National Planning Awards 2006

Each year, the American Planning Association recognizes the plans, practices, people, and places that further the field of planning and help create communities of lasting value.

The National Planning Awards jury in 2006 was chaired by Carol Rhea, AICP, of Rhea Consulting in Shelby, North Carolina. Rhea is also a member of the APA Board of Directors.

Outstanding Planning Awards

Outstanding Planning Award for a Plan

2040 Regional Framework Plan
Northeastern Illinois region

The regional plan was a new vision for guiding decision making in the six-county, three-state Chicago metropolitan area that has more than 1,200 units of government.

Approved in 2005, the 2040 Plan is the area's first in 25 years.  The plan aimed to accommodate anticipated growth in an efficient, coordinated and sustainable manner. The plan was developed using current technology, including instant polling of participants and the "Paint the Region" software program that enabled participants to map their desired future.

Rather than build consensus on the plan after the fact, Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission engaged more than 4,000 in the planning process including traditionally underrepresented groups.

Outstanding Planning Award for a Special Community Initiative

West Chelsea/High Line Plan
Manhattan, New York

An unlikely urban park is taking shape along a 1.5-mile abandoned rail line on Manhattan's West Side.

In 2005, the city planning department developed a new zoning district with three priorities: preserving and transforming the High Line, creating new housing, and protecting the art gallery district. The zoning allows the owners of the land underneath the elevated line to capitalize on their property through a transfer of floor area to "receiving sites," where new residential and mixed-use development is now permitted.

The plan mandates that low- and moderate-income housing be included in all new development resulting from the adopted zoning district.

Outstanding Planning Award for Implementation

South Livermore Valley Specific Plan
Livermore, California

Faced with the potential loss of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land in the heart of an active wine-producing region, the City of Livermore created an innovative conservation mechanism to curb sprawl and permanently protect the community's vineyards.

For each residential unit or acre of land developed under the plan, an acre must be planted and placed under permanent agricultural easement. Implemented in 1996, by 2006 the plan had resulted in the direct placement of 3,229 acres in the greater South Livermore Valley under permanent agricultural easement.

The plan also established new patterns of development at the urban edge to ease the transition from urban to rural. Now there is an urban growth boundary that prevents urban development from creeping further southward without voter approval.

Outstanding Planning Award for a Project, Program, or Tool

The Shoreline Stabilization Handbook
Lake Champlain, Vermont

The first of its kind manual set out to help property owners on the 120-mile-long body of water make informed decisions about the most appropriate, effective and economical methods of stabilizing the shoreline of their waterfront.

A major, yet often unrecognized, problem for Lake Champlain was the degree to which shoreline erosion had caused the accumulation of unwanted sediment on the lake bottom. The Northwest Regional Planning Commission in Vermont recognized a need for better information on lakeshore stabilization and took the lead in preparing the handbook that features a concise checklist of factors for property owners to consider when weighing their stabilization options.

Outstanding Planning Award for a Project, Program, or Tool

Living Roadways Community Visioning Program

More than 100 small towns have improved the appearance of local roads with the help of an innovative visioning program developed by Iowa State University. The program supplies a professional design consultant and university students to towns that otherwise couldn't afford to hire planners.

Participants in the program use surveys, visitor-employed photography, and resource mapping to help residents define the major influences and identify alternative solutions to transportation issues. At the end of that process, the local committees come away with a visioning plan, presentation boards, and other written and visual materials to help explain their future plans.

Outstanding Planning Award for Public Education Award

Youth Planning Project
Amherst and Clarence, New York

The youth planning project showed how seamlessly planning and community development can be incorporated into existing curriculums at all grade levels.

The Amherst and Clarence Youth Planning Project was developed to educate youngsters about planning and to encourage student participation in the comprehensive planning process taking place in their own towns. The collaborative, multidisciplinary program partnered Amherst and Clarence and the four school districts that serve them with Buffalo State College to develop the program, which relied heavily on GIS mapping.

To introduce students to the field of planning, teachers took them on walking tours of their communities, had them conduct mock planning meetings, and included them in visioning sessions. One teacher had students test water samples from various sites.

Daniel Burnham Award

Los Angeles Conservancy
Los Angeles County, California

For the past quarter century, the 8,000-member Los Angeles Conservancy has protected the historic treasures of its region including theaters, places of worship, hotels and single-family houses. These efforts number in the hundreds and are vital because historic preservation in the county depends on local government, which often lack financial and other resources for such work.

One of the conservancy's early advocacy efforts involved L.A.'s adoption of a historic preservation overlay zone in 1982 and subsequent amendments. Today, the city has 20 districts protected by the overlay zones, and residents and property owners have proposed other districts for inclusion.

AICP National Planning Pioneer

Fred H. Bair, Jr. (in memoriam, 1915-2005)

Much of today's planning theory and practice is based on the work of Frederick H. Bair, Jr., author of The Text of a Model Zoning Ordinance.

Bair was a prolific author who wrote commentaries for Land Use Law & Zoning Digest, contributed to many Planning Advisory Service reports, and refined the land-use intensity system. An example of Bair's forward thinking is the chapter of Planning Cities called "Is Zoning a Mistake?" In it, he calls for a "long overdue" overhaul of the whole zoning system in favor of a version of what we now call performance zoning.

