth/too much traffic' camp and the ‘We really are an innovative/smart growth/transit smart/great town' camp."

Gwynne Pugh, AIA ASCE


Planning Commissioner, Santa Monica

"First, we must protect the priceless natural features that define our community: the beaches, mountains and river. Second, we must create a public transit system that makes these features accessible to all of our citizens. Third, we should allow high-density development where, and only where, the transit system supports it, with no new development where it does not. It could be as simple as one, two, three."

Dan Rosenfeld

Principal, Urban Partners


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