Higher-Density Plans:
Tools for Community Engagement






August 2004


Kenneth Schreiber, Principal Investigator
Gary Binger
Dennis Church




a publication of the

Mineta Transportation Institute

College of Business

San José State University

San Jose, CA 95192-0219

Created by Congress in 1991







Table of Contents

Executive Summary 1


Background 5

Research Objectives and Methodology 7



Literature Research on Techniques and Tools 8

Consultant Interviews 8

Case Studies 9

Understanding Community Concerns 13




Thinking Strategically 15

Preventing Polarization in the Planning Process 19

Effective Techniques and Tools for Facilitating
Communication 23

An Overview Of Techniques 23

Task Forces and Committees 23

Public Meetings, Workshops, and Hearings 24

Meeting Facilitation 24

Charrettes and Design Workshops 24

Brainstorming 25

Visioning Exercises 25

Image Preference Surveys 25

Focus Groups and Opinion Surveys 26

Priority Setting 26

Online Interactive Communication 26

Opinion Leader Identification and Outreach 26

Public Information Programs 27

Idea Fairs 27

Regionwide Planning Exercises 27

Press and Editorial Board Education 27

Tours of Higher-Density Projects 28

Group Mapping 28

Exploring and Communicating Historical Experience 28

Comprehensive Project and Options Analysis 28

Focused Impact Studies 29

Project Occupancy Profiles and Income Projections 29

Comparable Project Property Value Analysis 29

An Overview Of Tools 30

Digital Photo Simulation 30

Visualization Software 30

Traditional Graphic Representations 31

Three-Dimensional Models 31

Traffic Modeling Software 31

Fiscal, Economic, and Environmental Impact Modeling 31

Keys to Success and Barriers to Overcome 33



Understand Concerns and Think Strategically 34

Provide Skillful and Committed Leadership 34

Avoid Premature Decisions 34

Establish a Positive Vision 35

Build Trust and Ownership at Every Opportunity 35

Establish Clarity Concerning Goals and Principles 35

Ensure Predictable Outcomes 35

Ensure Accurate Documentation 35


A Collaborative Planning Process is Expensive and Time Consuming 36

Budgets Inadequate to Meet Demands of Higher-Density Development 36

Traditional Attitudes Often Not Supportive 37

Unrealistic Expectations Regarding What Developers Can Provide 37

Appendix A: Public Involvement Program Design Checklist 39

The Nature of the Issue 39

Audiences/Stakeholders 39

Political Landscape 40

Practical Landscape 40

Communications 40

appendix B: Tools And Techniques 41

A Summary of Tools 41

Graphic Representation Tools 41

Visualization Tools 42

Visioning Tools 45

Visualization Tools Based on the Geographic Information System 48

Impact Analysis and Forecasting Tools 49

Citizen Participation Support Tools 51

A Summary of Techniques 52

Techniques for Successful Community Involvement 52

Choosing Strategy According to Problems 55

Using Large-Area Plans 56

Database of Tool Developers 56

appendix C: Consultant Interviews 63


Broad Objectives 63

Recommended Approach 64

Possible Roadblocks to Success 64

Effective Tools 64


Appendix D: Exploratory Research on Potential Case Studies 81

Projects in northern California 81

Downtown Precise Plan (2001 Amendment), Mountain View 81

General Plan Amendment 2002, Fairfield 83

Compact Development in Berkeley 84

Downtown El Sobrante Transportation -- Land Use Plan 85

Downtown Development in Walnut Creek 86

800 High Street, Palo Alto 87

Taylor Towers, San Jose 87

Los Gatos Gateway, Los Gatos 89

General Plan Update 2001, Davis 89

Olive Drive Apartments, Davis 90

Milpitas Midtown Specific Plan 92

Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Development, Pleasant Hill 93

Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Town Center, Hercules 94

Projects in Southern California 95

Downtown Revitalization Plan, Brea 95

Paseo Colorado, Pasadena 96

Projects in the Central Valley 96

Silver Bend Housing, Bowman 96

Metro Square, Sacramento 97

Islands of Riverlakes Project, Sacramento 98

Yuba City Infill Development 100

Doe Mill Neighborhood, Chico 101

appendix E: Case Studies 103

Introduction and Summary 103

Original Planning Objectives 103

Types of Approaches 105

Critical Challenges Faced During the Process 105

Accomplishments and Disappointments 106


Project Description and Development Program 106

Basis for Case Study Selection 107

The Role of Density in the Project 108

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 108

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 110

Project Outcomes 113

Analysis of Project Outcomes 114

Lessons Learned from the Project 115

Persons Interviewed 116

Documents Reviewed 116


Project Description and Development Program 116

Basis for Case Study Selection 117

The Role of Density in the Project 117

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 118

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 118

Project Outcomes 120

Analysis of Project Outcomes 121

Lessons Learned from the Project 121

Persons Interviewed 121

Documents Reviewed 122

Web Links 122


Project Description and Development Program 122

Basis for Case Study Selection 123

The Role of Density in the Project 123

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 124

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 124

Project Outcomes 126

Analysis of Project Outcomes 126

Lessons Learned from the Project 127

Persons Interviewed 128

Documents Reviewed 129

Web Links 129


Project Description and Development Program 129

Basis for Case Study Selection 130

The Role of Density in the Project 130

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 131

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 132

Project Outcomes 135

Analysis of Project Outcomes 136

Lessons Learned from the Project 137

Persons Interviewed 137

Documents Reviewed 137


Project Description and Development Program 138

Basis for Case Study Selection 138

The Role of Density in the Project 139

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 139

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 140

Project Outcomes 141

Analysis of Project Outcomes 143

Lessons Learned from the Project 143

Persons Interviewed 144

Documents Reviewed 144


Project Description and Development Program 144

Basis for Case Study Selection 145

The Role of Density in the Project 146

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 146

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 147

Project Outcomes 148

Analysis of Project Outcomes 149

Lessons Learned from the Project 149

Persons Interviewed 149

Documents Reviewed 150


Project Description and Development Program 150

Basis for Case Study Selection 150

The Role of Density in the Project 151

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 151

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 151

Project Outcomes 154

Analysis of Project Outcomes 155

Lessons Learned from the Project 155

Persons Interviewed 156

Documents Reviewed 156

Web Link 156


Project Description and Development Program 156

Basis for Case Study Selection 159

The Role of Density in the Project 159

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development 160

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to
Higher-Density Development 161

Project Outcomes 163

Analysis of Project Outcomes 164

Lessons Learned from the Project 165

Persons Interviewed 166

Documents Reviewed 167

APPENDIX f: Web Resources 169

General 169

Dispute Resolution 169

Technical Tools 170

Animation Software 170

Impact Analysis 170

Site and Model Building 170

Visual Preference Surveys 170

abbreviations and acronyms 171

Bibliography 173

About the Authors 179

Peer review 181

Executive Summary

This study focuses on the strategies, methods, techniques, and tools that can be used in working with community residents and other stakeholders to increase the intensity of land use -- specifically to gain community acceptance of higher-density residential and mixed-use development. It represents a continuation of the effort described in Making Growth Work for California's Communities (published by the Mineta Transportation Institute in May 2003).