Distinguished Leadership Awards

Public Official

Veletta Forsythe Lill
Dallas, Texas

During her eight-year tenure on the Dallas City Council, the persuasive and savvy Lill helped guide the city through downtown revitalization planning, an update of historic preservation codes, and the crafting of the city's first comprehensive plan.

The plan aimed to decrease sprawl, increase pedestrian-friendly streets, and promote transit-oriented development. She helped keep alive a vision for a downtown and arts district by directing $30 million in public money into a new performing arts center and another $10 million into the new Latino Cultural Center.

Citizen Planner

Ruth Lansford
Los Angeles, California

In 1978 when owners of a local wetland in Los Angeles County sought to develop the land, Ruth Lansford took action and formed Friends of Ballona Wetlands, beginning a 30-year journey to protect the wildlife habitat.

Developers had plans for a project that would destroy all but 72 of its 200 remaining acres. But in the face of Lansford's fierce opposition campaign, the property owners eventually sold.

Friends worked with the new owners to amend the original development plan to include a more sustainable design as well to provide for the preservation and restoration of 285 acres of habitat. In addition, the landowner agreed to provide $12.5 million to support restoration activities.

Current Topic Award: Housing Choice and Affordability

City of Highland Park's Affordable Housing Initiatives
Highland Park, Illinois

With new homes exceeding $1 million, community workers were being priced out of the market in this affluent Chicago suburb. Highland Park responded with a two-year planning process designed to increase housing options.

Steps included establishing a demolition tax and a community land trust, as well as adopting an inclusionary zoning ordinance. As a result, the city approved some 19 affordable new homes, generally sold for between $120,000 and $200,000, in three years.

Paul Davidoff National Award for Social Advocacy

Marva Smith Battle-Bey
Los Angeles, California

Marva Smith Bettle-Bey is leading efforts to return retail development to south central Los Angeles after it was shaken by rioting and civil unrest in the early 1990s.

Since Bettle-Bey became President in 1981, the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation has developed an industrial business incubator, which offers professional space, computer labs and business seminars for local entrepreneurs. Past businesses include a mold remediation firm, real estate company, and travel agency.

VSECD also attracted an IHOP (the first sit-down family restaurant to build in the neighborhood for a number of years) and Mexico-based Gigante supermarket chain to the area.

AICP President's Award

To honor a proactive individual, group or planning program that has demonstrated a significant contribution to advancing the planning profession.

Mark Bernhard, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

Al Zelinka, AICP, Urban Design Studio, RBF Consulting, Irvine, California

In 1998 Mark Bernhard and Al Zelinka began discussing the idea of a national conference focusing on crime prevention, planning and livable communities.

Three years later, after many discussions, much work, and the contributions of others, the first New Partners for Smart Growth: Building Safe, Healthy, and Livable Communities Conference was held in San Diego. Attracting 525 participants, the conference was the result of a successful partnership involving Pennsylvania State University, the Local Government Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2006, the conference drew between around 1,000 attendees — proof of what can result when individuals follow through on their vision to make a difference and be catalysts for positive change.

APA President's Meritorious Service Award

Recognizing the remarkable achievement by an APA member in their service to the association. Each APA President may present this away once during his or her term.

Fernando Costa, AICP

Fernando Costa helped keep planning in the forefront of hurricane recovery discussions in New Orleans. He led APA's six-member volunteer New Orleans Planning Assessment Team that evaluated the city's planning capacity and needs. The team produced a report with recommendations for enhancing the planning process in the devastated city.

He also was a representative of the planning profession on Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission. Costa also is co-chair of APA's Diversity Subcommittee, which is working to implement a variety of initiatives within APA to enhance membership diversity.

Legislators of the Year

U.S Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.)

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, Sen. Mary Landrieu has been a vocal supporter of coastal wetland restoration programs and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

In 2005, she sponsored the Americans Outdoors Act, to help states and localities foster more physically active communities. The bill establishes the Coastal Impact Assistance Program to provide aid under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. This money would ensure adequate funding for conserving and restoring wildlife and would assist local governments in improving local park and recreation systems.

She also sponsored legislation establishing the Louisiana Recovery Corporation to help residents rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, advocating a comprehensive approach to recovery.

U.S. Representative Curt Weldon (R-Pa.)

A member of Congress for nearly 20 years, Rep. Curt Weldon has taken a leadership role on a wide variety of issues. He co-chaired the bipartisan House Oceans Caucus and in 2005 coauthored the Oceans Conservation, Education and National Strategy for the 21st Century Act.

Weldon has long advocated for the wildlife refuge system and in 2005, as the only House Republican on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission he worked to secure federal funds to purchase a portion of Valley Forge National Park that was to be zoned as residential.

He also cosponsored the Safe Communities Act of 2005, which would provide grants to communities to address disaster mitigation and emergency preparedness issues through local comprehensive plans.

AICP Student Project Awards

In recognition of outstanding papers or class projects by a student or group of students from accredited planning programs. The AICP Student Project Awards Jury of 2006 was chaired by Veronica Rosales, AICP.

