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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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Subject: Career question for you


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Jacob’s Answer

Urban planning is a dynamic field that plays a crucial role in shaping the development and sustainability of cities and communities. The day-to-day work of urban planners can vary based on their specific roles and the projects they are involved in. Here's an overview of what a typical day in urban planning might entail:

1. **Research and Analysis**: Urban planners often start their day by conducting research on various aspects of urban development, such as land use, transportation, demographics, and environmental impact. They analyze data to understand existing conditions and identify trends.

2. **Meetings and Collaboration**: Collaboration is a significant part of urban planning. Planners frequently meet with colleagues, stakeholders, community members, and government officials to discuss projects, gather input, and address concerns.

3. **Site Visits**: Some days may involve site visits to assess specific areas, neighborhoods, or proposed development sites. This allows planners to better understand the physical context and challenges of a project.

4. **Proposal Development**: Planners work on developing proposals, plans, and reports. This may include drafting zoning regulations, comprehensive plans, or development proposals that align with the long-term vision for a community.

5. **Environmental Assessment**: Assessing the environmental impact of proposed developments is essential. Planners may review environmental impact reports and ensure compliance with regulations.

6. **Public Engagement**: Engaging with the public is a key aspect of urban planning. Planners organize public meetings, workshops, and surveys to gather input and involve the community in decision-making processes.

7. **Policy Review**: Planners may review and recommend changes to local zoning codes, land use policies, and ordinances to ensure they align with the city's goals and objectives.

8. **Budgeting and Funding**: Managing budgets and securing funding for projects is crucial. Planners often work with financial experts to allocate resources effectively.

9. **Communication**: Effective communication is vital. Planners write reports, create presentations, and communicate findings and recommendations to various stakeholders.

10. **Problem Solving**: Every day brings new challenges. Urban planners must be adept problem solvers, addressing issues related to traffic congestion, affordable housing, infrastructure development, and more.

11. **Adaptation and Innovation**: The field of urban planning is constantly evolving. Planners need to stay updated on the latest trends, technologies, and sustainable practices to ensure their projects are forward-thinking.

12. **Regulatory Compliance**: Ensuring that projects adhere to local, state, and federal regulations is a core responsibility. Planners navigate complex regulatory environments to gain project approvals.

Urban planning offers a diverse range of opportunities, from city planning and transportation planning to environmental planning and housing policy. The day-to-day activities can vary based on the specific focus and the stage of a project. If you have a passion for shaping the future of cities and communities, urban planning can be a fulfilling career path that allows you to make a positive impact on the places where people live and work.
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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)