Making Growth Work included the results of a survey of planning officials from throughout California. That survey concluded that California's cities and counties expect higher-density infill projects to be among the primary growth management challenges in the decades ahead, and that if potentially debilitating opposition from residents is to be avoided, cities and counties must substantially enhance existing planning resources and skills and involve neighborhoods and communities in shaping their own futures.

This report, Higher-Density Plans: Tools for Community Engagement, provides information that local, regional, and state agencies, planning professionals, and project and plan proponents can use to develop and implement the type of collaborative efforts that involve residents in planning the futures of their communities. Objectives for the research covered by this report included the following:

Describe the strategies and methods that can contribute the most to gaining community acceptance of higher-intensity land uses.

Assemble a package of nuts-and-bolts public involvement and decision-making techniques and tools, and describe the keys to their successful use.

Identify barriers to the successful use of strategies, methods, techniques, and tools.

The research conducted for this project had three primary components: literature review focusing on the identification of techniques and tools, consultant interviews, and case studies. The work product for each component is contained in appendices. The results as a whole are integrated in the body of this report.


The primary research findings are summarized in the ten points below.

It is critical before planning any participation effort to understand current and likely future community concerns about higher-density development.

These concerns are usually misconceptions--they may be exaggerated while containing grains of truth. Concerns can also involve the perceived character or reputation of proponents and opponents. Planning strategically for a public participation effort means structuring a process with the right concerns in mind. Focusing on the wrong concerns, or treating valid concerns as misconceptions or exaggerations, can result in failure. When addressing community concerns, it is critical to acknowledge and understand the presence of multiple communities that should be brought into the public planning process.

Overcoming distrust and other emotionally based barriers requires a genuine, sincere commitment to community involvement.

Many parties have a legitimate stake in development choices, and neighborhood wishes will not always outweigh the interests of other stakeholders, such as landowners, investors, developers, and neighborhood businesses. The immediate neighbors' concerns, however, must be sincerely viewed and visibly treated as legitimate. They must not be dismissed out of hand as merely NIMBY (not in my backyard) selfishness.

Community planning and development increasingly are being approached in a manner designed to avoid and prevent conflict.

Some of the features of this preventive approach include beginning a participatory planning process before proposing anything specific; making great efforts to be inclusive, representative, and balanced in selecting process participants; focusing first on developing a positive vision of what residents want for their neighborhood and community; creating development standards intended to ensure quality design; and focusing time and attention on developing solutions to problems that will arise with growth and development.

Many helpful techniques and tools have been developed and are available for use by local planners in collaborative community-based planning processes.

Techniques include meeting facilitation, charrettes and design workshops, visioning exercises, image preference surveys, focus groups, Web-based interactions, project tours, and regional planning exercises. Tools include digital photo simulations, visualization software, traffic modeling software, and fiscal, economic, and environmental impact modeling software. Identification of the best tool or technique or the best combination of tools and techniques will vary. It is critical to evaluate the circumstances of a planning proposal or process and then select the most appropriate approaches to undertaking collaborative community-based planning.

Elected and appointed officials, senior planners, and other staff and consultants must provide skillful and committed leadership for these processes to work.

Much of the skill is in the effective use of the strategies, methods, techniques, and tools discussed in this report. Process leaders must be willing to allocate the time (from multiple departments, not just planning) and other resources needed to make the process work and to demonstrate that the local government takes the process seriously.

When a group process is chartered, it is often valuable to establish broad planning goals and principles at the outset.

This charter, or mandate, can help keep a group on track and make a productive outcome more likely.

Ensuring feasible outcomes is a key objective of a successful collaborative planning process.

As a process moves beyond the development of specific principles, goals, and objectives to consideration of detailed development regulations, specific plans, and specific policy decisions, it is critical to deal with such implementation practicalities as market and financial feasibility assessment, design guidelines and specifications, and consistent development review procedures.

Careful, accurate documentation of the results of a public participation process is critical to retaining the value of the effort.

Memories fade, elected officials, city staff, and residents leave, and new people participate. Documentation is a key part of creating institutional memory, and refreshing the memory reinforces the conclusions. Bringing participants together for periodic updates and discussions can help retain group cohesiveness and energy. This assures both residents and developers that the outcome is realistic and its implementation over time will conform to their expectations. This, in turn, is critical both to securing private investments and to gaining taxpayer support for the needed public investments in infrastructure and facilities.

Higher-density projects often maximize benefits to a neighborhood or community only when there is adequate funding to meet infrastructure, facility, and ongoing service needs.

While developers may be able to cover some of these requirements, in many cases there is no alternative to taxpayer funding for a portion of the cost. Local government revenues and revenue-generating options (as determined by state law) often do not give cities and counties sufficient resources to meet the needs generated by higher-density development.

Collaborative planning processes hold, in principle, great potential to help California move in the direction of promoting more concentrated and efficient growth practices, but they will be greatly constrained by the broken condition of local government finance.

Until California's local government financing is fixed, no amount of good citizen process is likely to make more than a portion of proposed, desirable projects successful. Repairing local government finance requires making it sufficient to fund both the capital and operating needs created by higher-density infill projects, and consistent (in terms of incentives and subsidies) with more compact growth development policies.


This report continues the research described in Making Growth Work for California's Communities, published by the Mineta Transportation Institute in May 2003. Making Growth Work included the results of a survey of planning officials from throughout California. The 200 jurisdictions responding to the survey represented 58 percent of the state's population and included all areas of the state and all types of communities. The following are key findings of that research:

Cities and counties throughout California anticipate land use intensification. Responding to the question, "In general, would you say that your jurisdiction is moving in the direction of using land more intensively?", 153 of the 200 responding jurisdictions, representing all population sizes, geographical locations, and social and economic circumstances, answered "Yes."

Restriction of urban expansion is a large and growing trend in California. Of the 128 jurisdictions that found the issue applicable (those that were not surrounded by other jurisdictions or natural barriers), 85 reported that they are moving toward restricting outward growth.

The highest levels of growth-related controversy reported by survey respondents involved intensification of uses, particularly housing uses, in existing residential neighborhoods.

Growth-related controversies could increase significantly in coming years. Many jurisdictions are still studying or only beginning to implement new planning approaches. The population and economic growth projected for California, especially when combined with restrictions on outward growth, will force planners to attempt to situate a large amount of new development within existing communities.

Strategies used by jurisdictions that have successfully implemented new planning approaches include extensive neighborhood and community involvement in the planning process, attention to design detail, use of visualization techniques, and improvement of community facilities and services within and around new projects. These strategies require funding and skills not always available to jurisdictions.

