What it Means to be an Urban Planner

“What is urban planning?” is the question that is most frequently asked after mentioning that our profession or area of study is urban planning. This is a very broad field which makes it difficult to describe it in simple terms, but the traditional answer to that question is by simply saying that we design/plan communities, cities, and neighborhoods. The wikipedia definition is that “An urban planner is a professional who works in the field of urban planning for the purpose of optimizing the effectiveness of a community's land use and infrastructure”  (Urban Planning). Yes that is partially true, but in reality there is a lot more to urban planning than wikipedia’s definition. It is partially true because the traditional urban planner strives for creating an effective community but does so while being on the inside of an office for the most part.

Being an urban planner means empowering the community, by voicing their ideas, concerns, and questions. It is important to create a relationship with community members because they are the ones who know their community best. They know what changes need to be made and they are the ones who understand the needs of their community. As urban planners we must be inclusive to their needs and we cannot do so from the inside of an office. One way to do so is by taking a different  approach to planning which is embedded planning, and “this approach establishes a positive relationship between government and constituents. Embedded planners get to know stakeholders personally — their struggles, needs, cultures, families, and dreams” (Jonathan Pacheco Bell, We Cannot Plan From Our Desks). Embedded planning encourages planners to plan on a street level and encourage participation from community members. 

Another way to empower the community is by teaching them what urban planning is. Many of the urban planners that I have had the opportunity to work with didn’t learn about this field until they got to college. As urban planners we must plan for the future and our future is the youth. Let’s engage the youth and community members in the planning process and encourage participation in their community because together we can create change for the better. 

Pacheco Bell, Jonathan. “We Cannot Plan from Our Desks.” American Planning Association, Oct. 2018, www.planning.org/planning/2018/oct/viewpoint/.

Vanessa. “What the @!?**#! Is An Urban Planner?” Latest News, www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sustainablecitiescollective/what-urban-planner/20023/.

“Urban Planning.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_planning.

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