Moving Forward: Highlights from Day Three of NPC20 @ Home

The momentum continued into day three of NPC20 @ Home, focusing on how planners can lead communities forward.

"Density is not the issue, it's how we respond and how you address the issue [COVID-19]."
— Samuel Assefa, Director of Seattle's Executive Office of Planning & Community Development (OPCD)

Keynote: Finding the Way Forward for Planning and Communities

Opening keynote speakers John Porcari, WSP; Samuel Assefa, City of Seattle; and William Anderson, FAICP, ARUP, kicked off the third day of NPC20 @ Home by exploring planning's essential role in restarting the economy.

John Porcari from @wsp.usa leaves us with these important words as we close out the day three opening keynote at #NPC20atHome 💡 #planning #innovation #experimentation #urbanplanning #cityplanning #publicspace

56 Likes, 1 Comments - American Planning Association (@americanplanningassociation) on Instagram: "John Porcari from @wsp.usa leaves us with these important words as we close out the day three..."

Sessions throughout the day looked at many aspects of COVID-19's impact on communities from housing, waste management, economic development, and transportation, as well as how planners can help communities during and after the disaster.

The pandemic has compounded the nation's existing housing crisis, raising additional concerns about health and safety. In The Housing Crisis of the Housing Crisis, panelists shared the complications COVID-19 has caused for public housing authorities from property management to inspections and move-ins. Emily Brock of the Government Finance Officers Association emphasized that keeping up on expenses and administration of affordable housing will be a critical challenge moving forward.

There is a real need for additional funding for housing programs from the federal government, which is among the asks planners can send to Congress now. Conference attendees engaged in discussions about prioritizing equity in housing during the afternoon's housing-focused networking sessions.

Waste is another area of disruption because of the pandemic. In Waste Deep: Planning for Disposal in a Pandemic and Other Disasters, panelists discussed understanding the needs of your community during disasters to allow you to plan ahead for disruptions, identifying an area where planners can play an important role.

Panelists in Risk Based Transportation Planning for Uncertainty, shared three different approaches to evaluating risk to transportation and related assets developed by students and researchers at three Florida universities. The goal was to develop a community of practice on risk and transportation planning, identifying and developing new models for this kind of analysis in planning.

The research indicates that an adaptive planning process is most effective in responding to risk. Incorporating feedback loops and shifting away from more linear processes will enable planners to incorporate data and develop more agile processes to respond to risk.

The economic impact of COVID-19 on communities has not been far from conference attendees' minds. Panelists in Economic Impacts of COVID-19 and Planning for Inclusive Recovery discussed strategies and approaches through an equity lens. Patrick Pontius, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, stated, "We learned some tremendous lessons from the 2008 recession. Mainly, go big and go fast. ... This is not the time for us to rely on past measures. This is not the time to act on those concerns [about national debt]; this is the time to use the great fiscal power the United States has to do what we can to support the economy."

Erika Poethig, Urban Institute, emphasized the necessity of planning:

"At the core from a planning perspective: research shows that regions that have not just bounced back but transformed in a period of recovery at the core had a plan. A plan that couldn't anticipate everything but had considered what choices that community would make in the event of some kind of shock."

Career Forward

Panelists Elizabeth Garvin, AICP, Silvia Vargas, FAICP, and R. Steven Miller, AICP, shared their personal journeys and experiences of moving into the gig economy in What the Gig? Private Practice Today, including finding work, the importance of networking, and managing finances.

Attendees in Ethics Case of the Year: 2020 attendees explored seven scenarios, including what to do when you live and work in the same community? For planning-related advisors, advocates, and decision makers, AICP's Ethical Principles of Planning provides guidance on serving the public interest, maintaining high standards of integrity and proficiency, and improving planning competence.

Grow Up, Not Out

The story of Houston's land-use policies is a lot more complicated than "no zoning" as shared with attendees in Plan Houston: Planning the Unplanned City. In reality, Houston has a big mixture of planning documents, ordinances, policies, tactics by neighborhoods, and independent efforts by nonprofits that all play a role in determining how land is used. It also has several tools up its sleeve, including private deed restrictions, historic district designations, the Special Minimum Lot Size ordinance, and of course, its development code.

And because it lacks zoning, Houston also has some enviable pluses, including naturally occurring accessory dwelling units and a certain nimbleness not available elsewhere. "Zoning is just one tool in planning and land development regulation," says Kimberley Mickelson, AICP.

And that concludes day three. Don't forget, NPC20 @ Home continues next Wednesday with the Career Zone.

Top image: Getty Images illustration.

Compiled from APA staff reports.

May 2, 2020