Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Participation Tools for Better Community Planning Guide Published

The Local Government Commission, with help from The California Endowment, has recently published Participation Tools for Better Community Planning, a guidebook that outlines tools to encourage resident engagement in the planning process for land use and transportation in communities that have been historically underserved.

The book details successful strategies of the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities program (BHC), an initiative focusing on health-promoting land use so that residents have access to healthy foods and can safely walk, bike or access transit. The importance of residence participation in planning is emphasized as it allows for local perspectives to be understood, promotes transparency in the planning process, ensures sustainability, improves quality and enhances public trust in local governments.

According to BHC, keys to successful community planning participation include participation among a diverse array of residents (including youth), relevance to residents’ lives, a clear purpose and process, education, citizen leadership, a focus on results, effective relationships, trust and sustained engagement

Some of the community participation methods included in the guide are facilitated meetings, participatory budgeting, health impact assessments, focus groups, guided tours and community visioning. In West Fresno, for example, organizers set out to create a vision for planning a more walkable and livable community. The visioning process took about a week to complete, and included a statement, supporting graphics and action and implementation recommendations. During the week, focus groups and school visits helped identify community desires and challenges. The resulting vision plan received an award for planning in a large jurisdiction from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association in 2005.

Although the strategies and specific examples involve land use and transportation planning strategies, these resident engagement tools can be adapted for other community-level work as well.

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