California communities that hope to accommodate projected growth within existing boundaries without encountering potentially debilitating opposition from residents must substantially enhance existing planning resources and skills, involve neighborhoods and communities in shaping their own futures, provide guidance to ensure that growth is accommodated in a manner beneficial to the community, and secure adequate and stable funding sources.

Research completed for this project reinforced the finding that densification of development, particularly residential development in or adjacent to existing neighborhoods, will be increasingly controversial. The research described in this report is intended to address the need of local elected and appointed officials, planners, and other local staff and project proponents for more and better information, skills, techniques, and tools to cope with these controversies and avoid debilitating opposition to the intensification of land uses.

Research Objectives and Methodology

The four basic methods of managing conflict are confrontation, compromise, consensus, and avoidance. Each method has its own assumptions and ways of implementation, and any one may succeed. Confrontation is used when one side has overwhelming power and does not care what happens beyond completing the task at hand. Compromise is more likely when each side has comparable power and is willing to accept a solution that is not fully palatable but meets some or many of its goals. Consensus occurs when each side realizes its goals can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration. Avoidance is used when the outcome does not matter or one side realizes it cannot win.

This study focuses on consensus as the best method to promote community involvement and the successful completion of higher-density projects.


Many local and regional planners, planning consultants, and community relations experts have worked diligently to develop improved strategies, tools, and techniques to cope with the controversies arising from higher-intensity community growth and development.

At the same time, methods of dealing with conflict have progressed greatly in recent years. New strategies, concepts, tools, and techniques for conflict resolution and win-win negotiation have been developed in university programs and by practitioners in many fields. From labor relations to neighborhood disputes, from tort avoidance to family counseling, much has been learned about dealing with what appears to some to be the innate contentiousness of people. This work has helped planners and development project proponents to devise new strategies, tools, and techniques for dealing with growth-related conflicts.

This project had several research objectives related to understanding and documenting the progress that has been made. The following were the main objectives:

To investigate contemporary research and work by selected localities and consultants in achieving community acceptance for higher densities.

To describe the strategies and methods that can contribute to success in gaining community acceptance of higher-intensity land uses.

To assemble a package of nuts-and-bolts public involvement and decision-making techniques and tools that local and regional officials, planners, and project proponents can consider and draw upon in fashioning their land use and transportation planning and development review activities.

To identify which strategies, methods, techniques, and tools have been successful in particular circumstances, to evaluate why they have been successful, and to describe what others can learn from these successes.

To identify barriers to the successful use of strategies, methods, techniques, and tools, and consider what steps might reduce these barriers.


The research conducted for this project had three primary components: literature review focused on identifying techniques and tools, consultant interviews, and case studies. The methodology for each is summarized below. The work products for each discrete research component are contained in appendices as referenced in each summary. The results of all research components were integrated into the analytical presentation contained in the body of this report.

Literature Research on Techniques and Tools

Online literature, published books, articles, brochures, and academic journals were reviewed to compile an index of the tools and techniques that have been used successfully to gain community acceptance of higher-density development. This literature review was completed by San José State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning graduate student Sanhita Mallick under the direction of Professor Dayana Salazar, Acting Chair, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, San José State University.

Three literature review products are contained in See Tools and Techniques: See A Summary of Tools, See A Summary of Techniques, and See Database of Tool Developers. The final product, a Bibliography, begins on See Bibliography.

Consultant Interviews

See Exploratory Research on Potential Case Studies and the professional knowledge of the principal investigator and the other team members, were used to select consultants for telephone interviews. The consultants selected have been actively involved in higher-density development projects. A template of questions for the interviews was prepared. It focused on gaining the consultants' insights concerning the usefulness of (and problems associated with) various strategies, methods, techniques, and tools. Draft summaries of the interviews were prepared and reviewed by research team members. A final summary of each interview was prepared, along with a summary of all four interviews; these are presented in Appendix C.

Case Studies

A preliminary Internet-based search was conducted by Sanhita Mallick to generate a list of potential case studies. See Exploratory Research on Potential Case Studies provides information on 20 projects that were potential candidates for case studies. It includes a narrative on each project, website addresses where more information can be obtained, and contact information for city staff, consultants, or developers involved in the project.

The list of potential case studies was identified by the following criteria:

Development plans and projects with proposed densities higher than the norm for the community, with an emphasis on mixed-use projects and transit-oriented development;

Plans and projects that had been implemented in the preceding five years; and

Plans and projects in urban, suburban, and exurban environments in the northern, southern, and central regions of California.

Local government officials and private planning consultants were asked to provide assistance in identifying additional potential case studies. Technical planning reports, books, and promotional materials on higher-density development and community participation were also used as a basis for identifying potential case studies.

Key planning staff and consultants in charge of the citizen participation process for 30 projects were contacted, and preliminary telephone interviews discussed projects in more detail. These preliminary interviews focused on the extent to which the planning and development teams met with community opposition, and how actual or potential opposition was addressed.

Next, the research on potential case studies and the consultant interviews were reviewed by the project team to select the eight full case studies to be completed for the project. The following criteria used in selecting the eight case studies:

Applicability to a wide range of communities;

Impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people;

Carefully developed and high-quality initial policy or development proposals;

Use of a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process;

Use of public and private financial resources applied to mitigation;

A statewide distribution of projects, from northern, southern, and central areas; and

A diversity of significant planning or development project types, such as urban and suburban infill and community expansion.

The team decided that the case studies would include three locations in Southern California, three in Northern California, and two in the Central Valley. The selected case studies were investigated further. Individual development projects within the City of Sacramento were considered, but the Sacramento Blueprint planning project was selected as a Central Valley regional growth case study. The eight case studies were too few to enable the research team to reach conclusions regarding regional distinctions. The criteria upon which each case study was selected are presented in detail in each case study write-up. The final list of case studies, which are evaluated in See Case Studies, are as follows:

City of Brea -- Downtown Revitalization

City of Hercules -- Central District Plan

City of Milpitas -- Midtown Specific Plan

City of Pasadena -- General Plan Revision

City of Reedley -- Specific Plan

Sacramento Area Council of Governments -- Blueprint Project

City of San Diego -- A City of Villages Strategic Framework, General Plan

City of San Jose -- Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan

The research team's initial interest in having some case studies of unsuccessful planning efforts was rejected because of the limited number of case studies. The definition of success varies among the case studies. An objective definition of success would be valuable; however, the team concluded that such a definition would require a longer time perspective than is possible for the issues and approaches investigated in this study.

The case studies were prepared by two members of the research team. Applicable websites were reviewed and, when possible, written copies of studies and related documents were obtained.

