National Planning Awards 2008

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 2008 was chaired by Carol Rhea, AICP, of Rhea Consulting in Shelby, North Carolina. Rhea is also a member of the APA Board of Directors.

National Planning Awards Photo Gallery

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National Planning Excellence Awards

National Planning Excellence Award for Innovation in Green Community Planning

UniverCity — A Model Sustainable Community
Burnaby, British Columbia

Extensive walking and bicycle paths are part of green community planning; permeably paved streets lined with bioswales returning 97 percent of runoff to the watershed are part of award-winning innovation in green community planning. But the streets were just one of the creative features that won UniverCity its APA National Planning Excellence Award. The project of Simon Fraser University's SFU Community Trust is home to a community of exclusively multi-family buildings, including a buildingwith solar-boosted hot water and 20 300-foot-deep, liquid-filled geo-exchange wells that draw heat from the earth.

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National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation

Marin County Sustainability Program
San Rafael, California

Marin County got down to business following the implementation of its 1999 Sustainability Program. The county had set a goal of having 250 green businesses by 2010. At the end of 2007, the county already counted 245 such businesses. The program also led to the establishment of numerous initiatives aimed at reducing energy usage, encouraging green building and green businesses, and supporting the consumption of locally grown food.

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National Planning Excellence Award for a Grassroots Initiative

Central City Community Transportation Plan
Los Angeles, California

In forming a Community Transportation Plan for five poor communities in central Los Angeles, the nonprofit Central City Neighborhood Partners went straight to the source. With help from its 35 volunteers and a grant from the California Department of Transportation, CCNP assessed all 400 bus stops in the area and conducted 1,500 surveys of bus riders and residents. The group is now receiving grants to help implement some of the identified 33 infrastructure improvement projects including the idea of "living rooms" — a comfortable and welcoming place for families to sit while waiting for the bus.

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National Planning Excellence Award for Public Outreach

Project Region
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Project Region, the process to create a 30-year transportation plan for the 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania, is a document created by some 3,000 people. The APA award winner culminated its planning process with a web-based regional town meeting that allowed around 600 attendees at 11 different simultaneous meetings throughout the area to interact. Led by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the cooperative effort resulted in "Our Region's Plan," — a vision that covers 7,112 square miles and is home to 2.6 million people.

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National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice

Transit Oriented Development Program
Portland, Oregon

In 1998 the Portland (Oregon) Metro Regional Government was devoted to building up, not out, with its assertive 2040 Plan. But Metro persuaded federal funders that planning was not enough.

The Federal Transportation Administration allowed Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program funds to go for purchase of land and easements near transit stations. Today, 26 projects on transit-rich corridors, ranging from dense housing to edgy creative workspace, are adding 2,500 homes and 1.2 million square feet of offices next to light rail and bus lines.

The projects will create 3,139 "induced riders per day" on the public TriMet transit system and exemplify the importance of place-making.

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Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Preservation and Management Plan
Waterford, New York

The building of the 363-mile Erie Canal in the early-1800s, was a challenge. Coordinating 234 cities, villages and towns in 23 counties in the early 2000s, was another kind of planning challenge. The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Preservation and Management Plan completed in 2005 brought diverse partners together from the National Park Service to Iroquois leaders in an effort to preserve and enhance the historic canal corridor. The plan offers guidance to its many partners in formulating regional policy and action, provide economic stimulus, and attract new residents, new businesses, and tourists.

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National Planning Landmark Award

Phoenix Mountain Preserve Plan
Phoenix, Arizona

Development-driven Phoenix has tripled in population to 1.5 million since the 1970s. But thanks to a grassroots effort beginning in the ‘60s the city is also home to 27,000 acres of mountain and desert preserves.

The Open Space Plan for the Phoenix Mountains, adopted in 1972 and implemented by the Phoenix Mountains Preservation Commission, has focused on desert preservation in the booming metropolitan area. In 1990 the commission lobbied successfully for a sales tax increase that will provide funds to buy thousands of acres of State Trust Land. Attention is now focused on funding the acquisition of an additional 20,000 acres.

