Historic PAS Report Series
PAS published its first Information Report in 1949. To celebrate this history, each month we're presenting a new report from the archives.
We hope you enjoy this month's fascinating snapshot of a planning issue of yesteryear.
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PLANNING OFFICIALS
1313 EAST 60TH STREET — CHICAGO 37 ILLINOIS
|Information Report No. 123||June 1959|
To demonstrate that planning pays, it is almost necessary to say what planning is. Once planning is defined and its definition understood, its value is almost self-evident. In one way, planning is its own justification. The difficulty in showing the value of planning, therefore, lies not so much in lack of proof of value as in lack of understanding of what planning entails.
It has been said many times that planning is a process. That is, it is a method of doing something that involves going through a number of steps. Two end characteristics of any process need to be emphasized in discussing the process of planning. One is the idea of goals. The process of planning is not aimless; it has a purpose, or purposes, and this purpose is the reason planning is undertaken. If an organization, whether private business or government, could achieve its goals more successfully without planning than with, it would doubtless act without planning. Therefore a measure of the success or value of planning is how well the goals are achieved.
The second end characteristic of the planning process that merits emphasis is the inevitability of results. A basic assumption of planning is that if certain steps are taken, certain results will occur. Needless to say, many things can happen along the way to change the results postulated at the beginning: research design too limited in scope, erroneous or incomplete data, faulty conclusions, and decisions based on expediency, for instance, rather than on reason. But given a reasonably scientific approach and allowing for the fallibility inherent in any process fraught with unknown variables, the results of planning are predictable.
The conclusion of all this is that if planning exists — that is, if it takes place — it pays off. It pays off because it achieves the goals it was set up to accomplish: a new school needed for 500 children, located within a half-mile of every pupil residence, for instance — as contrasted with an old school attended in half-day shifts and reached mainly by school bus; a sewer line in place when a residential area is developed, thereby eliminating the need for interim septic tanks. These are the kinds of things that planning sets out to do. If it succeeds, it has value, though its value cannot nor should not be measured only in dollars and cents.
Because planning is hard to explain, its value measured only by achievement of goals may likewise be hard to understand. Presumably, planners know what planning is. And yet planning literature, as represented by professional journals, by textbooks, by master plan reports, contains frequent articles explaining the planning process — surely a sign that even the professionals are still learning about it.
Several months ago, a letter was sent to several hundred planning directors in charge of city, county, metropolitan, and state planning agencies. Examples of monetary value of planning were requested, especially those that demonstrated savings resulting from planning.
A point made over and over again by the respondents was their belief that the chief value of planning is in the goals achieved. Edmund N. Bacon of Philadelphia presented this view especially clearly. He pointed out that basing the approach on the dollar tends to weaken the main point. "To my mind," he said, "the great value of systematic capital programming is the positive advantages resulting from a clear statement of objectives and from a systematic scheduling of public funds to achieve these objectives." Another respondent spoke out strongly against the assumption that planning could be subjected to a municipal profit making judgment. He observed that beauty and safety, for instance, were ends justified even if money was not saved in the course of their achievement.
Though modern society is doubtless one in which planning plays a big part, planning as an idea is still abstract enough and unfamiliar enough that many people do not comprehend it. Even the important individuals in a city who influence decisions about a city planning program may only partially or vaguely understand the reasons for planning. Professional planners who have done public information work have noticed that there are stages of understanding. And they no doubt recall that in their own planning education, understanding was arrived at by stages.
For a number of years, the American Society of Planning Officials has collected materials supporting the contention that planning pays. In contrast to the fundamental value of planning as discussed above, these examples were collected because they show its monetary value. From time to time they have been used by planners to persuade legislators of the value of planning. Proof of monetary value does not deny the social value of planning. To show monetary value, you first must have achieved social value — otherwise planning is pointless.
PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE agrees with and supports these viewpoints. Planning is important in urban society for what it achieves — namely, a good urban environment — rather than for what it saves in dollars and cents. It would be unwise, however, to overlook the financial value of planning. Cities, like private businesses, operate by taking in and spending money. Preventing unwise expenditures often means that money is available for extra services or facilities, or for better ones. But as indicated earlier, money saved through planning is not a source of revenue. Therefore, it is not a goal in itself — it is an extra benefit, a supplementary advantage to be gained in the process of achieving the goals of planning. Theoretically speaking, every construction project completed after proper planning saves money, compared with an identical completed project that was not planned — except where chance operated to make it as economical.
Our purpose in asking for tangible, financial measures of the success of planning was to assemble information that can be used to gain support for planning programs, to encourage planning, or to supply educational materials to citizen groups. Planning has many facets and many different kinds of appeals. That it is a practical function of urban government is perhaps its most easily understood value.
Many interesting examples of the way planning has saved money in their communities were supplied by persons answering our letter. Information on dollars saved was not always available — a sign, perhaps, that planning enjoyed widespread public support and did not need a price tag. In other instances, however — and especially where capital improvement programming was carried on by the city — actual cases showing that many thousands of dollars had been saved through planning were available in public records. Because of the great number of examples supplied, not all of them could be used in this report. For the most part, the examples used here were chosen because they contain factual, specific, and concrete data on savings.
In general, the savings are presented as accruing to the city or county government and to the taxpaying public. A number of examples show that it was advice or action by the planning agency that brought about the savings. But an equal number show that an operating department or some other branch of local government took the effective steps. Therefore, planning as a process pays — whether it takes place in a planning department or in a public works or street or finance department.
The letter that went to planning directors outlined eight categories or ways in which savings-through-planning might be achieved. Most of the replies followed this outline — which is also used in this report.
Savings Resulting from Advance Land Acquisition
Planning or project scheduling permits purchase of sites and rights-of-way well in advance of construction and avoids increased prices, or forestalls construction of private buildings that later must be purchased and demolished. In some cases, the government may be able to encourage and accept dedication or donation of land for public projects.
One of the obvious advantages in having a plan is that if you know what you are going to do in the future, you can to a degree bring the future into the present by taking certain steps toward that objective. Once plans are on a map, they are a step closer to achievement than they were when merely described as a goal.
