Once Upon a Time: Planner as Story-Teller

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a Planning student. We’ll call him John – not for anonymity, but because I forgot his name (I’m a jerk like that). Anyways, John is about to graduate and is concerned that his unique skillset may not translate to a career in Planning. You see, John is a story teller. As he describes it, he’s good at the technical side of Planning, but his passion is writing and inspiring others.

Oh, John, do I have a job for you!

Continue reading


Public Consultation: Say Hello to the Bad Guy!

If you’re not a ‘people person,’ you may want to pursue a different career!

As Planners, our responsibility is to represent the public interest or the ‘greater good,’ which means working¬†with the public throughout (most) projects. While public involvement varies (based on project scope, budget, location, etc.), most projects have at least three meetings with the public, including:

Continue reading

The P Word…

I’ve touched on proposals in a few other posts, but this week I thought I’d go into a little more detail. As a new Planner, helping to prepare proposals is a bit of a rite of passage, and you may find this takes up the majority of your time until you become more involved in regular project work (or until your company hires someone more junior than you). You’ll learn this on your own, but it’s best if we discuss the ‘elephant in the room’ up front: PROPOSALS KINDA SUCK. Even under the best conditions, they are super stressful… and they rarely get prepared under the best (or even good) circumstances.

Continue reading

So, How Do I Make One of Those Cool Master Plans?

As a Planner, a big part of my job is creating plans (shocking, right?). Whether I’m preparing a secondary plan, a master plan, a mobility hub study, etc. the end result is a pretty picture that shows buildings, streets, parks, trails, etc. at varying levels of detail.

When I first started working, the thought of this was very intimidating. I had no idea how to create a master plan. How do I know where the roads go? How tall should the buildings be? How big is a park? What the hell am I doing here?

Continue reading

Do I Really Need Planning Theory?

I’ve never had a student ask me this, but it’s something that I always wondered when I was in school – do I really need Planning theory?

In both my undergraduate and graduate degree, I took multiple theory courses. As a grad student I TA’d twice for a first year Planning Theory course. So its safe to say, I know about Rationale Comprehensive Planning and Incrementalism, the Garden City and the Radiant City, Robert Moses vs. Jane Jacobs, Planning ethics, etc. etc.

The question is, do I use any of this knowledge as a practicing Planner? The short, snarky, “I told you so” answer is… no!

Continue reading

The Anatomy of a Planning Study

Last week we looked at the different types of projects and studies that I work on. This week’s post looks in more detail at the process of a typical project, from the first meeting, to the final report.

In one of the worst University classes I’ve taken, our professor told us to, ‘write a Planning report.’ If any of my classmates are reading this, you’ll recall how stressful this was – mainly because the professor wouldn’t show us how to write a Planning report, tell us what’s in a Planning report, or even give us any sort of topic to report on. His recommendation was to ‘just write it.’

…And this was our ‘practical planning’ course. Continue reading