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National Planning Leadership Award for a Planning Advocate

Dave Brown
Calabasas, California

Dave Brown saw past L.A.'s artificial glitter and has dedicated himself to helping protect its natural beauty.

For 22 years, Brown has served on the advisory committee to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and he has been a city planning commissioner in Calabasas for 15 years. He is committed to educating residents and policy makers about the importance of good planning and understanding the local landscape and ecosystems.

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National Planning Achievement Award for a Hard-Won Victory

Newport Beach General Plan
Newport Beach, California

In 2000 Newport Beach, California, approved an initiative that let the voters decide on any project that would cause traffic at an arterial intersection to exceed certain strict levels. So when Orange County city planners completed the first general plan update in more than 30 years, it had to go before the voters.

The new general plan reduced potential office and industrial capacities by more than four million square feet, instead designating land for 3,000 more housing units than were permitted by the old plan. Voters had their doubts. But through newsletters, public meetings and study sessions, city officials won the voters' approval for the new plan.

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HUD Secretary's Opportunity and Empowerment Award

Social science analyst Regina Gray, of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, joined the jury for the HUD Secretary's Opportunity and Empowerment Award, given in collaboration with APA.

Clara White Mission, Inc.
Jacksonville, Florida

The good work of the nonprofit Clara White Mission has been an important part of social services in Jacksonville, Florida, ever since its namesake, a former slave, began distributing hot soup from her own kitchen in the late 1880s.

More than 100 years after its founding by Clara and her daughter, the CWM underwent a $2 million renovation. Located in the census tract with largest population of homeless people in the area the mission created 36 units of transitional housing and developed a new drop-in day center for the homeless.

The organization also emphasizes vocational training with one program offering 20-week program culinary arts training. Between 2003 and 2006, 102 of the training program's 139 graduates were employed within two months of graduation.

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Distinguished Contribution Award

Joe Tovar, FAICP
Shoreline, Washington

Joe Tovar, FAICP and president of the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association, led the way in the 2006 campaign that defeated property rights measure I-933 in his home state.
Tovar focused on disseminating clear explanations of local effects and taxpayer costs, should I-933's "pay-or-waive" provisions become law. His efforts paid off, persuading labor, environmental, and other groups to join what became a 100-organization coalition, and convincing realty and building groups to stay neutral.

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Legislators of the Year

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Sen. Barbara Boxer hit the ground running after becoming the first woman to chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2007.

In December 2007 her committee passed historic legislation that attempts to reduce global warming through a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme. Later that same month, President Bush signed into law a separate energy measure that includes landmark efficiency standards for government buildings, which also passed Boxer's committee.

The three-term senator also played a pivotal role last year in passing the Water Resources and Development Act, a vital bill that authorizes federal water projects.

U.S. Representative John Olver (D-Mass.)

As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and HUD, U.S. Rep. John Olver is well situated to leave his mark on transportation and housing policies.

He has used his position to press funding for Community Development Block Grants, affordable housing, and revitalization programs, as well as transit programs and Amtrak.

And as co-chair of the House Climate Change Caucus, one of his first actions in the opening days of the 110th Congress was to reintroduce cap-and-trade legislation from the previous Congress.

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 2008 was chaired by Robert E. Blanchard, AICP.

Contemporary Issue

Planning for Detroit's Tax-Reverted Properties: Possibilities for the Wayne County Land Bank
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Faculty Advisors: Margaret Dewar, Eric Dueweke

Students: Stephanie Bailey, Sophia Fisher, Cornelius Hoss, Meghna Khanna, Mark Ledford, Brian Lutenegger, and Kathleen Maurer.

Long before the recent spate of foreclosures nationally, Detroit had an enormous inventory of vacant and abandoned properties. In the summer of 2006, Wayne County created a land bank to deal with some 3,000 tax-reverted properties in the county, 90 percent of them in Detroit.