Persons with differing perspectives or roles were selected to be interviewed for each of the eight case studies. An initial interview format was developed. Two case studies were completed as a test; then the researchers, individually and as a group, assessed the interviews. The research team modified the initial interview template to focus the interviews more tightly on the core objectives of the study. Interviews were attempted, and in some case arranged, with citizen participants in the planning process. The research team found it difficult to reach private sector participants; therefore, feedback from the community was generally derived from discussions with public officials and from review of testimony recorded in community workshops and other public meetings.

As the research progressed, three initially selected case studies were replaced by others that the team felt would yield more useful information. Members of the research team reviewed the draft case studies, and revisions were made based on the review comments.

See Case Studies contains all eight completed case studies and a summary overview of case study findings.

Understanding Community Concerns

Each community is distinct and different from other locations. Within what is generally thought of as a community are multiple communities that have varying impacts on and expectations of the public land-use planning process. Before presenting or analyzing the strategies, methods, techniques, and tools available to address community concerns and fears related to more intense development, it is important first to consider what those concerns and fears may be.

It is beyond the scope of this research to develop an exhaustive list of possible concerns, but the public agency staff or development proponent should remember that people can harbor many concerns -- including variations and combinations of those concerns -- about the impacts of a proposed development or planning project.

Some common concerns that may be present in a community or neighborhood are discussed below.


Concerns can involve common misconceptions, such as a loss of property value, an increase in the crime rate, or the degraded appearance of the neighborhood. These fears are often unfounded, and in some cases the impact of a project may be exactly the opposite -- improved property values, greater safety, and enhanced neighborhood appearance. Often, these concerns are raised based on an earlier generation of poorly designed higher-density developments. When a proposed project is not well designed, these can be legitimate issues.

Concerns may be related to the impacts of significantly increasing the number of persons in an area. Issues can include traffic and parking impacts; school overcrowding; increased use of public facilities such as neighborhood parks, branch libraries, or community centers that may already be overburdened; additional demands on public services such as police and fire response, where existing services levels are already perceived as inadequate; or additional demands on privately provided services that are perceived as inadequate.

These concerns may be entirely unfounded, as the project proponent may be planning (or required) to contribute to improved facilities or services to an extent equal to or greater than the additional demands the proposed development would create. These concerns may have some reality but be exaggerated, and the project's proposed mitigations may address most of the additional demands. These concerns may be substantial, and the project or the local government may be unable or unwilling (for physical, financial, legal, or other reasons) to provide or require mitigations that address the additional demands created by a project.


Aside from the actual or feared impacts of a proposed project itself, some communities may have concerns about the local government or about developers. There may be a generalized mistrust of government ("in the pockets of the developers and special interests," for example). Views such as "the city just wants the tax revenues," or "those politicians just want the city to get bigger and bigger so they can have more power" may be encountered. Specific histories with the local government, or with specific developers or projects, may have left a legacy of distrust or suspicion. Ideological views can cause residents or businesses to be suspicious of proposals coming from local government or from developers, or of projects that involve eminent domain, taxpayer subsidies, tax increment redevelopment, or other specific features.

In addition to predispositions and historically developed attitudes, concerns may be raised by the way in which a developer or a local government has acted recently. If the attitude toward neighborhood advocates is dismissive or patronizing ("a bunch of selfish NIMBY reactions"), or if residents believe that project proponents are just going through the motions of listening while the decisions have already been made, neighborhood residents may well be hostile.


The public review process for a development proposal must be sensitive to project- and proponent-related concerns as well as specific community concerns and issues. The review process for higher-density projects should address the specifics of the proposal and the needs, concerns, and interests of the community. Structuring the review process is addressed in the next two sections, "Thinking Strategically" and "Preventing Polarization in the Planning Process." See Public Involvement Program Design Checklist contains a "Public Involvement Program Design Checklist" that will assist in identifying specific process-related concerns.

Thinking Strategically

A workable path into the future cannot be charted without knowing the terrain to be navigated and the obstacles to be surmounted. Thinking strategically about community growth and development, and specifically about the intensification of land uses, requires a thorough understanding of the terrain and the obstacles. If a planner responds to a valid concern as if it were a misconception, or responds to a community objection as if it were based on a project feature when it is the planner that the community distrusts, the public process will likely be unsuccessful, and the community may oppose the project.

The research on this project suggested that the first step in designing a public involvement process for a development should be to acquire an understanding of both public attitudes and the real impacts that a potential project or development plan may have on the interests of the various groups in the community. This understanding can be developed in several ways.

Some developers or planners meet privately with a small group of community leaders and neighborhood advocates to solicit their views before proposing anything. Some use formal focus groups or opinion surveys. Planners or developers frequently consult with other planners or developers who have been involved with previous projects or planning processes in the same area to gain insights from their experience. Increasingly, large-scale community processes, sometimes called "visioning" exercises, will be launched to involve community or neighborhood residents in expressing in some detail their hopes and fears for the future of their areas. Design charrettes can contribute to developing the necessary understanding.

In terms of the real and objective impacts of potential projects or development plans, the planning process should be informed from the outset by a factual and quantitative assessment of the infrastructure, facility, and service-level conditions and capacities in the area. With this understanding, the potential impacts of various projects or development patterns on traffic, schools, service facilities, service levels, and private services can be anticipated, at least in broad terms, and the planners or developers can avoid statements or proposals that residents may perceive as insensitive, uncomprehending, or uncaring.

Each community and neighborhood is unique, and can differ in a surprisingly large number of variables: attitudes; history; racial, ethnic, and income makeup; type and arrangement of current development; level of anticipated involvement in a governmental decision-making process; adequacy or inadequacy of current infrastructure, facilities, and services; unique community assets or problems; cultural or ideological factors; personalities and psychological needs of neighborhood leaders and activists; and much more. Thinking back to the description of concerns outlined in the preceding section, one can see the importance of thinking strategically.

If the community's main concerns come from misconceptions regarding property values, crime increases, or neighborhood appearance, techniques to convey more positive expectations about a project's impacts include slide presentations, tours of similar projects already constructed, visualization software, models, and data on property values or crime statistics from adjacent or similar projects. If these are not the primary concerns of residents, such efforts would not only be ineffective, they could exhaust a community's limited willingness to come to meetings or hear input about a project without ever addressing the real concerns. Equally important, if historical distrust is a significant factor, the choice of who will convey information could be critical. Failure to appreciate this factor could result in the information being dismissed out of disbelief. Again, failure could result from a lack of understanding of the situation.

Some concerns may be exaggerated but still have some validity. Other concerns may be largely or entirely valid. Sorting these out and establishing relative priorities again involves listening to and understanding the community's concerns and carefully analyzing the objective situation. This requires different tools and techniques from those used to deal with misconceptions -- for example, task forces, committees, charrettes, and visioning processes. For objective analysis, software for traffic modeling and other infrastructure analysis may be helpful, and quantitative assessment of additional demands on schools, community facilities, and service levels may be important. Different tools and techniques are needed for both the initial and the evolving understanding of the community's concerns and the objective situation.

