By Dom Nozzi
May 28, 2019
A few years ago, I let my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification expire because AICP and the American Planning Association represent a profession (public sector planning) that has lost its way.
The profession has lost any sense of an admirable or societally desirable mission. It has lost the inspiring vision it once had.
Conventional city (and county or regional) planning has become sterile and drowns in the minutia of “needed” parking and “needed” throughput of cars. Of an obsession with separating “incompatible” land uses from each other (such as homes and retail) through strict and mindless adherence to zoning regulations.
Both of these single-minded efforts are tragically quite counterproductive, as they are precisely the opposite of what a vibrant, healthy, sustainable city needs.
The profession has shedded any interest in urban design, human scale, pedestrian quality, timeless design, and quality of life. In my 20 years as a town planner, I was little more than a paper pushing clerk who signed off on developers seeking to create car-happy places.
For example, nearly all of my day-to-day work involved confirming that a proposed development had “sufficient” (ie, excessive) parking. Parking requirements that had no basis in reality or science or what a given development or neighborhood actually needed. Given how toxic car parking happens to be for a quality city, what could be more misguided? Eventually, I was marginalized and censored by administrators, supervisors, and my elected officials when I started to move toward designing for people rather than cars.
The desire to “make no one unhappy” is now a single-minded obsession for nearly all American public sector town planners. And in our car-based world where there is nothing anywhere near as important to achieve as easy motoring, this translates into an almost exclusive focus on promoting car travel.
This, of course, is a rode to ruin, as such a mission leads to a perpetuation of the downwardly spiraling car-oriented status quo.
Shame on public sector planners, the APA, and AICP for leaving such a terrible legacy for future generations.