With 6,400 planners in attendance, WGI played a large role in the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco, California.
Event Recap: FL APA Conference
Over the past year, WGI has been on the forefront of examining changes and shaping new approaches to planning and community design. The reasons for embracing change range from getting in front of climate change to unlocking value through adaptable public spaces.
Here are four main trends that came from sessions and one-on-one conversations:
Incorporating Trends and Uncertainty into Planning
There were multiple sessions related to forecasting, vulnerability assessments, and adaptive design.
- Trend analysis is a shared role, with Metropolitan Planning Organizations and local governments leading the way. MPOs are well versed in traditional scenario planning, though new approaches are underway such as anticipatory and exploratory scenario planning.
- A first step is understanding and articulating local change drivers, for example, urban heat island related to climate change or emerging mobility technologies such as autonomous shuttles.
- For technologies, scooter share is most often a community’s first big challenge in balancing the opportunities for “last mile” travel while regulating public rights of way.
Transforming the suburbs to provide for affordability, diversity, and quality of life remains a key challenge and planning point of interest.
Cities/counties are reorganizing and drastically reducing Comprehensive Plans:
- Even with reduced requirements under the Growth Management framework, Comprehensive Plans must balance setting ambitious, aspirational goals with legally enforceable policies and provisions.
- Cities and counties are using a new set of “umbrella plans” for implementation that coordinate several elements at once, for example Complete Streets and Form Based Codes.
- WGI expects growth in these new types of plans such as Mobility Plans and First-Last Mile planning.
- We also expect to see more “roadmaps,” or 12-18-month action plans to address mobility and sustainability priority projects in a shorter time frame rather than wait for a larger plan update. Approaches such as “Quick Build” seek lower cost improvements.
- For faster implementation, cities and counties are also using incremental and small-scale development to catalyze redevelopment that lead to larger master and corridor plans.
Planners are getting very serious about sustainability-related issues, particularly resilient design and adaptation.
- Several communities are looking at suburban retrofit as a strategy to meet the challenges of rising coastal waters.
- Climate vulnerability analyses are taking equity into account early in the sustainable planning process.
- Cities are using GIS mapping and analysis to prioritize coastline restoration.
- WGI expects more attention to several types of climate action plans. Scenario planning and vulnerability analyses will become commonplace. While current plans tend to focus on reducing a community’s greenhouse gas emissions, future action plans will address local impacts and establish action triggers affecting changes to local regulations.
- There is growing realization that the current focus on public meetings as the prime outreach channel is inequitable.
- Engagement must also be internal. A speaker in one session told the story of how they used research on attention span cycles to make sure they engaged agency leadership. Attention is highest mid-morning, but drops dramatically late evening (when we hold public meetings)
- One community used a walk audit for micromobility to identify infrastructure deficiencies and opportunities.
- WGI: At WGI, we are developing expanded “boots on the ground” efforts to reach people who cannot attend extended, night-time meetings. Reaching people and educating them outside of the traditional methods is more and more important to the success of a project both for approval and implementation.
The issues raised during this conference underscore WGI’s commitment to planning innovation and new approaches to placemaking and mobility systems.
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