For instance, a planning commission might adopt, as a statement of policy, the idea that the city should have a park system adequate for the number of people living in the planning area in the year 1975. However, it cannot do much about achieving that goal until it has adopted a plan that indicates the number of acres required in parks of different types and their locations. Having such a plan, with future parks mapped, the city can then go about acquiring the property. If it follows sound business practices, it will try to get those park sites as cheaply as possible. It may try to secure dedications, but it will not rely on this method alone. More likely, it will buy the land when it is cheapest — which usually means as soon as possible, in 1959 instead of 1960 or 1965.
Examples of savings resulting from acquiring land for parks and schools in advance of need are shown in the table below. In addition, there are several examples in the Appendix that show in more detail how estimates of savings were arrived at.
School and Park Sites Acquired in Advance of Construction
|Cincinnati, Ohio||Sites for parks. Savings based on figures for 4 sites; purchased at $1,800 per acre, currently valued at $13,000 per acre.||$11, 200 per acre (average)|
|Sites for schools. Savings based on figures for 4 sites; purchased at $3,600 per acre, currently valued at $20,000 per acre.||16,400 per acre (average)|
|Dayton, Ohio||Neighborhood playgrounds (8 sites) purchased in 1944–1950.||512,000|
|Des Moines, Iowa||Subdivider was encouraged to donate a fully equipped park in the middle of his development.||50,000|
|Madison, Wisconsin||60-acre property located in a projected park area purchased in 1950; today land cannot be purchased in the general area.||100,000|
|Montclair, New Jersey||Neighborhood park site of 4 acres acquired in 1950 for $6,000; similar land now selling for $7,000 an acre.||22,000|
|Oak Park, Michigan||See Appendix|
|San Diego, California||See Appendix|
|Tacoma, Washington||Elementary school sites (4) and high school sites (3) acquired from tax delinquent lands.||150,000|
|Tucson-Pima Co., Arizona||High school site of 40 acres purchased five years ago for $35,000; land now worth more than $250,000.||215,000|
|Waterloo, Iowa||Neighborhood park-school site of 23 acres acquired in 1958 for $36,000; present value, due to new high school, proposed hospital, and residential development, $69,000.||33,000|
Land for street rights-of-way and widenings is one of the most common forms of advance acquisition. Though accompanied by certain legal and practical difficulties, reservation of lands for future streets or highways is highly desirable. (See Protecting Future Streets: Official Maps, Setbacks, and Such, PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE Information Report No. 119, February 1959.)
Many communities are confronted with the need to widen existing rights-of-way. Bismarck, North Dakota in 1954 acquired additional right-of-way for the eventual widening of U. S. Highway 83 to four lanes. The cost then was $10,500; the cost of the same land, if purchased now, would be $24,000 at fair market value.
In the past two years, Springfield, Illinois has required the dedication of nine acres of land needed for future extensions or widening of major and secondary thoroughfares. Dedications were achieved through administration of the land subdivision ordinance and street and thoroughfare plan. The land was in addition to that normally dedicated for local streets within new subdivisions. The value of the nine acres is estimated to be $162,878, which, it is pointed out, is about "2.3 times the total annual budget of the plan commission." A similar program in Durham, North Carolina, including both land dedicated for major streets and for street widenings in new subdivisions, has netted the city a savings of more than $250,000 during the past ten years.
Madison, Wisconsin has successfully obtained through dedication the rights-of-way for planned new streets. For instance, two and one-half miles of 120-foot right-of-way was acquired for a boulevard on the west side of the city. (One site had to be purchased because an old farm house was located on it.) The cost to the city for acquiring similar land in other cases has been approximately 30 cents a square foot. "On this basis, even one-half of this street right-of-way would have cost the city over $200,000."
A thoroughfare plan in effect since 1956 in Fort Wayne, Indiana has enabled the city to acquire, by dedication, additional rights-of-way along existing major thoroughfares. This acquisition represents a savings of $17,328. Also, after negotiations, the city received an agreement that all the right-of-way land necessary to improve a major thoroughfare that runs from the city to the municipal airport will be turned over to it by quit-claim deed. The savings represented by this dedication are estimated to be $55,648.
South Bend, Indiana, has secured major street right-of-way dedications through subdivision control, saving $75,000 by this means in the past five years; the the surrounding county of St. Joseph has saved about $100,000. "When the thoroughfare plan is fully implemented through the entire city and county we will have saved some $780,000 in new and additional rights-of-way." It is noted that this estimate is probably conservative, since present land costs are used as a basis for the estimate.
In Waterloo, Iowa, dedications for frontage roads and improvements were made a condition of rezoning to commercial use in four instances. The land dedicated for frontage road amounted to 11.5 acres, and its value, based on commercial real estate values, amounted to $253,000. Additional dedications in residential areas, as required in the adopted thoroughfare plan, amounted to $4,000 for seven different parcels totaling two acres.
Raleigh, North Carolina estimates that it has saved more than $500,000 as a result of right-of-way dedications for four major thoroughfares and their improvement, required under the subdivision regulations. A comparable savings — $400,000 — has been accumulated over a period of ten years in Dayton, Ohio by advance land acquisition for major thoroughfares and by the use of building setback lines. Also, by acquiring land sold in 1946 for nonpayment of taxes, approximately $50,000 was saved in the price of expressway land.
Savings Resulting from Eliminating Conflicting Public Uses
Coordinated planning for projects under separate departmental or agency jurisdiction avoids costly conflicts or changes of plans.
The examples in this category are of two different kinds: those where a conflict could not possibly arise because procedures are established to prevent them; and those where anticipated construction was halted due to planning agency action. In both cases, of course, advance planning paid off.
One agency that does an outstanding job is the Philadelphia city planning commission. Under the mandatory referral provisions of the city charter, all requests for capital projects must be submitted to the planning commission for review and recommendation before being acted on by the city council. "This clearinghouse function has eliminated potential conflicting projects," it is pointed out. The charters for Richmond, Virginia and Cleveland and Cincinnati, among others, place similar responsibilities on those city planning commissions.
Other types of arrangements have been successful elsewhere. In Kettering, Ohio, public and private facility planning "has always been coordinated throughout the city (and beyond city limits) in accordance with established plans." As a consequence, there have been no conflicts. In Stamford, Connecticut, on the other hand, the fact that all local public agencies are fairly well acquainted with the planning program has prevented conflict. An instance cited is the Connecticut turnpike, which was built in the general location recommended by the planning board. Also, the state highway agency cooperated with the planning board in its suggestions regarding locations of interchange ramps and frontage roads.