By December of that year, a group of graduate students had created a plan aimed at integrating urban planning into the process. Their project, Planning for Detroit's Tax-Reverted Properties: Possibilities for the Wayne County Land Bank focused on managing the county's inventory, maintaining the properties, and moving the properties toward reuse — and made program and staffing recommendations.

Application of the Planning Process

Creating a New Place: A Concept Plan for 15 Peabody Street
Tufts University, Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, Boston, Massachusetts
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University

Faculty Advisor: Justin Hollander, AICP

Students: Alison Corwin, Abby Lindsay, Jessica Miller, and Soledad Gaztambide

Four graduate students at Tufts University had a class goal to create a plan that kept the community's interests in mind. Now their vision is being implemented by the city of Salem, Massachusetts.

"Creating a New Place: A Concept Plan for 15 Peabody Street," formed the backbone of a plan for a new neighborhood park in Salem that would give residents better access to much-need open space. It also helped the city secure a $474,000 grant to make the park a reality in June 2009.

Applied Research

Oregon Land-Use Stories Project
Portland State University, Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland, Oregon

Students: Matt Berkow and George Zaninovich

As Oregon's Measure 37 stirred up controversy, two master's degree candidates set out across the state in search of the bigger picture. After weeks of planning, Matthew Berkow and George Zaninovich traveled to 20 counties, interviewing 100 residents about the measure and blogging their findings.

"By framing a process in which people were encouraged to share their stories, we were able to get at the values that lay beneath the positions that often surface at public meetings," they wrote in "The Spoke Report," a summary of their Oregon Land Use Stories Project.

APA Journalism Awards

The APA Journalism Award Competition honors North American newspapers for excellent coverage of city and regional planning topics.

Judges for the 2008 competition were:

Mandy Burrell, assistant communications director of the Metropolitan Planning Council Steven Duke of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University
Marcel Pacatte of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University
Kathy Tholin, chief executive officer of the Center for Neighborhood Technology

Large Newspapers (circulation above 100,000)

Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Kansas
Writers: Jeffrey Spivak, Michael Mansur, Brad Cooper

Kansas City, Missouri, was floundering in its efforts to design a new transit system, so the Kansas City Star stepped in to offer a plan of its own. That concept has been endorsed by various local groups, and a city council task force adopted parts of it in its recommendations.

The winning entry, "Light Rail Plan for Kansas City," consisted of a collection of articles published in October 2007.

Medium Newspapers (circulation 50,000-100,000)

East Valley Tribune, Mesa, Arizona
Writer: Matt Flatten

The investigative journalism at the East Valley Tribune shed light on a shady developer doing business with Phoenix. The developer, with vast land holdings in the Phoenix metropolitan area, had bought more than 1,000 acres of land from the Arizona State Land Department, but had a history of broken deals.

"Desert Dealer," a three-day series by Mark Flatten on the topic, was published in April 2007. Flatten delved into the developer's background, reviewing thousands of documents on file in Nevada and Arizona and found a trail of lawsuits that called into question whether this particular businessman was a good bet for the Phoenix area.

Small Newspaper (circulation below 50,000)

Montrose Daily Press, Montrose, Colorado

"Growth" pretty well sums up the vast changes facing the community of Montrose, Colorado, so when the editors of the Montrose Daily Press picked a title for a special report on those issues, they used the title "Growth" — and printed it in letters two inches high.

The 18-page special report published in November 2007 examined how the local community was changing in a wide breadth of areas: economics, transportation, crime, education, health care, and intergovernmental cooperation.

Journal of American Planning Association Award

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

"The Rising Costs of Floods: Examining the Impact of Planning and Development Decisions on Property Damage in Florida," v. 73, 3, Summer 2007.
Samuel Brody, Sammy Zahran, Praveen Maghelal, Wesley Highfield, Himanshu Grover, AICP

The article reports important research results, demonstrating that flood losses are a function of where and how we build urban settlements. It shows that how we locate and design new development, especially how we handle the conversion of wetlands, is a key factor in determining the amount of flood damage that will result from a storm of a given size.