To the extent that the community's concerns involve real, negative impacts, thinking strategically means anticipating where the process will go. The community involvement process must consider potential mitigations, which means that project proponents, planners and other governmental staff, and the community must clearly understand the physical, financial, legal, or other resources and constraints influencing possible mitigation strategies. For planners and other governmental staff and the project proponents, an early understanding of what mitigations may be possible can prevent unrealistic expectations and help to guide the community participation process in setting priorities between competing desires. Some negative impacts may be fully mitigated with a modest effort; others may be intractable because of insurmountable physical, financial, or legal constraints. Financial limitations may mean that one or another feature can be added to the project, but not both. The process of sorting this out must be participatory and frank if the local staff member or developer hopes to be believed at the end when reporting "This is the best that we can do."

The second important factor to think strategically about when planning a public participation process might be called compensating offsets. If the process is structured to bring them out, it will frequently be discovered that projects bring benefits as well as costs. New residents may expand the market sufficiently to make it possible to attract better neighborhood-serving stores and private recreational facilities. Development may provide the tax and fee base that allows local government to make long-needed improvements in community facilities, such as a neighborhood park, branch library, or community center. Developer-funded project mitigations may do more than mitigate: enlarged storm drains, street landscaping, intersection improvements, internal project open space, removal of blight, and the like can significantly improve the quality of neighborhood services or the appearance or livability of an area. These benefits may surprise residents who were focused on the negative, but the participation process must be carefully designed to bring out the benefits at a time and in a way that will not appear to be a whitewashing of a largely undesirable project.

Third, it is important not to overlook psychological factors such as a general distrust of government, ideological predispositions, class, race, or ethnic prejudices, past or continuing governmental arrogance (real or perceived), and grudges held for past actions by the local government or developers. Such factors can cause critical problems that doom participation efforts to failure: refusal of key persons to participate, rejection of information as untrue or dishonest because of who is conveying it, the perception that a process is insincere and that residents are being co-opted while the government or developer has no intention of listening to what they have to say, and so on. Such problems may be overcome, but only if they are well understood when the process is designed.

Strategies and tactics to overcome such problems include finding widely credible honest brokers (such as community nonprofits) to convene a participation process; selecting a chairperson who the community perceives as honest and fair; including residents and activists in the early participation process planning and in preplanning meetings; starting the process before heavy investments have been made by proponents; including all likely opponents in the process; making the entire process fully clear; carefully documenting discussions and decisions; and structuring the effort to get explicit community approval in successive stages.

The research on this project suggested strongly that overcoming distrust and other emotional barriers requires a genuine commitment to community involvement. Many parties have a legitimate stake in development choices, and neighborhood wishes will not always outweigh the interests of other stakeholders, such as landowners, investors, developers, neighborhood businesses, the local government that must serve the development, and adjoining communities or local governments that have to deal with spill-over impacts. If a community perceives itself as impacted by a development proposal, its concerns must be viewed sincerely and treated as legitimate, not be dismissed out of hand as merely NIMBY (not in my backyard) selfishness.

Preventing Polarization in the Planning Process

Communication experts know that it is harder to change an existing opinion than to form a new opinion. Once an adversarial process has started, it can be difficult to stop. When people dig in their heels for a fight, they tend to stop being receptive to information that conflicts with their existing opinions. As the expression goes, they would "rather fight than switch." Practitioners of conflict resolution and win-win negotiation know that conflict produces distinctive psychological dynamics. Human beings and human societies may have evolved genetically and culturally to respond to conflict in particular ways. Once our receptors signal "fight," we want to defeat those we see as our enemies.

The research completed for this project reinforced this common wisdom. Consultants and case study participants interviewed frequently described efforts to structure processes that start before polarization and conflict begin, and the literature reviewed displayed this same preference.

When the traditional approach to land-use planning is viewed in this context, it can seem as if it were designed to promote conflict. The developer or landowner makes a large investment of time and money and often generates a strong emotional commitment to a particular project concept. This first step starts a process in which everyone understands that the project proponent has a strong interest in not changing the proposal very much.

Because both professional planners and neighborhood advocates often believe that the developer is either politically influential or will try to be, they often feel that they must identify what is wrong with the project proposal and act quickly to get their case in front of decisionmakers before they have made up their minds in favor of the proposal. Thus, the proposal often functions like a red flag waved in front of a bull.

Because many people expect the proponent to exaggerate the benefits of the proposal, planners and community members have an incentive to exaggerate what they perceive as its problems. Everyone is positioning for a win-lose conflict, or at best for a win-lose negotiation. Planners look for areas of conflict with existing policies and analyze the impacts of the proposal on traffic, schools, and other facilities and service levels. Residents develop mental images of the project into which they and their neighbors pour their worst fears. Such paranoia helps project opponents to articulate their strongest case and to marshal as many allies as possible. When everyone girds for a fight, the results are seldom optimal.

Many thoughtful people on all sides of this process think there has to be a better way. Our research identified many features of an approach to community planning and development designed to minimize and, if possible, avoid conflict. The Public Involvement Program Design Checklist in See Public Involvement Program Design Checklist has questions that can help in establishing a project-specific public process. The following are some of the approaches highlighted in our re search:

Design the public process to fit the need. Care fully evaluate what experts and how much technical knowledge are needed to address issues and resolve potential disputes.

Identify real deadlines that affect the process and project.

Involve potentially interested parties in a participatory process before a specific proposal or plan has been created.

Involve experts in process facilitation and participation techniques who can help ensure that the process is open, frank, fair, and balanced, and is perceived that way to all concerned.

Identify how best to communicate with each participant group.

Involve, as conveners and task force or committee chairs or co-chairs, people the community knows to be fair and objective.

Involve community members in participation process planning from the beginning and at all stages; this reassures them that the process is not designed to be manipulative.

Organize every meeting with the understanding that it is important; never convey that people are attending an unimportant meeting. For each meeting, establish clear objectives; design an effective agenda; choose an appropriate time and location; take the time for effective outreach; prepare materials that clearly communicate key information; and prepare the meeting environment.

Make sure any task forces or committees are balanced and representative and not skewed toward the most vocal elements of the community.

Understand the possible facility- and service-level impacts of a potential project well enough to identify and involve everyone who might later realize that they have a stake.

Allocate adequate time and funds for a participation process. People feel manipulated when they feel rushed or are told there are no funds to provide adequate information or analysis.

Focus on what community members do not want for their neighborhood and community as well as what they do want, for example, through visioning exercises.

Avoid processes that encourage no change; use processes that encourage consideration of alternatives and options.

Involve the community in the architectural design process through such techniques as charrettes.

Structure a process to identify the positive impacts of potential projects, as well as the negative impacts.