In several places, joint selection of school sites has prevented a conflict of use between school buildings and expressways. Agencies replying that this process had worked successfully are San Diego, Sacramento, and Sunnyvale — all in California. In Detroit, the location of other public buildings, such as fire and police stations, has many times during the past several years been studied in relation to present and future expressways, and care taken to see that no costly public building would be located in the path of an expressway.
Several respondents submitted data on dollars saved by stopping construction of schools and other public facilities in what would have turned out to be temporary locations. These incidents give a clue to the tremendous economic value of coordinated planning of public works and mandatory referral procedures followed elsewhere.
The Dayton city plan board advised the board of education not to remodel a school that was in the path of a proposed expressway, with an estimated savings of $40,000. The Tacoma city planning department similarly advised the school board in that city against the construction of a junior high school on a site in a freeway right-of-way. The savings there were $872,000. At stake in Des Moines were two new schools and the expansion of a third — all in the flight approach pattern of the municipal airport, which handles commercial and military jet aircraft. After action by the staff of the plan and zoning commission, these projects were cancelled, saving more than $500,000.
Savings Resulting from Postponing or Eliminating Premature or Uneconomic Projects
Projects that planning shows to be unnecessary or inadequate before their costs can be amortized; projects in improper locations because of unforeseen population, economic or land use changes; projects demonstrably uneconomic to maintain and operate.
Since fire house locations are determined mainly on the basis of service areas, judicious planning sometimes makes it possible to eliminate improper sites. The city of San Diego, for instance, owned a parcel of land on which it intended to build a fire station. It was demonstrated, however, that the proposed site was uneconomic, and an alternative site was therefore suggested. Building on the alternative site not only provided better fire protection immediately, but was also the first of three stations designed to serve an entire geographic area in the future. "The relocated site provided approximately 50 per cent better coverage — a dollar value of approximately $33,000." Also, by considering ultimate development, the cost of building one fire station with a current value of approximately $100,000 was saved.
Similarly, in the Wichita-Sedgwick County metropolitan area, the development of a fire station master plan revealed that one site could be eliminated at no loss in fire protection. This action saved an initial construction cost of $50,000 to $60,000, and an operating and maintenance cost of approximately $40,000 a year.
In Tacoma, Washington fire station No. 3 was due for rehabilitation. Study showed, however, that its fire protection service could be covered by another station. Saved as a result of abandonment was $28,000.
The next two examples involve schools. In one city — Greensburg, Pennsylvania — the school board had planned to acquire a site in a residential neighborhood and build an elementary school. Population studies made under the state aided planning program showed, however, that future school enrollment would decline because of changing land uses and the aging of the families in the area. Concurrent studies demonstrated high birth rates in an adjacent area. As a result of these findings, a new neighborhood (with the elementary school as its focus) was delineated and an open land site acquired at less cost. In addition to saving more than $150,000 in land acquisition costs, the decision to acquire the new site guaranteed a school and recreation location adequate for years to come.
The city of Madison, Wisconsin purchased a school site of 8.8 acres in 1929 for $12,320. Planning studies indicated, however, that the site was not appropriate for a school, and that the children who would attend it could be accommodated at another school about one-half mile away. Consequently, three and one-half acres of the site were retained for a playground and the balance of 5.3 acres was sold for $54,000. In addition to the profit made on the transaction, the city saved an estimated $4,500 in school bus costs annually.
Savings due to eliminating uneconomic projects do not always involve purchases of land or buildings. Study of an annexation proposal in High Point, North Carolina showed that if a small area outside the "sewerable" area were annexed it would require the construction of two or three lift stations and force mains that would become obsolete before their cost could be amortized. After some opposition, the council followed the recommendations of the planning commission, at an estimated savings of $175,000.
A final example shows financial savings made by postponing construction of a city recreation center. The construction was delayed so that the center could be included as one of the site improvements in an urban renewal rehabilitation area, enabling the city to pay only 50 per cent of the cost of the recreation center. "This means that the residents of the city will have to wait for a recreation center for four years so that a future savings of $150,000 might be made to the city in its slum clearance and rehabilitation program. Was it worth it?"
Savings Resulting from Projects Constructed in Advance of Apparent Need
Projects undertaken in advance of actual need but in time to meet the need, to effect savings in lower (because earlier) construction costs, and to avoid costly emergency measures that might have been needed; includes savings resulting from constructing in excess of apparent needs to avoid expensive enlargements later.
In some communities, all public buildings are constructed in advance of need as a matter of course. This is a part of the formal planning process in which population estimates are used to project the need for public facilities of various sorts, where projects are given a priority in a capital improvements program and are completed in advance of the time that the ultimate need materializes.
If carried on as a regular program, the savings effected by advance construction of anyone project may seem insignificant among a large number of such projects. In a large city such as Philadelphia, for instance, millions of dollars have been saved over the years because of this program. The lack of examples to show the savings from advance construction may simply be a sign that the city or county planning program is practical, as well as pointed toward long-range goals.
The following examples, therefore, constitute not only proof that advance construction paid off in individual cases but also indicate that far vaster savings are realized when this process is a regular part of the city's program of making capital improvements. In most instances, the savings are realized because rising costs for labor and materials make early construction profitable.
In Oak Park, Michigan, water department improvements costing $650,000 were installed in advance of apparent need and designed so that they can be expanded at minimum cost. The estimated savings to the city are $50,000, though the fact that bonds were sold at a favorable time also helped make the difference.
Springfield, Illinois has demonstrated that advance construction of utilities pays off. A new electricity generating plant costing $7.635 million is under construction. The project could have been delayed for a few years, but equipment costs are estimated to increase 7 per cent a year. "By forecasting the requirements and purchasing materials ahead of actual need, at least $100,000 has been saved on steel alone for this project."
In this next example, advance construction resulted in savings because advantage was taken of state highway funds that were available if construction was started immediately. Fortunately, the Madison, Wisconsin plans for a street widening project had been crystallized. As a result, more than $450,000 in state highway aid was received that would not otherwise have been available to the city.
