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Planning ABC’s

These 26 short articles provide — in alphabetical order — a terrific introduction to planning in America. They were prepared for the Planning Commissioners Journal by planning historian Laurence C. Gerckens, FAICP. Gerckens is national historian for the American Institute of Certified Planners; founder of The Society for American City and Regional Planning History; and emeritus professor at The Ohio State University.

Paul Hoffman, who illustrated all 86 covers of the Planning Commissioners Journal, prepared the 26 illustrations for the Planning ABC’s.

Sit back, relax, and browse through a range of fascinating planning topics.


C is for Comprehensive Plan

C is for Comprehensive Plan Members Only Content

A community’s comprehensive plan is not just a file cabinet full of plans for future streets; parks and recreation; housing; and so on. More importantly, it is an integrated statement of the aspirations of the community designed to achieve a broad array of community objectives.

D is for Design

D is for Design Members Only Content

Urban designers established the foundations of American community and regional planning in the second half of the 19th century, and early 20th century. Their visions of a more ideal America kindled efforts that were realized in the community comprehensive plan and in other ways.

E is for Ecology

E is for Ecology Members Only Content

It is logical that ecology should be integral to planning. The natural environment is the community’s birthplace. Terrain, soils and tree cover, underground water, surface streams, vegetation, and wildlife all form an interdependent unity of impact and adaptation.

F is for Farmland

F is for Farmland Members Only Content

Maintaining productive agricultural soils has been the basis for the economic and cultural growth of most nation states. In America, however, farmland preservation efforts have gained momentum only fairly recently.

G is for Growth Management

G is for Growth Management Members Only Content

Through the 1960s, community and regional planning efforts were generally directed to the accommodation of growth as dictated by market forces. But a series of closely grouped actions in the early 1970s laid the foundation for the now widely accepted concept of “growth management.”

H is for Historic Preservation

H is for Historic Preservation Members Only Content

A look at the increasing breadth of the historic preservation movement as it evolved from the 1920s concern about preserving buildings associated with famous Americans, to today’s recognition of the link between historic preservation and economic development.

I is for Inclusionary

I is for Inclusionary Members Only Content

By the early 20th century, newly adopted land use zoning controls not only physically separated industrial, commercial, and residential zones, but also by distinguished between single-family and multi-family residential zones. It was not until 1970s that the movement toward inclusionary housing began to emerge.

J is for Justice

J is for Justice Members Only Content

The Supreme Court decision of the 20th century that had the greatest impact on planned community development was the 1926 Euclid v. Ambler ruling. It opened the door for communities across the country to engage in zoning and use it as the primary tool for plan implementation.

K is for Knowledge

K is for Knowledge Members Only Content

What might be termed the “classic” planning process, as developed in the early decades of the 20th century, followed three sequential steps: (1) data gathering; (2) plan making; and (3) plan implementation. This “classic” planning approach, however, was critically flawed in two ways.