Planning January 2018

Et Cetera

Daan Roosegaarde uses lights to "drown" a public square in Amsterdam, predicting a potential future of sea-level rise. Learn more at Photo courtesy Studio Roosegaarde.

Public Art Gives Flood Lights a Whole New Meaning

A new art installation is bringing the future of sea-level rise to the present. Waterlicht, the latest effort from artist Daan Roosegaarde, uses LED lights and lasers to "submerge" public spaces. The piece was originally designed for a Dutch water board, a regional government that oversees local water and waterway management, before showing at Amsterdam's Museumplein, where more than 60,000 people in one night watched the public square flood with blue light. Waterlicht hit the road at the end of 2017, touring Europe with site-specific displays in the United Kingdom and Spain before heading back to the Netherlands.

Roosegaarde initially created the installation to raise awareness of sea level rise in the Netherlands, where at or below sea-level regions rely on dikes to prevent flooding. Waterlicht has also been used to educate viewers about the geological history of the areas it tours, as well as the potential to generate renewable power from nearby waterways. For more on Waterlicht and Roosegaarde's other innovations, including a smog vacuum cleaner for Beijing, watch his recent TED talk:

New Planning Data Tool

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy teamed up with to create the Place Database (, an interactive map with a wealth of data, including median property values, vacancy rates, zoning codes, and brownfield sites. The map can zoom down to the block group level, drawing on information from sources like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy's Fiscally Standardized Cities database. View the tutorial at

How Design Impacts Life

The Center for Active Design released the results of their Assembly Civic Engagement Survey (, a study of the relationship between place-based design and civic life. ACES surveyed more than 5,000 people online, using images to frame questions around four objectives: civic trust and appreciation, participation in public life, stewardship of the public realm, and informed local voting. According to the report, converting vacant lots into community gardens increased the likelihood of civic engagement in a variety of ways:

4% elevated civic trust

7% higher participation in public life

6% more likely to participate in informed local voting

5% increase in stewardship of the public realm

The Year in Municipal LGBTQ Equality

The Human Rights Campaign released 2017's Municipal Equality Index, its sixth effort to grade American cities on their advancement of LGBTQ inclusion and safety. A total of 506 municipalities were analyzed, including every state capital and the five largest cities in each state. Using a scale of zero to 100, the MEI scores municipal non-discrimination laws, services, and law enforcement.

Cities are in constant competition for residents, business, and employees, and inclusiveness is an important factor that attracts all three.
Municipal Equality Index, Sixth Edition

In 2017, 68 cities earned a perfect score, a record since the first MEI was compiled in 2012. Overall, municipal-level LGBTQ equality appears to be on the rise across the country, with a national average increase of three points.

The report highlights a few success stories, like Wheeling, West Virginia, where LGBTQ-inclusive housing and public accommodation policies were passed during the last legislative cycle. In Columbia, Missouri, the city helps sponsor and host an annual Fair Housing and Lending Seminar, which not only focuses on LGBTQ equality, but also intersectional issues like race and sustainability.

Browse the full report

Et Cetera is a curated collection of planning odds and ends. Please send information to Lindsay R. Nieman, Planning's assistant editor, at