Advance construction of sewers and mains serves a double economy if it can be combined with construction of streets and highways. Tacoma, Washington, for instance, is at present installing water mains crossing the right-of-way of a freeway under construction. The crossings are not needed at present, but according to population estimates, they will be required in the future. Estimated savings because of advance construction in this case are $50,000. Similarly, in an adjoining town, a portion of a trunk storm sewer was constructed ahead of a street paving project, at a savings of $21,000.
In San Diego it is pointed out that due to public works programming, the public utility agencies are provided with sufficient information prior to land development to enable them to install utilities in advance of need, resulting in savings to the agencies and a more satisfactorily completed job. At present, installations are programmed six years in advance, but only one year is allowed for the development of completed plans — which is insufficient in many cases for acquisition of rights-of-way and study time to prepare detailed plans.
Because of the city's policy of furnishing major sewer and storm facilities in growing residential areas, however, more than a million dollars have been saved since the policy was put into effect. Outfall sewers are installed to serve the ultimate drainage area rather than the immediate subdivision alone. Construction savings on 84,000 feet of sewers has amounted to $817,500 and maintenance savings to $19,500, totaling $837,000.
Savings Resulting from Advantageous Financing
Advance planning and programming makes it possible to sell bonds at favorable times and under advantageous conditions.
One of the less widely-known benefits of advance programming of capital improvements is that a greater choice of types of financing is permitted with than without it. The possibility of choice is due in part to the wise administration of financial resources that usually accompanies long-range financial planning, and in part to the time factor inherent in the process. Except for construction required because of emergencies such as flood, hurricane, or fire, most projects do not have to be built immediately after a decision is made to build them. Since the need for any particular facility is, therefore, an ultimate one, construction can take place at any point within a span of months or possibly even years. This leaway in time permits city officials to choose the most favorable type of financing and the most favorable time for it.
If some improvements can be financed from tax revenues rather than from bond issues, interest payments are saved. Philadelphia has adopted a partial pay-as-you-go plan for up to 10 per cent of the total cost of tax supported projects. The amount is charged to the general fund budget, as is a fixed amount for water and sewer projects. As a result of this policy, the interest on approximately $4 million a year is saved. Tacoma, Washington also borrows from other city funds in lieu of issuing general obligation bonds. It is estimated that the savings in interest payments at the rate of l.5 per cent a year on five-year loans totaling $640,000, with equal payments made each year, will come to $24,000. Similarly, in High Point, North Carolina, a study of the need for fire stations over the next six years showed that properly programmed, the fire stations could be financed from capital outlay, instead of by a bond issue, without endangering the city's fire insurance rating. The possible savings are estimated to be $252,000.
Several respondents said that finance officers followed a policy of issuing bonds only in favorable markets. For instance, in Springfield, Illinois the finance commissioner studied interest rates and, finding that a seasonal fluctuation existed, postponed for five months a $5.600 million bond issue for sewer expansion. The saving that resulted was well in excess of $500,000. In Philadelphia, the director of finance recommended that the issuance of $29 million in general obligation bonds be delayed for six months, because he believed there would be a more favorable market then. The savings to taxpayers resulting from proper timing is estimated at $5 million in interest charges over the life of the bonds.
Savings Resulting from Cooperative Action of Two or More Departments or Units of Government
Planning eliminates duplication of facilities or makes joint use of facilities possible at less cost than two separate projects.
A frequent way of saving is to jointly acquire adjacent park and school sites and to arrange for their joint and complementary use. Thus, in Akron, school children use the recreation areas, which are maintained by the school board. In turn, the public may use the school toilets and other facilities when schools are not in session. A similar arrangement has been worked out in Columbus, Ohio; South Bend, Indiana; and is contemplated in Midland, Michigan.
Joint school-park acquisition programs are carried out in Sunnyvale, California, where "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in cost of land and equipment have been saved, and in Sacramento County, California, where parks and schools are cooperatively developed) both in cities and in unincorporated areas of the county.
By locating playgrounds adjacent to school grounds, the city of San Leandro, California and the school board have saved $670,000 over a ten-year period. As a result of findings made by the planning staff in Des Moines, the city and the school board together built a municipal swimming pool. This cooperative action — the first of its type in the city's history — resulted in a real estate savings of $55,000. And in one Rhode Island city, the municipal planning board, park department, and a school committee agreed that land for school sites and recreation purposes should be coordinated at five different locations. The savings resulting from this decision amounted to $100,000.
Another opportunity is presented by urban renewal programs. In Columbus, Ohio, for instance, the city, the housing authority, and the board of education are cooperating in construction of a recreation center and a public elementary school on land adjacent to a 442-unit housing project. In Detroit, as in many other large cities, an extensive urban renewal program is under way. Also, at the present time, the board of education is seeking the approval of voters for a $90 million school building program. In prospect is the possibility that federal matching funds of $50 million will be available. "It is clear," observes Detroit, "that the city has a tremendous interest in this coordinated effort since much of the recreational land required might be acquired through Federal participation in urban renewal projects, which would include the school building program. This might represent as much as $100 million benefit to the City over a period of time."
Office buildings, constructed and used jointly by city and county government offices, continue to be an effective way to save public money.1 Unfortunately, little information on actual dollars saved by a joint endeavor — as opposed to individual city and county buildings — apparently is available.
Several respondents did say that planning staffs had demonstrated both a need for and the economic feasibility of joint construction, and Detroit reported that due to the construction of a city-county building, the "monies that would have been invested in annual rentals will provide a City-County Building free and clear in approximately 30 years." In Camden County, New Jersey it is estimated that a fair approximation of the savings to the county alone due to occupancy by county offices of part of the 20-story city hall is "in the vicinity of 20 to 25 per cent, or equivalent to around $100,000." (This figure is based on an annual operating cost.)
A final example of saving money by preventing duplication of facilities comes from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1948, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways agreed to change the location of the proposed highway route 11 so that it would conform with the Bloomsburg town plan and thus eliminate duplication of street improvements. A gross savings of about $120,000 in capital improvements was effected, plus a reduction in right-of-way costs estimated at $250,000.
Savings Resulting from Development of Factual Background Information and Rational Forecasts Used in Other than Strictly Governmental Planning Activities
Population, economic, and natural resource studies used by legislatures, private business, or governmental units other than the one the data were originally prepared for.
