City Planning Policies

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City Planning Policies

City Planning Modern City Planning Social, Economic, and Environmental Policy

Although the physical appearance and functioning of the city are the traditional focus of city planning, the city’s population and economic resources are an important concern. Thus, contemporary city planning continues to focus on physical design, but also addresses the many long-range social and economic decisions that must be made.

A city has social needs and economic capital. The city government acts as a purchasing agent for many services needed by residents and businesses-for example, education, water supply, police and fire protection, and recreation. The quality, character, and efficiency of these services require planning to fit needs and desires with funding, with technological change, and with objectives for physical development.

City planning, moreover, should be concerned with providing decent housing (and minimal economic aid) to residents who cannot afford this basic amenity. When local housing is deficient and economic resources permit its upgrading, the city planning department may survey housing conditions and coordinate funding to finance its development and rehabilitation.

The city’s economic development and redevelopment also fall within the scope of city planning. Economic development plans make use of a mixture of incentives, technical assistance, and marketing to create jobs, establish new industry and business, help existing enterprises to flourish, rehabilitate what is salvageable, and redevelop what cannot be saved. Economic development, however, must go beyond the enterprise and the facility to reach the workers. In a rapidly evolving technological environment with frequent global shifts in trade relations, skilled workers need new skills and unskilled people need some skills. Job training is a necessary part of development strategy, especially for the city’s poor and unemployed citizens.

Capital improvement programming is the budgeting tool used by planners to schedule the construction and financing of public works. Capital projects-such as road improvements, street lighting, public parking facilities, and purchase of land for open spaces-must be sorted out and assigned priorities. A program prepared each year sets the priorities for the next six years on projects needed to implement the comprehensive plan and replace the wornout infrastructure. In rapidly growing regions, city planners are constantly faced with public facilities that have become inadequate for future development.

In declining areas, economic redevelopment is of prime concern. Before any new capital improvements are scheduled, the condition and viability of the neighborhood must be assessed and strategies for remedy must be adopted. Some declining neighborhoods require vigorous public development; others should be left to available private development.

The urban-renewal movement of the 1940s was insensitive to the cyclical ebbs and flows of city neighborhoods. From the 1940s through the 1960s it was believed that if an economic function such as business or industry failed, all that was needed was to crop out the “decay” and clear the land for reuse. In many instances the redevelopment never appeared. The multiple forces that affect neighborhood changes were ignored or improperly analyzed. City planners now understand that regional, interregional, national, and international economic forces affect a city. They also realize that the effectiveness of plans to bring about a city’s continued economic viability depends on the correct analysis and interpretation of these forces. These are the lessons of the shifts in suburban, nonmetropolitan, and interregional economic patterns that took place in the 1960s and ’70s.

City planners today are becoming ever more involved with environmental concerns. Environmental planning coordinates development to meet objectives for clean air and water; removal of toxic and other wastes; recycling of resources; energy conservation; protection of wetlands, beaches, hillsides, farmlands, forests, and floodplains; and preservation of wildlife, natural reserves, and rivers. Historic preservation strives to keep important buildings and places as part of the permanent environment and uses them to finance the maintenance costs.

Although city planners may report to mayors, city managers, or other officials, their true clients are the people and businesses of the city. Their plans must reflect the interests and priorities of these two groups, and the programs that are implemented must, at the same time, help the city survive and maintain the quality of life that these groups desire. Political astuteness is required in order to ensure that neighborhood programs and priorities will be properly perceived by local, state, and federal officials and will stand a chance for implementation. (1)

In this Section: City Planning, City Planning History, City Planning in Greece and Rome, City Planning in the Renaissance and Beyond, City Planning in the 20th-Century, City Planning After 1945, Modern City Planning,

Comprehensive City Planning, City Planning Development Controls, City Planning Policies and City Planning Future.


Notes and References

  1. Encarta Online Encyclopedia

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