Eight 2016 Planning Highlights from APA Staff

2016 was an action-packed year for APA members and staff alike. Here are eight year-end highlights and lookbacks from members of APA's staff.

1. CPATs Garner International Attention, White House Recognition

The Community Planning Assistance Teams (CPAT) program went international for the first time this year. Five volunteer planners traveled to Belize City to assist the waterfront neighborhood of Yarborough, aka Yabra. The CPAT team provided recommendations for enhancing Belize City's economy, addressing waterfront sustainability, and strengthening its reputation as a tourist destination.

Early in the year, a team helped West Melbourne, Florida, with a corridor study for an area the small city of 20,000 intends to develop as their town center.

In the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, volunteers worked with community members to plan and design a new vision for West Chelten Avenue, an area that once rivaled downtown as the premier shopping destination in Philadelphia.

Two teams worked on projects to help boost green infrastructure and resiliency in the Baltimore region — one in Harford County and the other in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South Baltimore. The team's work in South Baltimore was featured at a White House roundtable.

— Ryan Scherzinger, Programs Manager, Professional Practice

2. Autonomous Vehicles — Where to Next?

Gaggle of Google self-driving cars. Photo by Flickr user Alan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

From my vantage point, one of the top planning stories of 2016 has been the explosion of interest in autonomous vehicles (AVs) as the next big transportation trend.

While private companies move forward with research, development, and pilot applications, guidance is lacking on how communities can prepare for the impacts of this transformative new technology.

This creates significant challenges for the planning profession, as well as opportunities for planners to step up and provide leadership in addressing the coming effects of AVs on cities and regions.

— David Rouse, FAICP, ASLA, Director of Research and Advisory Services

3. Ambassadors for Planning

Who (or what) inspired you to join the planning profession? In 2016, APA members volunteered their time to share experiences and talents through the new Ambassador Program.

The program is designed to advance the public understanding of planning and promote the planning profession through activities in local communities.

And what fun they had doing! Check out some of the events and activities in our blogs. Over 40 members conducted more than 100 activities that cumulatively reached 6,000 people in elementary and high schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and community fairs. Thank you to our members!

— Monica Groh, Director of Emerging Professionals

4. Collaborative Research Efforts

In 2016, APA's Research department has been fortunate to work directly with members in 64 communities on efforts ranging from one-on-one interviews (as in the Urban Conservation: Thinking Megaregionally project) to on-the-ground plan development and implementation (such as Plan4Health).

Throughout 2017, we will continue to collaborate with our members on projects such as Helping Communities Plan for Climate Extremes, where APA is working with local partners to provide technical assistance to five pilot communities on incorporating climate data into processes for developing comprehensive and capital improvements plans.

For more information on APA's current and completed research projects, check out the Applied Research homepage. We are grateful for the opportunity to work closely with planners, officials, and community members at the local, regional, and national levels.

— Jennifer Henaghan, AICP, Deputy Research Director

5. Member Additions to the APA Image Library

This year, APA introduced a new component to the Image Library — the option for members to upload and submit their planning photos for inclusion in the collection. APA Image Library staff had the rare opportunity to sift through a range of photographic gems, from natural wonders like Mount Shasta (by Juliana Lucchesi) to once-in-a-lifetime events like the 2016 Olympic Games (by Fernando Montejo).

Below is a handful of the many fantastic submissions that APA is proud to showcase in the library.

A collage of member-submitted photos from the APA Image Library. Top row, from left to right: "Unexpected Mural Project," Dianne Morrison; "Downtown Huntsville," Greg Folkins; "California Natural Waterway," Juliana Lucchesi. Middle row, from left to right: "The High Line," Charlie Schmehl; "Beaver Street," Karla Farrell; "Arena and Offices," Charlie Schmehl. Bottom row, from left to right: "Congested Interstate," Bjorn Hansen; "Beverly Hills City Hall with Art," Ashley Hefner; "Portland's Waterfront Park," Glen Bolen.

— Kelly Wilson, Digital Asset Specialist

6. Advocating for Our Communities


APA members taking to the halls of Congress to advocate for their communities as part of Planners' Day on the Hill #apapac16

A photo posted by APA (@americanplanningassociation) on


Planning advocates were hard at work in 2016. We saw record high attendance at the fall Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., where members and non-members alike came together to advocate for federal policies that make our communities stronger, healthier, and more just.

Following the conclusion of Election 2016, nearly 1,200 practicing planners joined the APA policy team's webinar to learn what the new administration could mean for planners and their communities.

The Planners' Advocacy Network — a free member benefit to planners eager to lend their voices in support of planning at the federal level — saw a major spike in membership with more than 800 advocates joining in 2016.

Thank you to our advocates for your dedication and hard work in 2016!

— Emily Pasi, Outreach and Communications Manager.

7. Dollars and Cents

People flocked to the 2016 Salary Survey like they were getting paid to do it. But who doesn't want to know what other planners are getting paid? Here are a couple of interesting tidbits from the survey:

  • There's nearly no pay gap between men and women with less than 20 years of experience nationally
  • AICP-certified planners earn significantly more on average than non-certified planners

— Eric Roach, Program Associate, Professional Practice

8. Career Navigation

What career paths are open to planners? The answer is varied in scope and the range of roles may present a paralyzing problem of too many choices. Some highlights from 2016:

  • The Planner Profiles series provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of current planning practice.
  • See how the City of Gainesville, Florida, shook things up in city government starting with a new way of working with planners and getting things done with the new "Director of the Department of Doing" position.
  • And if you are a new planner and find your idealist perspective challenged by office politics, check out "A Guide for the Idealist," written by Rick Willson, FAICP, professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona.

Not sure about navigating your career? Look to APA's new Career Services Manager Bobbie Albrecht for assistance. And check out the current Career Services offerings.

— Bobbie Albrecht, Career Services Manager

Top image: 2016 in fireworks. Photo by Flickr user Dru! (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

December 27, 2016