One of the functions of a planning staff is to make basic information about the urban area available to other city departments and to private groups that require it for various purposes. Without the use of factual background information and without rational forecasts based on it, many of these groups would have to gather information independently. Several respondents reported that population and economic studies made by the planning staff were widely used, both by governmental agencies and by private enterprise. The following examples illustrate how furnishing information saves duplicate expense.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission of Marion County, Indiana makes data, analyses, and maps available to many private and public groups. It is estimated that the aggregate savings over a period of time to all agencies using its materials, rather than preparing their own, is $122,000.
During the past six months, the Springfield, Illinois plan commission has furnished copies of aerial photographs to the state water survey division, the division of highways, to school, park, and sanitary boards, and to private engineering firms. In addition, new base maps made from the aerial photographs have been furnished every taxing unit and many departments of the city, county, and state governments. "The cost of duplicating these materials, if the plan commission did not own the original negatives, would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $12,000 to $15,000. One taxing unit, the school board, has already received approximately $5,000 worth of maps and photos at the cost of materials, or less than $100. This might be compared with the annual contribution of the school board to the planning budget, which is $1,000.
High Point, North Carolina estimates that much of the data previously collected by the city was used in various economic surveys, at an approximate savings of $3,000.
Losses Resulting from Failure to Follow Plans
Actual losses or unnecessary expenditures because existing plans were not followed; incidents in which action was taken contrary to the advice of planning recommendations; planning studies not acted upon until later — at greater cost than would have been necessary.
Almost every growing city in the United States is plentifully supplied with instances in which money would have been saved — "if": "if we had planned . . . if we had done it another way . . . if we had done something else instead."
After a planning program is under way, examples of losses because plans were not followed are hard to find. One sign that a planning program is being carried on in a favorable political climate is the absence of examples of such losses. But the planning process being what it is, even the most successful program could hardly be expected to bat one thousand, nor would it indicate a healthy state of affairs if it did. The following examples show losses and unnecessary expenditures that came about because existing plans were not followed.
The planning staff of South Bend, Indiana was asked about four years ago to recommend public swimming pool sites. After careful study, four sites were recommended, one in each of four "communities of neighborhoods." As an alternative recommendation two other sites were suggested, one for the east side of town and one for the west — though this recommendation was a second choice. The park board decided to build two pools instead of four, selecting the recommended east side site. The west side site the park board selected, however, was incongruous and "in fact, fouled up the plan for the west side." Attendance receipts apparently have borne out the unwisdom of the west side site: receipts for the four summer months average about half as much as those for the east side pool. It is estimated that $4,000 a year in attendance receipts is lost as a result of poor siting.
Shortly after World War II, a medium size city in Utah prepared a civic center plan that called for acquiring about two and one-half acres of land. The land was appraised and at that time could have been purchased for $19,000. It was not purchased, however. Two years later the city found it necessary to buy a small site for a fire station. A half acre within the proposed civic center site was purchased for $25,000. About three years later the remaining two acres of the original site were appraised at more than $250,000. "The city still does not have an adequate civic center."
Two examples where hindsight shows that if a plan had been followed it would have saved money were offered by Springfield, Illinois. One involved a 1949 sewer plan that was not carried out because a bond issue failed. After the state banned all sewer extensions, a referendum finally succeeded. "Citizen apathy and political obstacles accounted for the eight-year delay and a cost of $2.800 million above the original engineering estimates. . . ."
The other instance, though less typical and involving far less money, offers a lesson to other communities in whose boundaries valueable historic buildings are located. Abraham Lincoln's body is buried in a monumental tomb in Springfield, and his home has been preserved. These two structures are known as the "Lincoln Shrines." In an official city plan, adopted in 1924, it was recommended that their environs be improved. Because of this plan, a few years ago a court upheld a refusal to permit commercial uses in the approach leading to the Lincoln Tomb. But despite the plan and the court decision, a tavern, a hamburger stand, a gasoline station, and a used-car lot have been permitted through spot zoning. The used-car lot was started after preparation of a land-use plan designating the area for future public use. "The building permits for these four buildings place a value of $32,500 for improvements that someday surely will be removed at public expense."
This report was prepared by Mary McLean, PLANNING ADVISORY SERVICE.
Many planning and other officials supplied data for this report on how planning and public works programming had resulted in savings to the public and stated their observations and opinions on the subject. We gratefully acknowledge their contributions.