Create a solution-oriented process in which mitigation needs and strategies are explored thoroughly, and methods to i ncrease offsetting benefits are identified and explored.

Articulate key issues and tradeoffs to facilitate people making tough decisions.

Be as clear as possible about the level and type of resources available and not available for impact mitigation or to increase offsetting benefits. This avoids raising false expectations, that can lead to the perception of a bait-and-switch situation.

Effective Techniques and Tools for Facilitating Communication

Because of differences in communities, it is critical to understand public attitudes and interests as well as the real and feared impacts of a potential project or development plan. The techniques and tools identified in this section and See Tools and Techniques can help to facilitate acquisition of knowledge about the community and public involvement. Additional information and Web resources are contained in See Web Resources and the See Bibliography.

No tool or technique is the best for all situations. The best tool or technique depends on the issue and the history, nature, and expectations of the community. Issues and communities vary greatly and the best approach is that which, after careful thought, best addresses the specific features of the situation being dealt with.

An Overview of Techniques

In this study, the term "techniques" means the procedures or methods used as part of public processes conducted to consider development proposals or planning options including specific land-use planning alternatives and general plan policies. The techniques presented and described below are drawn from literature review, consultant interviews, interviews completed for the case studies, the professional experience of the project team, and the Community Participation and Dispute Resolution class at the University of California at Davis.

Some of the most important techniques were discussed above in See Understanding Community Concerns See Thinking Strategically and See Preventing Polarization in the Planning Process The techniques discussed below should be considered in light of those three sections. For more details on techniques and references to providers of some tools used to implement specific techniques, see See Tools and Techniques, See Web Resources, and the Bibliography.

Task Forces and Committees

Groups that include community and neighborhood participants have a wide variety of purposes, from developing policies or design standards to evaluation of project or plan alternatives. Success usually means coming to clear and consistent conclusions by more than a narrow majority and without a bitter minority faction. To be most successful, groups should include all points of view, represent all stakeholders and community segments, be balanced, do all business and prepare work plans and agendas in the open, start before issues have become polarized, have clear goals and starting principles, be convened in a credible manner, be chaired by persons with process skills and a reputation for fairness, have adequate time to do their job, have adequate information to analyze their work, have facilitation and technical consultant support, have multilingual support if needed, and keep a clear and detailed record of their meetings and conclusions.

Public Meetings, Workshops, and Hearings

To be seen as fair and constructive and to obtain the best two-way communication, public meetings, workshops, and hearings should have most of the characteristics recommended for task forces and committees.

Meeting Facilitation

Trained meeting facilitators offer many valuable skills: getting everyone to participate; preventing one person or point of view from dominating; encouraging people to listen to each other; bringing out issues and perspectives to be seen and discussed more clearly; finding opportunities for agreement that others in the meeting may miss; identifying issues that need more discussion or for which better information might promote resolution; and recording the proceedings visibly so that people feel heard. Hiring a professional facilitator is often a worthwhile expense.

Charrettes and Design Workshops

According to the National Charrette Institute, the French word charrette , meaning "cart," was often used to describe the final, intense work effort expended by French art and architecture students to meet a project deadline. A charrette in a public process context combines this creative, intense work with public workshops and open houses. Participants can focus on the design of a particular development or the design of a larger area. Participants include members of the community as well as design experts. The design experts function as resource people, while members of the community, working in groups, develop possible solutions to the problems that are the focus of the charrette. The experts then evaluate the possible solutions, often integrating the work into a recommended design solution. Since design (both for appearance and functionality) is a particularly important issue for higher-density projects, charrettes and design workshops can both solicit detailed community input and build trust. Charrettes work best when a community is focused on building a positive vision for its future or when design inputs are needed from a community on a particular project. They may not work well when a community is trying to decide whether to go ahead with a controversial project.


Brainstorming is a group problem-solving process in which group members spontaneously contribute ideas to address a specific issue. Ideas are not evaluated when submitted, which encourages creativity and a wide range of possible solutions. Comments are recorded on large sheets of paper, and the ideas are sorted and analyzed after the brainstorming effort is completed. Brainstorming facilitates participation by all members of a group and can counter tendencies to focus on lowest common denominator solutions. Brainstorming can be used any time during a meeting.

Visioning Exercises

Visioning, sometimes called envisioning, refers to community participation processes designed to find common ground and reach consensus concerning future growth and development. Visioning is intended to give a community a better understanding of its surroundings, educate residents about potential improvement options, identify development preferences, define the desired changes from the development process, and promote a sense of ownership among community members. Depending upon the tools employed, a large number of participants can take part in these processes. Visioning exercises often employ image preference surveys, discussed below.

Image Preference Surveys

In an image preference survey, residents view contrasting pairs of images, such as streetscapes versus buildings, parks, or sidewalks. Using a rating system, the residents indicate which image from each pair they prefer. The results are tabulated and reviewed by the group. Contrasting images help participants make clear distinctions between what they like and dislike. The process contributes to the development of a common vision for the community. The opinions of a large number of participants can be gathered using this process. The effects of higher-density development as opposed to other types of development can be clearly identified. Several image preference tools are described and vendor contact information is provided in See Tools and Techniques.

Focus Groups and Opinion Surveys

Focus groups and opinion surveys can be helpful in understanding what residents want and do not want for their community and neighborhood. They can often elicit insights about underlying motives, beliefs, values, prejudices, and the like. As discussed earlier, really understanding the underlying basis of a community's objections to higher-density development is often critical in designing a public participation process that can engage and resolve those issues.

Priority Setting

A common way to have a group identify priorities is to give each participant a number of votes (for example, adhesive dots) to allocate among a list of possible actions, policies, or other potential outcomes. Items that receive the highest number of votes are the focus of subsequent discussion. Care must be taken to carefully define the alternatives and their potential limits, such as cost and relation to the total budget resources.

Online Interactive Communication

While a website may be seen as merely a tool, it is described here as a technique because of the potential to use it creatively and interactively to promote a dialogue between a community and its elected leaders and professional planners. Websites can convey written information, present still and moving images, display visualization software products and photo simulations (see See An Overview of Tools), receive feedback, host discussions, administer opinion and image preference surveys, expand the audience for meetings and public hearings, link to a wide range of other online educational resources, and more. Care must be exercised that use of the Web does not eliminate or substantially reduce the involvement of people who do not have access to a computer or are untrained in using computers.

Opinion Leader Identification and Outreach

In many communities, a focused effort to identify and involve key opinion leaders is critical to achieving a balanced and successful process. Respected leaders can provide credibility, stability, intelligence, and good judgment to the process. Their knowledge of community history enhances the understanding of concerns and values that have their origins in that history. They can identify other key persons and groups that should be involved, and can help in creating a process that is fair and representative in terms of points of view, interests, and community subgroups.

