As part of the Planning Lab’s inaugural class, students started with a general orientation to sustainability, sustainable communities, strategic policy planning, and comprehensive land-use planning. Student teams identified sustainability plans by specific regions and geographies—Northeast, Midwest, West Coast, and Small/Rural cities and then revised an evaluation template to catalog and assess the framework and content of the plans. They also examined the underlying legal and policy foundations for these plans as well as program design, community engagement processes, regional relationships, capacity and other implementation challenges. Many of the students interviewed planners and community based organizations in these communities to discuss implementation efforts and internal/external planning and policy coordination issues. Students eventually dissected/scored the existing sustainability plans using content analysis—a qualitative method for comparing and evaluating comprehensive plans—by applying a flexible sustainability planning evaluation template. Here are some of the working documents compiled by the studio students (note: these profiles are students’ work and have not been revised nor refined by researchers at the MI): Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Boulder, CO; Burnsville, MN; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; LaCrosse County, WI; Madison, WI; Miami, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Northampton, MA; New York, NY; Pittsburgh, PA; Seattle, WA.
For the second half of the studio students applied this classification framework to the applications of the 2010 HUD regional sustainability grantees. Results from this exercise will be compiled into a series of observations and recommendations for HUD and its inter-agency partners. Findings from the spring 2011 Sustainability Planning Lab were shared with the leadership of HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities and its inter-agency partners along with grantees and national advocacy organizations. Policy reports and student work products will help inform practitioners and policymakers on the latest developments in sustainability planning.
One of the highlights for the studio was a two-day site visit to Philadelphia to speak with city planners and community groups engaged in the implementation of Greenworks Philadelphia (a sustainability policy plan). Philadelphia has gained nationwide attention for Mayor Michael Nutter’s ambitious vision to transform Philadelphia into “the greenest city in America.”