Charles Aguar, Executive Director, Springfield, Illinois
Richard S. Allis, Principal City Planner, Cincinnati, Ohio
C. D. Andre, Village Manager, Oak Lawn, Illinois
R. E. Arms, Planning Director, Rockford, Illinois
Robert Bach, Planning Director, Oak Park, Michigan
Edmund Bacon, Executive Director, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tom Baker, City Auditor, Bismarck, North Dakota
Charles A. Blessing, Director of City Planning, Detroit, Michigan
H. Dale Bossert, Director, Erie County, New York
Paul W. Brooks, Director of Planning, Durham, North Carolina
Russell C. Buehler, Director of Planning, Tacoma, Washington
Owen W. Burnham, Director, Ogden, Utah
William C. Burrage, Director of Planning, Fairfax County, Virginia
B. Budd Chavooshian, Chief, Bureau of Planning, New Jersey Department of Conservation and Economic Development
Gerald E. Childers, City Planner, Flint, Michigan
William H. Claflin, Planning Director, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Burrell Cohen, Director, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Hugh J. Copeland, Director of Planning, Waterloo, Iowa
John M. Crane, Director of Planning, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
Bob Edwards, Town Planner, Montclair, New Jersey
George F. Emery, City Planner, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Andre M. Faure, Planning Director, Pima County, Arizona
Richard B. Fernbach, Director, Des Moines, Iowa
Robert A. Flynn, Planning Director, Dayton, Ohio
Earl D. Fraser, Planning Director, Sacramento, California
Walter R. French, Acting Executive Secretary, Ottumwa, Iowa
Ernest Friday, Chief, Planning Division, Rhode Island Development Council
Jack Gill, Associate Planner, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Robert M. Griffin, Jr., Director of Planning, High Point, North Carolina
Donald B. Gutoff, Planning Director, Hayward, California
Harry C. Haelsig, Planning Director, San Diego, California
A. C. Hall, Jr., Director, Raleigh, North Carolina
James H. Hickey, Director, Stark County, Ohio
Leonard B. Hiebel, Acting Planning Director, Akron, Ohio
John J. Holland, Director, Cape May County, New Jersey
Robert L. Ruff, Director of Planning, South Bend, Indiana
Walter K. Johnson, Planning Director, Madison, Wisconsin
Douglas E. Joy, Planning Director, San Leandro, California
Stephen A. Kaufman, Chief Planner, Cuyahoga County Regional Planning Commission, Cleveland, Ohio
LeRoy P. Krider, Planning Technician, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Valdis Lapsins, Planning Director, Kettering, Ohio
James E. Lee, Town Planner, Guilford, Connecticut
L. L. Little, Director of Planning, Wichita-Sedgwick County, Kansas
Edmond M. Loewe, Administrative Analyst, Columbus, Ohio
Bruce J. Mangan, Borough of Eatontown, New Jersey
William M. Mason, Planning Director, Richmond, California
Thomas I. Miller, Planning Engineer, Hampton, Virginia
Raymond W. Mills, Director of Planning, Midland, Michigan
Tom Moore, Director of Planning, Arlington County, Virginia
Robert C. Morris, Sr., Planning Director, Lake County, Waukegan, Illinois
George H. Moyer, Jr., Acting Planning Director, Santa Cruz County, California
Charles A. Pitts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
John M. Poland, Director of Planning, St. Louis, Missouri
Herman Ranes, Planning Director, Palm Springs, California
Paul M. Reid, Executive Director, Detroit Metropolitan Area, Michigan
Kenneth R. Schneider, Principal Planner, Kern County, California
Ken Schroeter, Planning Director, Vallejo, California
Herbert D. Smith, Senior Planner, Marion County, Indiana
Arthur L. Spencer, Planning Director, Sunnyvale, California
Herbert W. Stevens, Director of City Planning, Cincinnati, Ohio
Harold Taubin, Executive Director, Chatham County-Savannah, Georgia
John D. Tomaselli, Executive Director, Camden County, New Jersey
Walter A. Wachter, Planning and Zoning Director, Stamford, Connecticut
Charles Walte, Jr., Director, Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky
Warren T. Zitzmann, Chief, Planning Division, Bureau of Community Development, Pennsylvania Department of Commerce
San Diego, California — Savings on advance land acquisition and street improvements.
The estimated savings are believed to be conservative. The report is limited to projects constructed during the fiscal years of 1952–53 to 1956–57 inconclusive.
The following criteria were used in determining estimates:
- In estimating the savings of acquired and protected rights-of-way and sites, a conservative value of bare land costs was used, less the original purchase price, except in two instances where large buildings were programmed and financed.
- In computing right-of-way areas, only the additional rights-of-way over normal feeder streets were included.
- In estimating the savings in construction costs on highways, the unit cost shown reflects the difference in the construction cost of major streets or limited access highways and the construction cost of typical local streets necessary to serve the immediate needs of the area.
The city of San Diego, under its planning and capital improvements programs, has adopted the policy that all major streets and highways within subdivisions or other developments shall be jointly improved by the developer and the city. By contributing to the cost and completing these major improvements as areas develop, considerable savings are made by obtaining lower bids for the added city portions. The developer's improvements are fully utilized to develop traffic arterials.
Savings on Land Acquisitions for Recreational Sites and Other Uses
|Recreation sites||Acres||Value per acre||Cost per acre||Savings per acre||Net savings|
| La Jolla
|5.2||$110 front foot||-||48,000||249,700|
| Bird Rock
|1.7||50 front foot||-||44,120||75,000|
Savings on Advance Acquisition and Improvement of Rights-of-Way of Major Streets and Highways, Fiscal Years 1952–53 to 1956–57
|Length||Ft. of Excess Width||Value per Acre||Acres||Savings|
|" Mesa Blvd.||10,800||50||5,000||12.4||62,000|
|L.V. other subd.||1,800||30||5,000||1.3||6,500|
|La Jolla Mesa Blvd.||2,200||[missing]||[missing]||1.5||[missing]|
|Del Cerro Blvd.||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]|
|Paving 35¢ per sq. ft.||Curb 2 @ 1. 75 per ft.||Walks 2 @ 1.50 per ft.||Grade $6. per Lin. ft.||Total Lin.ft.||Improve-ment Savings||Total Savings|
|Genesee: Linda Vista||-||-||-||-||-||-||61,200|
|L.V. other subd.||-||1.75||3.00||1.60||6.30||11,300||17,800|
|La Jolla Mesa Blvd.||[missing]||3.50||3.00||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||78,300|
|Del Cerro Blvd.||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]||[missing]|
Fairfax County, Virginia — Savings resulting from advance land acquisition and reservations.
- Savings resulting from advance land reservation by the planning staff for a 300-foot circumferential in North Springfield area.
|Area involved||127 acres|
|Acreage value for raw acreage estimated at $2,000 per acre||$ 254,000|
|Number of potential lots within the reserved area||272|
|Average cost per lot||4,000|
|Total value if developed into 272 lots||1,088,000|
|Total saving to highway department||1,088,000|
- Savings resulting from the county planning staff being able to encourage and accept a free dedication to public use for a proposed 300-foot arterial in North Springfield area.
|Area involved||18 acres|
|Number of potential lots within the free dedicated area||44|
|Average cost per lot||$ 4,000|
|Total saving to highway department||$176,000|
- Savings resulting from advance land reservation through encouragement of planning staff for the proposed relocation of Route 123 at Broyhill's McLean Estates.
|Area involved||4.962 acres|
|Acreage value at $4,000 an acre||$19,848|
|Total cost to highway department||19,848|
|Number of potential lots within reserved area||12|
|Average cost per house and lot||22,500|
|Total value of 12 lots with houses||270,000|
|Total savings to highway department ($270,000 minus $19,848)||$250,152|
- Savings resulting from advance land reservation by the planning staff for a 300-foot arterial in Parklawn subdivision.
|Area involved||11.09 acres|
|Acreage value at $3,800 an acre (Total cost to highway department)||$ 42,140|
|Number of potential lots||27|
|Average cost per house and lot||18,000|
|Total value 27 lots with houses||486,000|
|Total savings to highway department ($486,000 minus $42,142)||$443,858|
Oak Park, Michigan — Savings resulting from advance land acquisition.
