I recently read an article in The Urbanist, SPUR‘s publication, about America 2050, “a national initiative to meet the infrastructure, economic development and environmental challenges of the nation as we prepare to add about 130 million additional Americans by the year 2050.” If you have not yet been introduced to America 2050, I highly recommend you check them out! They are tackling some major issues, one we should all be aware of if not involved with.

As an individual who has had experience working as an urban designer in England, I am continuously baffled by the comments that “a federal plan dictated from Washington would be deeply unpopular,” not because I disagree, but rather because I find it quite amusing that 50 states can not seem to collaborate with a common initiative, and European Nations seemingly work so well towards a common goal, most effectively when economics are in your favor. We are so divided as a Nation. Therefore, in light of our divided, yet united country, I believe we should look to Europe and adopt a similar strategy, spatial planning or maybe an even more appropriate term would be the most current strategy called territorial cohesion.

So what is Spatial Planning? The first and most concise definition can be found in the Torremolinos Charter adopted in 1983 by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT): “Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. It is at the same time a scientific discipline, an administrative technique and a policy developed as an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach directed towards a balanced regional development and the physical organisation of space according to an overall strategy.” Should a more extensive survey be to your liking, the United Nations published a study in 2008, entitled Spatial Planning: Key Instrument for Development and Effective Governance with Special Reference to Countries in Transition and can be downloaded by clicking here. This macro approach to the entire country, and now European Union countries, provides an intrinsic set of rules, highlighting each countries values, and reinforcing these ideas in the way they envision their country and interaction with other countries in 40 to 100 years. It is my belief that inherent to this type of planning, is a civic mindset, of ‘giving a damn’ about where their country will be long after you are six feet under. This type of planning takes on a new vernacular when addressing the economic, cultural, safety and social aspects of a country.

One recent discovery, on none other than wikipedia, for me is the global approach Europe takes when using “scoping documents.” With just a quick keyword search on Google, I found that the US does use scoping documents for planning purposes; however, the difference between the US and Europe is scale. The US uses these scoping documents to perform area and more prominently project specific scoping documents. I believe this example shows the compartmentalization mindset of the Nation. We must think broader in terms of scope and in our means of research. How else will we affect change?

An example of this type of research was used in 2004 when the term territorial cohesion first came into existence in a ‘scoping document” in Rotterdam which led the Espon Programme to further the empirical study in the document: The Teritorial States and the Perspective of the European Union, which was released in 2006, only two years later! And according to wikipedia, the following year at the minister’s conference in Leipzig, a political document called the “Territorial Agenda” was signed to continue the process begun in Rotterdam.

I believe the URBANIST’s most recent issue on megaregions and their belief that this regional approach will be more popular, is a fantastic starting point for a global use of these ‘scoping documents,’ one I would whole heartedly gable at the opportunity to gather research on. Because America2050 seems to have begun this initiative of the collection of empirical data on our future, I hope the bigger issue remains at the forefront and a scoping document takes hold. It’s amazing to see what initiatives these documents produce and in such a short amount of time.

I have been advocating, albeit to friends, co-workers and anyone who will listen, about the need to masterplan the US. It’s my short concise way of saying, can we get a framework please? One where everyone’s goals are addressed and set out, and what better way than a scoping document? In a consumptive society, we must change our mindset to longevity, not immediate gratification, the side affect of greed and complacency.

I’m going to end by quoting the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

“Cities embody some of society’s most pressing challenges, from pollution and disease to unemployment and lack of adequate shelter. But cities also present real opportunities for increasing energy efficiency, reducing disparities in development and improving living conditions in general. History demonstrates that integrated urban policy can be a solid path towards development.” – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 2008

This quote is a great foresight into what an integrated urban policy can do, one I’m excited to see take hold in the US!

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It’s great to see a post disaster assessment done by an outside entity. On July 26-3oth, UN-HABITAT conducted a survey assessing the ‘alleged evictions’ in New Orleans post disaster reconstruction. According to UN-HABITAT’S news, the findings are reported to the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT which “address unlawful forced evictions and promot[e] alternative solutions. UN-HABITAT’S ultimate goal is to meet with Federal officials in DC who work with post disaster recovery.” Whether we take the advise, this is a great opportunity for a lesson’s learned with the insight from a socially responsible organization; one I think we can all learn from. I’ll make sure and post the findings once available.

Please join UN-Habitat and the Obama Administration in identifying key strategies on how we should PLAN YOUR URBAN FUTURE!

World Habitat Day will be held in Washington, DC on October 5th this year with the theme, Plan Your Urban Future. In order to prepare critical questions and dialogue regarding international cities, UN-HABITAT asks you to Plan Your City, by taking a survey. This is a FANTASTIC opportunity to voice your opinion about how your city can improve. As an advocate for Spatial Planning in the US, I am hoping my comments encourage dialogue on the improvement in how we approach planning here in the US. What are you proposing?

If you have not seen the transformation at 17th and Market, I highly recommend hopping on the K-Line to the Castro or if you’re feeling nostalgic, take the historic F-line. As someone who is fairly new to SF, I am always impressed with the high energy and grassroots initiatives throughout the city. This urban intervention was created by San Francisco’s Great Streets Program, in collaboration with Public Architecture, The Castro Community Benefits District, Flora Grub Gardens, High Caliber Growing, Pacific Fiber Tube, Inc., Great Street Projects, Orphan Andy’s Restaurant, and the Chevron Station Owner. At a cost of $20,000, the city corner has reclaimed a portion of the road, providing a stronger civic presence and a much needed edge to the somewhat cumbersome intersection. And to top it off, the design implements green materials as well as strategic furniture placement for emergency access. Just receiving a 4 month extension, the community has embraced their new Urban Plaza, with plans to ‘PARK’ it permanently on 17th + Market.

Having an urban president is priceless…

Planning4change has a passion for design and a desire to facilitate discussion on spatial planning in the US.  We believe planning US cities should start on a national scale, forging fundamental links between states; therefore nesting large ideas within our states/cities/communities.  We encourage and invite forward thinkers on sustainable development and urban planning to use this blog to exchange ideas.  We are eager to educate, make a difference and most importantly learn.   Planning4change is eager to add value to the world and share our knowledge and passion for beautiful cities with aspiring leaders of environmental change. We are excited and enthusiastic.