10 Years of Transformation: 6 Ways Planning Changed in the 2010s

Reflecting on a Decade: Transformative Changes in Planning

From autonomous vehicles (AVs) to the rise of YIMBY, our communities have experienced groundbreaking transformations in just a short decade. Starting with APA's staff, we asked what changes in our communities — and in the planning profession — have shifted our thinking:

1. From NIMBY to YIMBY

As the housing affordability and availability crisis emerged in cities throughout the United States, community residents started to turn to new housing construction as one part of the solution. The shift from knee-jerk resistance to increased density to welcoming new development has not been without its challenges — like ensuring new projects do not usher in gentrification and displacement — but the YIMBY movement offers new opportunities for planners, communities, and developers to collaborate to solve housing challenges.

— Karen Kazmierczak, Senior Marketing Manager

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2. Mitigation and Adaptation

While in the 1990s and early 2000s, the global climate change discussion and related funding mainly focused on climate change mitigation and related sustainability concepts such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing resource efficiency, the Paris Agreement (2015), sought to find a balance between mitigation and adaptation.

During the last decade, the adaptation to climate change and its impacts on communities gained more and more attention (also, with historically disadvantaged communities being the most vulnerable ones), spurring a shift from planning for sustainable communities to planning for resilient communities.

— Petra Hurtado, PhD, Research Director

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3. Tactical Urbanism

The idea of temporary, low-cost interventions in the built environment is hardly new. City dwellers have been modifying public spaces and reclaiming underused private land for (quasi) public purposes for as long as cities have existed. However, over the past 10 years, the term "tactical urbanism" entered the planning lexicon and took root as a mainstream approach to test ideas.

During the 2010s we've seen an explosion of publicly sanctioned (or led) tactical urbanism projects, such as parklets, pop-up retail, protected bike lanes, and street-to-plaza conversions. In some cases, planners have helped adjust rules or regulations to provide more opportunities for legal grassroots projects. In others, planners have played an active role in planning and implementing specific projects.

— David Morley, AICP, Research Program and QA Manager

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4. Social Equity in Planning

Over the past decade, the awareness and dialogue encompassing planning for equity has gained momentum and is increasingly exploring how to ensure lasting systemic impacts. The profession has been looking at its legacy — shortcomings and all. And through acknowledgment of the impacts of urban renewal, redlining, and racialized zoning on communities of color, we're seeing serious commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, in the spirit of Paul Davidoff's advocacy planning.

Through efforts like gender mainstreaming, environmental justice, and community engagement, planners are making the push to right past wrongs and create just communities for all. Planning practice and education have also started to embrace equity not as a topic in and of itself, but as a lens through which all new policies and efforts should be focused.

Lindsay Nieman, Associate Editor, Planning

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5. Shared Cities

After decades of personal car ownership and the dream of owning a house outside the city far away from everyone else, who would have thought sharing would be seen as innovative again one day, let alone be the main ingredient for multiple success stories.

Today, the largest taxi company doesn't own a single vehicle, sleeping in a stranger's house when traveling is the new normal, sharing office space with competing companies doesn't spur anxiety, and having a bike available at almost every street corner makes them an attractive alternative when moving around town.

The success stories of companies such as Uber, Airbnb, WeWork, and CitiBike have stimulated a shift from ownership to sharing that has been disrupting almost any sector from transportation to real estate to hospitality and others. During this decade, most cities and towns have been challenged with finding solutions to deal with the shared economy and how to integrate or ban related services.

— Petra Hurtado, PhD, Research Director

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6. The Era of Big Data

The idea and story of big data can be traced to long before the last decade, but big data became a much more powerful reality and expansive topic in the 2010s. Technological advances are increasing not only the quantity and types of data, but also the capacity of analytical processes to integrate, layer, visualize, and exploit the discovery power of that data. The capabilities are transforming the practice of planning as both traditional and non-traditional planners leverage data in new and innovative ways.

— Ryan Scherzinger, AICP, Professional Practice Programs Manager

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Top image: Getty Images photo.

December 18, 2019