In 1951, a bond issue of $346,000 for park land acquisition was approved by the voters. Proposals were based on a master plan that showed future park needs. A comparison of land values for vacant land then and at the present time follows:
|A. Park site|
|1952 - 12.01 acres @||$ 3,236.52/acre||$ 38,870.60|
|est. 1959 - 12.01 acres @||15,000.00/acre||180,150.00|
|B. Park site|
|1952 - 8.88 acres @||2,000.00/acre||17,760.00|
|est. 1959 - 8.88 acres @||l5,000.00/acre||133,200.00|
|C. Park site|
|1952 - 40.21 acres @||3,382.00/acre||136,015.00|
|est. 1959 - 40.21 acres @||l5,000.00/acre||601,800.00|
|1952 - 1,622.54 L.F. @||25.00/L.F.||40,565.00|
|*(l)est. 1959 - 1,622.54 L.F. @||75.00/L.F.||121,690.50|
|*(2)est. 1959 - 1,622.54 L.F. @||400.00/L.F.||649,016.00|
|*(1) If property were sold for residential use|
|*(2) If property were sold for commercial use, which would be the most logical at present.|
|E. Greenbelt donations|
|1950 - none|
|*est. 1959 - 9 acres @||15,000.00/acre||$135,000.00|
|*It is difficult to assign a value for this property, as in most cases it involves strips of land 20 to 80 feet in depth between residential developments and industry or residential developments and major highways. The cost to the developer on a per acre basis would reflect the above cost. These greenbelts are not part of the right-of-way but an additional dedication.|
|Total cost for properties A through D||$233,210.60|
|Present day value of properties A through D||*(1) $ 996,275.50|
|Difference in value of land A through D:||*(1) $ 763,064.90|
|*Value differential because of zoning|
|This figure cannot be considered as net savings, as taxes for the period involved have not been deducted nor have some improvement costs. However, these costs would be a small percentage of the $12,000 to $15,000 increase in land value over the past few years.|
|F. School sites|
|1953 - 6.11 acres @||$ 5,885.59/acre||$35,961.00|
|est. 1959 - 6.11 acres @||15,000.00/acre||91,650.00|
|G. School sites|
|1953 - 9.27 acres @||$ 4,643.14/acre||43,042.00|
|est. 1959 - 9.27 acres @||15,000.00/acre||139,050.00|
Cincinnati, Ohio — Report on Monetary Savings from Planning.
Introduction. The examples investigated fall into three categories: (1) savings from dedication of strips for thoroughfare widening as part of subdivision plat procedure; (2) savings from building permits withheld because of mapped street line plats or improvements proposed in the Master Plan; and (3) savings from advance acquisition of property for school and park sites.
These figures are estimates only, based on estimates of what the land might be worth if purchased today, and they go back into the record no more than three years. It should also be emphasized that, except for street widening dedications, the savings are due to efforts of other City Departments or Boards as well as the Planning Commission. However, these are examples of the type of savings that are possible only when prior planning gives justification for the purchase of property before it is too expensive, or too late.
Dedications of Thoroughfare Strips
According to an investigation of Cincinnati records2 on final subdivision plats, the city secured 51,915 square feet of land for street widening purposes in 1958 and another 96,350 square feet in 1957. Based on an estimated current value of such property at $.40 to $.50 per square foot3, there was a saving of $26,000 in 1958 and $48,200 in 1957.
Building Permits Withheld
Where an application is made for a permit to construct a building in the path of a mapped street, the zoning office withholds action until the city has a chance to decide whether or not to purchase the property. This procedure is also followed in cases where there is a conflict with an improvement proposed in the master plan, regardless of whether or not the proposal has been implemented by a mapped street line plat or other official action.
The determination of how much money is saved by withholding permits is complicated by a number of factors: a) the building permit valuations are not the best indicators of actual value; b) the city exercises its option to purchase the affected property in some instances, while in others it does not (in many cases, the applicants are discouraged from continuing with their plans and subsequently abandon them of their own volition); c) many substantial projects are abandoned due to information given verbally, so never reach the application stage (the zoning office has no record of the monetary values involved); and d) in several of the recent cases where the city is contemplating purchase, the price negotiations are still pending.
However, a survey of records4 for 1958, 1957, and 1956 reveals the following total building permit valuations where withholding was involved:
|Other master plan improvements||451,000||15,000||120,000|
Savings from withholding of building permits because of mapped street lines and other master plan proposals, on the basis of three-year figures, has amounted to an average of $287,800 per year.
A detailed listing of the building permit applications follows.
Building Permit Applications Withheld 1958, 1957, 1956
|Location||Date||Master plan proposal||Type of improvement||Valuation|
|941–43 Armory||9-25-58||Millcreek Expw'y (mapped street)||Residential||$1,500|
|1940 Taft Road||7-11-58||Columbia-Taft- Torrence||Residential||30,000|
|SW corner Gest & Harriet||2-14-58||Realigmnent of Gest-Harriet||Industrial||25,000|
|NE corner: Hopple & Massachusetts||1-20-58||Millcreek Expw'y (mapped street)||Industrial||100,000|
|4303 Colerain||7-2-58||Colerain connection to N. W. Expw'y||Commercial||50,000|
|Kearsarge (S. Side) 200' E. of Herron||7-17-58||Northwest Expw'y||Residential||15,000|
|1187 Gilbert||9-19-57||Northeast Expw'y (mapped street)||Industrial||4,000|
|2707 Massachusetts||9-4-57||Millcreek Expw'y (mapped street)||Industrial||50,000|
|555 E. 8th Street||7-24-57||Newport-Cincinnati Bridge Connection||Industrial||15,000|
|752 W. 8th Street||12-19-56||Linn & 8th Street (widening)||Residential||5,000|
|419 W. 5th Street||12-14-56||Millcreek Expw'y (mapped street)||Industrial||57,000|
|3410 Comfort||8-10-56||Millcreek Expw'y (mapped street)||Industrial||65,000|
|SW corner Chapel & Victory Pky.||8-24-56||Lincoln-Madison connection||Residential||250,000|
|NE corner Paddock & Regent||8-3-56||Paddock Road (widening)||Commercial||35,000|
|Colerain Ave. (near Kirby)||8-3-56||Colerain Avenue (widening)||Commercial||24,000|
|Queen City Ave. (near Quebec)||3-22-56||Queen City Avenue (relocation)||Industrial||52,000|
|326 W. Pearl||3-2-56||Millcreek Expw'y||Commercial||15,000|
Advance Acquisition of Land for Sites.