Public Information Programs

Community participation processes can benefit enormously from well-implemented public information programs. Objective factual information on modern design techniques, on the potential to mitigate adverse project impacts, and on how higher-density projects affect property values, neighborhood character, and crime rates can be beneficial in orienting a participatory process in realities rather than unfounded fears.

Idea Fairs

Idea fairs are carefully planned events at which members of a study group or the general public are invited to visit a site to receive information and provide ideas on particular issues. For example, a site that is the focus of a planning effort could have booths that address issues of concern in the process, such as building design, street design, landscaping, public art, and community access. The fair allows people both to receive information (for example, balloons could be set at proposed building heights) and provide reactions and suggestions.

Regionwide Planning Exercises

Some regional planning agencies (usually known either as metropolitan planning organizations or councils of governments) have participatory programs to educate citizens about the long-range benefits of more compact development. Regional planning exercises, especially when coupled with targeted pilot projects to create incentives, can lead to effective local implementation of densification.

Press and Editorial Board Education

The news media, both reporters and editorial writers, may have some of the same misinformation as residents about higher-density projects. If reporters and editorial writers are not clear about the facts relative to these issues, their coverage can easily increase community fears rather than calm them. A focused effort to give high-quality, well-documented information to the news media can help support a public process grounded in facts rather than fears.

Tours of Higher-Density Projects

Seeing, as they say, is believing. Few techniques are more effective in calming fears about higher-density projects' appearance, neighborhood impacts, residents, and effects on property values than visiting such projects in other neighborhoods and communities. Tours can include talking with project residents, neighborhood residents, and public officials such as police officers and park and recreation staff. This can present a realistic picture of how such projects affect an area.

Group Mapping

Group mapping usually involves individuals or smaller subgroups using base maps on which they record ideas, opportunities, possible solutions, and constraints. Mapping usually is conducted as a table-top exercise, since that facilitates use of the base maps. An alternative is to have clipboard-size maps used as part of a walking tour.

Exploring and Communicating Historical Experience

Relative to understanding the real fears and concerns of the community, it can be challenging to identify the negative lessons residents have brought from past experiences. Focus groups sometimes can get at these issues, and talking with long-term community residents and opinion leaders can also help. Meeting with developers who were active in the community in the past, and planners of similarly long tenure (including retired planners), also may help. Town history buffs, newspaper clipping files, old planning records, as well as existing projects in the community all may help to identify the nature and origin of community concerns about higher-density development.

Comprehensive Project and Options Analysis

Whether the analysis is of one project, several project options, specific land-use planning alternatives, or general plan options, the focus too often is limited mostly to the negative side -- what problems might the project(s) or option(s) create and how might the project(s) or option(s) conflict with existing policies? While such analysis is critical, the benefits a project might bring to a community or a neighborhood must also be examined. Benefits may be intrinsic to a project (for example, landscaping); they may be made possible by a project (such as improvements funded from project revenues to the local government), or they may be caused by a project (such as stimulating the development of better neighborhood-serving businesses). A comprehensive analysis should include consideration of both project mitigation possibilities (corrective improvements such as intersection modifications) and project offset possibilities (compensating improvements such as an expanded neighborhood park or branch library). Comprehensive analysis enables public process participants to consider all aspects of projects or options.

Focused Impact Studies

In addition to using impact-modeling software discussed in See An Overview of Tools, various consultants have developed methods for analyzing the fiscal, economic, and environmental impacts of projects or policies. Using these services can have benefits similar to those of the software packages, and such consultants are often best employed in conjunction with using software-modeling tools.

Project Occupancy Profiles and Income Projections

Working from the sale or rental prices projected for a residential project, it is often possible to create an occupancy profile , describing what income levels and occupations will be able to afford to buy or rent a unit in a proposed development. This often shows residents that their prospective new neighbors are likely to include teachers, police officers, and other people they feel positive about.

Comparable Project Property Value Analysis

Much research shows that higher-density projects generally do not have a negative effect on property values, and such projects may have the unexpected positive effect of improving the desirability or appearance of a neighborhood. Pulling together a sample of this research, and sometimes gathering local examples, will often convince residents that fears for the value of their property are unfounded.

An Overview of Tools

In this study, the term "tools" refers to devices used to prepare and convey information on development proposals or options (ranging from individual development proposals to specific land-use planning alternatives to general plan policies). The tools discussed below are drawn from literature review, consultant interviews, preliminary and final interviews completed for the case studies, and the professional experience of the project team.

For more details on the tools discussed below, and for references to providers and vendors along with websites and contact details, see See Tools and Techniques. Visioning process support tools (image preference surveys) were discussed in See An Overview of Techniques, and details on providers along with contact information are also in See Tools and Techniques.

Digital Photo Simulation

A digital image of an existing streetscape or built environment can be modified by adding a proposed building or buildings, other proposed design features such as street lights, trees, and grass medians, and transportation features such as light rail, bike lanes, and parking lanes. Photo simulations let community members compare a project area before and after a proposed development. Several development alternatives can be assessed. This process also can illustrate changes incrementally -- first adding a median, then street trees and lights, then a building, and so on. Since the present and the future appearance of an area can be displayed side by side, photo simulations can show the unanticipated positive impacts of higher-density development. As a result, they can promote community acceptance.

Visualization Software

Visualization software displays realistic views of a project or alternative projects to assess the impact of specific policy and development options. These tools can convey a clear understanding of the visual effects of a project, which is often a concern for community members. Sometimes they permit viewing only a predetermined number of perspectives, but more elaborate software incorporating GIS capabilities can show a project from any perspective and can allow viewers to make project changes quickly, thus accommodating the participatory process. Animated 3-D views can show the visual experience when someone walks through or drives past a proposed development. Dynamic 3-D views created with sophisticated software can produce multiple views from different locations, conveying a clearer understanding of the visual characteristics of a proposed project.

Traditional Graphic Representations

Traditional graphic tools used to present projects and their surrounding areas include drawings, photographs, slides, colored maps, aerial photographs, and traffic flow diagrams. Public process participants often understand graphically presented projects or data more readily than projects or data presented using verbal descriptions, charts, or tables. Maps of the surrounding area as well as aerial photographs can present a project in a broader perspective and assist community members in understanding other land uses in a project area.

Three-Dimensional Models

Three-dimensional models are physical models of a proposed project and its surroundings that show the project boundary, buildings, streets, open spaces, landscaping details, and uses of surrounding parcels. Models may show only the volume of the buildings, or show in detail how the buildings would actually look. They show the relationship of built spaces to open spaces (parks, plazas, roads, and so on) in and around the development, and the relationship between the scale and mass of the proposed buildings and that of surrounding buildings (often a point of concern for higher-density developments).

