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What is the day to day of urban planning?

I am a recent grad with lots of options. However, I do not know which to take. #urbanrenual

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Desiree’s Answer

Hi Dana - I see your question has been unanswered for a few days so I'll take a stab at it. Full disclosure: I am not an urban planner; however, I have worked with them in my capacity as an environmental attorney and, before that, as an environmental consultant.

Urban planners tend to be employed by cities, by real estate developers, consultants, non-profits, and/or law firms with real estate expertise. I'm sure there are other career opportunities, too! Try researching that on-line (use search term "urban planning careers", "urban planning jobs").

Depending on their employers, urban planner may help to:
-draft zoning and building codes, or provide comments/request amendments to such codes
-prepare/review/approve building permits (or certain aspects of the permits)
-strategize how to get the maximum community benefit from a parcel of land - what does the community need? how can redevelopment be designed to meet those needs? This means working with the community or data from the community, architects, developers, real estate attorneys, etc.
-attend public meetings around general zoning/building matters and/or about a specific project - the UPs role may be to present to the public, to answer questions from the public, or to be in the audience and raise concerns/issues on the record.
-serve as an expert witness for development matters (in support of either side) for govnt hearings and/or litigation.
-advise on how tax benefits (e.g., low income housing offsets) can be applied to developments to maximize the diversity of the community served and/or the profit margins of the developers.
-advise on how environmental offsets can be used to maximize the buildable footprint of a parcel.
-advise how contaminated "brownfields" can be re-used productively, sensitive to environmental/land use restrictions and easements.
-assist in maximizing "air" rights to allow buildings in crowded cities be built as high as feasible under the zoning.
-assist in designing public spaces within sites to mitigate community concerns and offset other development goals.

In my observation, UPs are great at reading site maps, development plans and building blueprints; they have deep knowledge of local building codes and zoning; they stay abreast of the local development and community interest trends; and they are poised when dealing with public interests in various capabilities - from soliciting community feedback, to presenting at public meetings. Many are knowledgable about architectural and/or environmental issues around building sites. UPs rarely work in a vacuum and typically are part of a team of architects, engineers, developers and attorneys. I hope this helps!

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Researching on-line using search term like "urban planning careers", "urban planning jobs"
Read employment ads for Urban Planners to get a sense of the responsibilities/tasks expected (and note how those change with level of experience)