A Brief History of the American Planning Association

On October 1, 1978, the American Planning Association emerged from the consolidation of the American Institute of Planners and the American Society of Planning Officials. Both memberships and boards had overwhelmingly approved the consolidation earlier in the year and decided to create a single independent, not-for-profit educational organization that was:

... organized exclusively for charitable, educational, literary and scientific purposes to advance the art and science of planning and the activity of planning — physical, economic, and social — at the local, regional, state and national levels.

Within APA would be a professional institute — the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) — that would be responsible for the national certification of professional planners.

Although AIP was incorporated in 1917 as the American City Planning Institute (renamed the American Institute of Planners in 1939), and ASPO in 1934, we trace our roots even further back to 1909 and the first National Conference on City Planning in Washington, D.C. From that and subsequent conferences, the organized planning movement emerged.

This model of a single organization — a "big tent" for everyone interested in planning, with an internal institute to advance the interests of the profession — was unique at the time and has attracted great interest around the world.

The planning movement has been well served by APA. We have grown from an organization of 13,000 to almost 40,000 members, of whom more than 16,000 are certified by AICP.

Collections of historical papers about the beginnings of these organizations reside at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the national planning archives at Cornell University.

Our Mission

The American Planning Association provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing our members with the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.

What We Do

  • Advocate for planning at the national level and support chapters', divisions', and members' efforts at the state and local levels
  • File amicus briefs in selected court cases
  • Promote good planning through vigorous public information and education programs.
  • Produce digital and print materials that describe the outcomes of good planning, educate the nation about planning, and reinforce the individual and collective efforts of APA members
  • Assure excellence in the field — and raise the stature of the planning profession — by supporting the efforts of the Planning Accreditation Board and emphasizing the importance of AICP certification for practicing planners
  • Develop accessible, affordable continuing education programs
  • Support certified planners in their pursuit of Certification Maintenance
  • Promote a diverse workforce by bringing employers and job seekers together through our Career Services
  • Assure excellence in local decision making by offering training, information, and support to planning commissioners, elected officials, and engaged citizens
  • Seek national and international partnerships to advance the planning movement and principles of sustainability, inclusion, and nondiscrimination
  • Address issues of social equity in our publications and diversity forums and on our website
  • Work to attract and retain minority members so our membership will reflect the nation's diversity
  • Enhance the state of planning knowledge by identifying and fulfilling a vigorous agenda of applied research
  • Share research results with our subscribers, members, and beyond

Offices

APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Our Professional Practice, Outreach, and Policy Departments are headquartered in Washington, while Communications, Marketing, Membership, Education, Conferences, Publications, Leadership, Accounting, Adminitration and IT are based in Chicago.

American Planning Association
1030 15th St. NW, Suite 750 West
Washington, DC  20005
Phone: 202-872-0611
Fax: 202-872-0643

American Planning Association
205 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1200
Chicago, IL  60601
Phone: 312-431-9100
Fax: 312-786-6700

Organization

Professional Development and AICP

The American Institute of Certified Planners has responsibilities for accreditation (through the Planning Accreditation Board), certification, professional standards, and Certification Maintenance.

Conferences and Education

APA's National Planning Conference, held each spring in a major American city, brings together thousands of planners, planning commissioners, appointed and elected officials, and students for sessions, workshops, and networking.

APA education also includes webinars, workshops, and a wide variety of on-demand planning education choices.

Outreach, Policy, and Partnerships

APA educates policy makers and partners on planning issues and advocates policy changes to incorporate planning principles at all levels of government.

We educate media and the public about the importance of planning and the role of planners in shaping our nation's communities and give planners tools to communicate effectively with officials, community residents, the media, and other stakeholders.

APA recognizes successful planning initiatives and efforts during National Community Planning Month in October and through the Great Places in America and National Planning Awards programs.

Research

APA's extensive planning research program includes projects sponsored by agencies and other associations. APA Research is home to the three National Centers for Planning: Green Communities, Hazards Planning, and Planning and Community Health.

Publications

APA delivers its flagship magazine, Planning, in print and online formats 11 times a year. Other publications include the monthly Zoning Practice, the quarterly Journal of the American Planning Association, and the weekly member e-newsletter Interact. The Commissioner, a bi-monthly newsletter for planning officials, appears both in Planning and as a separate subscription digital publication.

Our Planning Advisory Service produces four in-depth technical reports each year. PAS also publishes the bi-monthly PAS Memo.