The Trouble with City Planning: What New Orleans Can Teach Us

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After the vast destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans faces a rare chance to rebuild, with an unprecedented opportunity to plan what gets built. As the city’s director of planning from 1992 until 2000, Kristina Ford is uniquely placed to use these opportunities as a springboard for an eye-opening discussion of the intransigent problems and promising possibilities facing city planners across the nation and beyond.

In The Trouble with City Planning, Ford argues that almost no part of our usual understanding of the phrase “city planning” is accurate: not our conception of the plan itself, nor our sense of what city planners do or who plans are made for or how planners determine what citizens want. Most important, our conventional understanding does not tell us how a plan affects what gets built in any city in America.

Ford advances several planning innovations that, if adopted, could be crucial for restoring New Orleans, but also transformative wherever citizens are troubled by the results of their city’s plan. This keenly intelligent book is destined to become a classic for planners and citizens alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Books and Culture
"Ford practices what she preaches, drawing upon citizen experiences with planning, orienting readers to the principles and practices of a sometimes mystifying field, and empowering readers to ask the right questions of new developments in planning. The Trouble with City Planning , demystifies planning and plans with an accessible and compelling argument."—Books and Culture
The Globe and Mail

"An interesting and illuminating book on the realities of city planning."—Joe Berridge, The Globe and Mail

— Joe Berridge

Witold Rybczynski
“Kristina Ford makes sense out of the misguided planning efforts that have bedevilled post-Katrina New Orleans, and provides valuable suggestions for how our cities should be planned in the future—more democratically and more effectively.”—Witold Rybczynski, author of Last Harvest
Alan Plattus
“A thoughtful, engaging, and cautionary account of the interaction of professional planners, politicians, developers, and citizens in contemporary American cities. The message that planning can and must do better with respect to daily decision making, as well as big and recalcitrant but now urgent problems, and that informed citizens are crucial to this, is timely and important.”—Alan Plattus, Yale University
Architectural Record - Wayne Curtis
"Ford's book takes helpful first steps in outlining . . . how the next generation of planners might guide us toward safer, saner, and more sustainable cities."—Wayne Curtis, Architectural Record
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300177428
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 992,573
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kristina Ford is Visiting Professor of Public Policy Leadership at the University of Mississippi. In 2010–2011 she was the chief of staff to New Orleans' deputy mayor, who is responsible for all efforts to rebuild the city and to plan for its continuing development.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part 1 The Practice of American City Planning

1 Cities as Planners See Them 11

2 Intimations of Trouble: Plans After Hurricane Katrina 29

3 What Are City Plans? 44

4 What City Planners Do and Why They Do It That Way 55

5 How Planners Interact with Citizens 67

6 The American Evolution of Plans 77

7 How Plans Take Effect 92

Part 2 Locating the Trouble with City Planning

8 City Planning in Action 113

9 Plans that Only Planners Use 120

10 Plans that Don't Include What Citizens Know 140

11 Plans that Elected Leaders Ignore 154

Part 3 Good City Plans

12 City Plans for Citizens 175

13 The Trouble with Most City Plans 188

14 Formulating Good City Plans: The State of the City 195

15 Formulating Good City Plans: Projections for the Future 202

16 Formulating Good City Plans: Citizen's Guide to Land-Use Decisions 207

17 Activating Good City Plans 213

18 How Good City Plans Influence Elected Leaders 218

19 Good City Plans and Great Cities 229

Appendix 237

Notes 241

Bibliography 255

Acknowledgments 261

Index 263

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