Washington Planners Are Rising to Meet Global Challenges

The process of writing Planning the Pacific Northwest brought nearly 70 planners together to think about the foundations of planning in Washington and Oregon and consider new directions for planning in our region.

On the eve of releasing the digital version of the book, it is timely to consider what has been happening in Washington since the book was drafted a few years ago.

Turning Ideas into Action

The book was written and published during a five-and-a-half-year, joint-state planning effort — called the Game-Changing Initiative — focused on the "wicked problems" of economic recession, climate change, income disparity, and polarized politics. Chapter 40 covered the Initiative's progress from 2011 to 2014.

One outgrowth, Big Ideas for Washington's Future, is moving ideas into action. The ongoing effort has produced a website and a variety of models for practicing planners, education programs for the public and elected officials, and partnerships with other organizations covering diverse topics. These include climate change, ecosystem restoration, public health, social equity, sustainable agriculture, economic development, and infrastructure. The results should be useful to planners across the United States.

An outreach program of meetings, newsletter articles, and panels to spread the word about these resources will be completed this year.

When we presented the early drafts of these products to planners at the 2014 APA Washington Chapter conference, we heard, "That's great information, but can you help us persuade our city council to take action?"

Short Videos Spark Dialogue

That led to the creation of a series of short (six- to nine-minute) videos that are good conversation starters for planners speaking with public officials or in public meetings. Each video provides an overview of an emerging issue, examples of what other cities are doing, and details on how to get started. While the examples are from Washington State, they can be useful to planners across the country.

Also available is "Planning for the New Reality," an 18-minute excerpt of AICP Fellow and former APA President Mitchell Silver's talk about societal changes that affect how communities plan for the future. (The full one-hour presentation is available to APA members for training purposes by arrangement with the APA Washington Chapter.)

Climate Resilience Tools for a Changing World

Finally, as the impacts of climate change become increasingly evident, the Big Ideas initiative mounted a major effort to give planners updated tools to address related challenges. In collaboration with the Washington State Department of Commerce, the climate change committee wrote 17 discussion briefs, grouped into three categories:

  • Part 1: Planning Approaches for Resilience
  • Part 2: Strategies for Planning Resilient Communities
  • Part 3: Preparing for Climate-Related Events

Each brief discusses the issue, provides examples of community actions, and offers links to other resources.

Top image: Detail of Planning the Pacific Northwest cover. Thinkstock photo.

About the Author
Jill Sterrett is an affiliate lecturer in the University of Washington Department of Urban Design and Planning and a co-editor of Planning the Pacific Northwest.

June 28, 2016

By Jill Sterrett, FAICP