URSI 100--Introduction to the City

Planning the City

  • History
    • James Oglethorpe, Savannah GA—grid system with parks
    • William Penn, Philadelphia—grid system with central park and satellites
    • Early 19th Century—commercial areas & competitive position (“Boosterism”)
    • Late 19th Century—housing, design of public spaces and public buildings, sanitation. Shape city development through capital investment.
    • Chicago Plan of 1909, Daniel Burnham (“Make no small plans; they have no fire stir men’s blood.”)—first modern city plan
    • 1926, Euclid vs. Ambler—Supreme Court established that local governments have power to control private use of land
      • Power of eminent domain permits government to take property with “just compensation”
      • Zoning not an exercise of eminent domain, but of police power (provided it is used to protect public health, safety, welfare)
    • 1929, Clarence Perry, “Neighborhood Unit” principle—arterial streets at edges, community center/school at focus, walking distance)
  • Tools of Planning
    • Capital investment
      • Transportation (road capacity, mass transit, parking facilities)
      • Water & sewer lines
      • Public land acquisition (airport, industrial parks, other development magnets)
    • Land Use controls
      • Subdivision regulation (minimum street width, connection to street pattern, storm water runoff, provision of utilities)
      • Zoning laws (type & intensity of development)—must specify how provision is enforced and how provisions may be appealed
      • Site plan review (may include architectural and historic preservation considerations)
    • Pros & Cons of Zoning
      • Excessive separation of land uses
      • “New Urbanism”—design for pedestrian
        • mixture of land uses
        • high density (1/4 mile radius)
        • through-street pattern
        • pedestrian circulation (narrow streets & traffic calming, sidewalks next to curb, curb-side parking & tree planting, garages at rear of lot)
        • open spaces (porches to formal squares & greens)
        • architectural unity
      • Exclusionary zoning (limitation on multifamily housing, large minimum lot sizes)
      • Infill designs:
        • 1868-69, Melusina Fay Peirce, “Neighborhood strategy” (kitchenless houses with cooperative housekeeping center)
        • 1984, Dolores Hayden, “Redesigning the American Dream” (reorganizing typical suburban block to increase density)
  • Planning Process
    • Planning board (may influence action of planners, mobilize public support)
    • Process
      • Master plan (general vision)
      • Zoning map & zoning ordinance
      • Capital facilities plan
      • Public participation/comment
      • Adoption by council
      • Periodic review
    • Complications: planners cannot make development occur


Based on LEVY, J.M. 2000. Urban America: Processes & Problems. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.


2003 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 1 January 06