Application of the Planning Process

Pioneering Palmer's Future: Strategies for Managing Growth
University of Washington, College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Faculty: Fritz Wagner, FAICP; Nancy Rottle; Frank Westerlund; Eric Noll

Students: Eileen Alduenda, Katey Bean, Clayton Beaudoin, Phoebe Bogert, Tony Bohn, Teri Butorac-Lee, Joshua Curtis, Peter Drakos, Susanne Hamilton, Eric Higbee, Amy Lindemuth, Kokila Lochan, Michael Russo, Alison Matiland Scheetz, Aren Sparck, Daniel Staley, Judson Sullvian, Zach Thomas, Jen Witzgall

The student team produced a comprehensive, complementary set of planning recommendations to preserve and enhance Palmer, Alaska's small-town character and historic agricultural resources while guiding future area-wide growth and spurring economic health. The synthesis document, Pioneering Palmer's Future, presented nine integrated recommendations in a highly accessible format.

Contribution of Planning to a Contemporary Issue

Ostego Land Trust Conservation Plan
Cornell University, Department of City and Regional Planning

Faculty: Ole M. Amundsen, III

Students: Irene Atamian, Soumya Dharmavarm, Matt Flis, Renee Kincla, Andy Love, Megan McDonald, Ron Morad, Elizabeth Sargent, Barbara Silverman, Jonathan Sinker, Beth Tamayose, Heidi Wasson, Tom Weismiller, Hui Xia

Fourteen Master's in Regional Planning students participated in a workshop to assist the Otsego Land Trust (OLT), a nonprofit conservation organization, by creating a land conservation plan to guide the land trust's conservation efforts. Students researched the demographic changes taking place across Otsego County, New York; designed criteria to select land conservation projects that reflect the land trust's mission; and created tools to prioritize the landscape for proactive conservation.

APA Journalism Awards

In recognition of outstanding coverage of city and regional planning issues by newspapers in the United States and Canada.

Judges for the 2006 competition were:

Karen Christensen, downtown development director
Nancy Day, chair of the Journalism Department at Columbia College
Michael Miner, senior editor of the Chicago Reader
Joyce O'Keefe, deputy director of the Openlands Project
David Roeder, business reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times
Heather Smith, planning director of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Large Newspapers (circulation above 100,000)

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana

In "Ruin and Recovery," the Times-Picayune cast a wide net to answer the hundreds of questions facing New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Looking for clues about what the city could do next, the newspaper sent teams of reporters to other locales that had coped with natural disasters, including four U.S. cities, Japan, and the Netherlands.

What resulted was a series of articles about regrouping and rebuilding. In reporting on successes in other places, the newspaper also lit a fire under its own city. One headline read: "Grand plans can't happen unless a fractured city rises to the challenge."

Not only did the Times-Picayune report on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina — it did so after evacuating its offices and setting up shop elsewhere in the state. Many of the newspaper's reporters and editors also lost their homes.

Medium Newspapers (circulation between 50,000 and 100,000)

The East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Arizona
Writers:  Mark Flatten, J. Craig Anderson, and Emily Gersema

Growth and development is the story of the 450-square-mile East Valley, the fastest growing part of the Phoenix metropolitan area. As it turns out, that growth was anything but haphazard. According to the East Valley Tribune, dozens of apparently unrelated companies were really the front for politically powerful land speculators.

In compiling the series "The Speculators," Tribune reporters delved into public records in order to learn who the wheelers and dealers were — and how they put together their deals. Their conclusion: "East Valley land barons have locked up empty fields from Mesa to Florence as they gamble in a high-stakes game that will shape the area's future for generations."

"The amount of research done to provide the basis for the stories was phenomenal," the judges said.

Small Newspapers (circulation under 50,000)

Lawrence Journal-World, Lawrence, Kansas
Writers: Chad Lawhorn, Joel Mathis, and Dave Ranney

Must a community go to wrack and ruin when it grows, or can it retain its unique character? That is the central question addressed in "Mapping the Future," a special section published in the Lawrence Journal-World.

Reporters sought answers from local officials and others — including a retired consultant with some suggestions about how the city can shape its future. But they found that Lawrence already has adopted several plans intended to guide growth and development; the problem was that they didn't quite mesh.

"(The newspaper) did a great job of reviewing how past decisions were made — and explaining how by not deciding, you are actually making a decision," the judges said.

Journal of the American Planning Association Award

In recognition of the best contribution during the year to the scholarly journal of APA. Carl Patton, FAICP, chaired the committee that selected the article.

"Planning Styles in Conflict: The Metropolitan Transportation Commission" V. 71, No. 2 (Spring), 2005

Judith E. Innes, University of California, Berkeley

Judith Gruber, University of California, Berkeley

Based on a five-year study of the San Francisco Bay Area metropolitan Transportation Commission, the authors analyzed the conditions, differing planning styles and obstacles hindering more collaboration among transportation planning agencies. The authors also examine four different planning styles, each with its own assumptions about knowledge, participation, and the concept of a good plan. The judges said this article stood out because of "its potential long-term impact on the teaching and practice of planning."