Is planning at the regional level useless when it comes to land use planning? You could make strong arguments either for or against regional planning. An op-ed article on Planetizen by David Renkert argues that the future of regional planning lies in private property owners. He argues that they are in the best position to shape regional land use, which would essentially make planners the liaisons between these private owners and the “public good.” Renkert writes, “When was the last time you saw a property owner involved in a planning meeting that didn’t specifically address the owner and the owner’s property? The public, property owners in particular, have grown apathetic to planning. They know that a few years down the road “something” will change and any decision made today will simply be decided again later.” This is an excellent point.
I can perhaps offer a unique perspective on this article. I have worked for both a regional planning commission and currently work for a city that is beginning to implement the exact type of planning Mr. Renkert is talking about (See: The Laguna Ridge Specific Plan). These type of partnerships between private owners and public agencies can help manage growth, ensure quality development in the region’s best interest, and still give financial security to private property owners. I do not believe that this renders regional planning useless, it can still serve as the backbone of a healthy region (or the contrary). What most people do not realize is that Federal transportation funding is controlled at the regional level to a large extent. Therefore, most major transportation decisions are made by the regional planning agency, and there is no greater effect on land use than transportation. So, saying that private property owners will be the entire future of regional planning I do not think is necessarily true, unless they start attending those meetings that no one attends. Because their land cannot reach its maximum potential without the proper transportation connections to the major urban cores. If these public/private partnerships are to be successful, planners need to educate the public and elected officials on the importance of walkable, compact places and the effects on quality of life in places that are not developed using smart growth concepts.