1. Cincinnati Park Board. The 1948 master plan included proposals for park sites to be retained or expanded and new ones to be acquired.
Although the prices actually paid for selected sites are known, there is some question as to how to measure the savings. One method is to compare the purchase price with an estimated current value based on the potential of the site in question and/or that of the land in the immediate vicinity. However, it is likely that the Park Board would seldom, if ever, buy at the higher figures based on other possible land uses.
Data and estimates along these lines were compiled for the following sites5:
a) McElvoy Park. Located at Daly and North Bend Roads (College Hill). This site of 24.9 acres, appraised at $90,000 in 1949, was purchased for $40,000 ($1,600 per acre), thus making an initial saving of $50,000. (Note: It was sold to the city by elderly people who made the agreement on condition that they could continue to live on the property until the time of their death). Based on subdivision into medium-sized lots (7,000 sq. ft.) at 5 lots per gross acre and assuming $3,000 per lot ($ .43 per sq. ft.), the value of this land for residential purposes would be $375,000 ($15,000 per acre).
b) Price Hill Park. Located at Fehr Road and Delridge Avenue (Price Hill). This site of 37.5 acres was purchased recently in several sections, at an over-all cost of $109,500 ($2,900 per acre). The estimated potential of this property, measured in a manner identical to item (a) above, is $564,000 ($15,000 per acre).
c) Drake Park. Located off Red Bank Road (Kennedy Heights). This site (an estate) became available to the Park Board through the process of subdivision investigation by the Planning Services Division of the Planning Commission. Covering an area of 76.1 acres, it was purchased in 1957 for $115,000 ($1,500 per acre). Due to the irregular topography of the tract, it is difficult to determine its potential as residential land. However, assuming 2 lots per gross acre, 20,000 sq. ft. per lot and $6,000 per lot ($ .30 per sq. ft.), the land would be valued at $912,000 ($12,000 per acre).
d) Stanbery Park. Located off Oxford Lane (Mt. Washington). The original 23-acre section of this park was purchased in 1938 for $25,000 ($1,100 per acre). Recent additions totaling 48 acres were purchased in 1955 for $67,500 ($1,400 per acre). There is some doubt as to whether the recent additions could be developed for residential use because of the extreme, rugged topography. A calculation based on assumptions identical to those made for item (c) above results in a current valuation of $576,000 ($12,000 per acre).
2. Cincinnati Board of Education. A plan for schools, which came out of the Holy-Herrick report of 1945 (A Survey of the School Building Needs of Cincinnati, Ohio) was subsequently incorporated into the Cincinnati Master Plan of 1948. Several sites were purchased well in advance of need.
Here again, the question arises as to the calculation of savings, since current valuations would usually be prohibitive in terms of the Board of Education's ability to pay.
Data on specific sites are as follows6:
a) New Woodward High School. Located at Reading Road and Seymour Avenue (Roselawn). The 32-acre site for this school was purchased in 1946 for $110,500 ($3,500 per acre). It is in the immediate vicinity of the 218-unit Glen Meadows, the 1170-unit Swifton Village and 161-unit Colonial Village apartment projects, in addition to the large Swifton Shopping Center. Although it would be unlikely that the Woodward site could support a commercial use as intensive as the Swifton development, it is more than probable that the land would have a great value for other commercial or multi-family residential use. In any case, the board later sought to purchase additional land adjoining this site on Reading Road, at which time the realtor (Frederick A. Schmidt, Inc.) was quoting a price of $550 per front foot. Since the site is roughly 1,000 feet by 1,400 feet, its 2,400 lineal feet might be assumed to be worth about $1,320,000 ($41,000 per acre). Some distance eastward, at the corner of Seymour Avenue and Langdon Farm Road, the firm of Robert Hall Clothes was reported to have paid $18,000 an acre for commercial land.
b) Madisonville Junior High· School. Located at Reel Bank and Madison Roads (Madisonville). This 25-acre site was purchased, part in 1946 and part in 1953, for $58,000 ($2,300 per acre). Assuming it is potentially developable for typical homes at 5 lots per acre, 7,000 sq. ft. per lot and $3,000 per lot ($ .43 per sq. ft.), its value for residential use amounts to $375,000 ($15,000 per acre).
c) Westwood (Gamble) Junior High School. Located on Westwood Northern Boulevard (Westwood). This site of 24.4 acres was purchased in 1948-49 for $49,940 ($2,000 per acre). As potential residential lots with values calculated similar to item (b) above, its present worth is estimated at $366,000 ($15,000 per acre).
d) Central Vocational High School. Located at Ludlow Avenue and Central Parkway (Clifton). This site of 40.5 acres was purchased in 1947 for $225,000 ($5,600 per acre). The land was once held by a Chicago firm for a potential housing project, an event which occurred 10 years before the site was acquired by the Board. Sales room and display businesses, motels and other commercial uses in the vicinity (along Central Parkway) have reportedly been paying $9,000 per acre for land.
1. Information on costs from Superintendent, Park Board, City of Cincinnati; estimates on current value based on experience with typical developments.
2. Information on costs from Office of the Business Manager, Board of Education, Cincinnati; information on comparative value partly from Board of Education and partly from general experience.
3. Planning Services Division, Planning Commission, City of Cincinnati.
4. Estimated by Real Estate Division, City of Cincinnati.
5. Office of the Zoning Plan Examiner, Buildings Division (Dept. of Safety), City of Cincinnati.
6. See Joint City-County Occupancy of Public Office Buildings, by John R. Kerstetter, American Municipal Association, 1625 H Street, N. W., Washington 6, D. C.; 1952. $1.
Copyright, American Society of Planning Officials, 1959.