Traffic Modeling Software

Traffic modeling software visualizes the impacts of projects, plans, and policies on auto traffic as well as on other trip modes, both within a neighborhood and on the regional network. With this tool, mitigation measures can often be tested for effectiveness, as can the impact of a project or a plan after all measures have been implemented and assessed. Such modeling can also show the intersections and roadway segments, for example, where traffic impacts are likely to be too small to be noticed, alleviating fears. By showing the potential increased demand for non-auto transit services, they can help justify and plan for the provision or improvement of bus or light-rail services or the construction of improved bike or pedestrian facilities.

Fiscal, Economic, and Environmental Impact Modeling

Software packages that model and project the fiscal, economic, and environmental impacts of new development projects or plans can help define appropriate mitigations, help alleviate baseless fears, and demonstrate the prospective benefits of projects or plans.

Keys to Success and Barriers to Overcome

Much of what has been discussed in this report involves aspects of the strategies, methods, techniques, or tools that contribute to successful community participation processes related to planning for higher-density development. This section summarizes some of the project team's overarching conclusions, presents what we believe to be the most important keys to success in winning approval for higher-density plans and projects, and reviews the daunting barriers that remain to making density work for California's neighborhoods and communities.


The research conducted for this project, plus the research completed to prepare Making Growth Work for California's Communities (Mineta Transportation Institute, May 2003), yield three main conclusions.

First, large amounts of higher-density development will not be imposed on California's communities against their will or wishes. Battles may sometimes be won in spite of community opposition, but the war will only be won with community support.

Second, communities and neighborhoods will only support higher-density development if they are convinced it is in their interest to do so, which requires the involvement of residents and other stakeholders in an intensive collaborative process of community planning. Only in this way will myths be dispelled, fears calmed, conflicts resolved, and agreements forged about what to build and where to build it.

Third, although cleverness sometimes convinces communities that higher-density development is in their interest, consistent results will be based on truthfulness. For higher-density development to be in the best interest of communities and neighborhoods, regional, state, and federal action is needed on several fronts. Dysfunctional incentives and subsidies to poorly planned growth must be phased out. Barriers to well-planned, well-designed higher-density development must be reduced. Incentives to support and encourage more intensive and balanced land use must be provided. Perhaps most important, adequate public funding must be assured for the essential facility and service investments without which higher-density communities will not be higher-quality places to live, work, and raise a family.

Sophisticated techniques for persuasion and for avoiding and resolving conflict will not substitute for the other actions needed to make higher-density growth work for California's communities.


Some of the most critical elements to successful community participation are outlined below.

Understand Concerns and Think Strategically

Take the time and effort needed to fully understand a neighborhood's or community's aspirations, values, concerns, fears, and history as those relate to growth and development. Recognize that a physical area identified as a community consists of multiple communities, each of which needs to be understood. With this understanding, think strategically about how to structure a collaborative planning process.

Provide Skillful and Committed Leadership

Elected and appointed officials, senior planners, and other administrators must provide skillful and committed leadership for these processes to work. Leadership includes a sincere commitment to community involvement. Much of the skill is in the effective use of the strategies, methods, techniques, and tools discussed in this report. "Committed" means being willing to allocate the time and resources (from multiple departments, not just planning) needed to make the process work and to demonstrate that the local government takes the process seriously. Part of being committed flows from the sincere belief that residents have a legitimate stake and a right to participate; part flows from a conviction that collaborative planning is valuable. The importance of this commitment, and of making it visible to community participants, is difficult to overstate.

Avoid Premature Decisions

Start a community process before key decisions have been made, not after. This makes it clear to participants that the process matters and avoids polarizing participants.

Establish a Positive Vision

If participants define what they want for their neighborhood and community rather than just what they do not want, it will be possible later to consider options in a more balanced way, make tradeoffs, and proceed realistically. It will also be easier to see development as an opportunity to achieve improvement.

Build Trust and Ownership at Every Opportunity

Ensure an open process by doing everything in public and involving participants in planning the process. Do not rush or pressure participants; provide the information they need to evaluate all the issues fairly. Avoid manipulation or the appearance of manipulation. Do not make false assurances or raise false hopes about available resources. Keep careful records of discussions and decisions. Provide a fair chairperson. Make sure that groups are balanced and representative. Make sure that opponents are in the group rather than outside it, and do not try to discourage opponents from having their say. Make sure that all stakeholders are represented. Get professional facilitation as needed, and be proactively honest about the pros and cons of any option under consideration.

Establish Clarity Concerning Goals and Principles

When a group process is chartered, broad planning goals and principles should be established at the outset. This can help keep a group on track and make a productive outcome more likely.

Ensure Predictable Outcomes

As a process moves beyond the development of specific principles, goals, and objectives to consideration of detailed development regulations, specific plans, and specific policy decisions, it is critical to deal with such implementation practicalities as market and financial feasibility assessment, design guidelines and specifications, and consistent development review procedures.

Ensure Accurate Documentation

Careful, accurate documentation of the results of a public participation process is critical to retaining the value of the effort. Memories fade, elected officials, city staff, and residents leave, and new people participate. Documentation is a key part of creating institutional memory, and refreshing the memory reinforces the conclusions. Bringing participants together for periodic updates and discussions can help retain group cohesiveness and energy. This gives both residents and developers real assurance that the outcome is realistic and that its implementation over time will conform to their expectations. This is critical both to securing developer investments and to gaining taxpayer support for the needed public investments in infrastructure and facilities.


If planning for higher-density development were easy, everyone would do it successfully. As indicated in the "Overarching Conclusions" section above, there are real barriers to making it work. Some of the more significant barriers, both local and those arising from the decisions and those policies of higher levels of government, are described below.

A Collaborative Planning Process Is Expensive and Time Consuming

Local government operating budgets are often hard pressed to cover even basic essential services. Planning staffs are frequently stretched to the limit, and the time demands of participatory planning can appear difficult at best. Finding time and money for staff training, or to acquire the software or other tools to support various planning processes, can also seem daunting.

Budgets Inadequate to Meet Demands of Higher-Density Development

Higher-density projects often maximize net benefits to a neighborhood or community only if there is adequate funding to meet infrastructure, facility, and ongoing service needs. While developers may be able to cover some of these requirements, often there is no alternative to taxpayer funding for part, sometimes a significant part, of the cost. Local government revenues and revenue-generating options (as determined by state law) often do not enable local government to meet the needs generated by higher-density development. In fact, funds are frequently diverted (directly or indirectly) to provide incentives and subsides that encourage sprawl rather than higher-density infill projects.

Traditional Attitudes Often Not Supportive

Some attitudes common in local government are barriers to successful citizen participation processes. Professionalism on the part of planners, engineers, and other staff often makes it difficult for them to let go of control and cede real power to a citizen-based planning process. Reinforcing this is the tendency to equate the self-interest of neighbors to selfish NIMBYism. Although when larger entities such as landowners, developers, or schools represent self-interest it is often seen as legitimate, sometimes it is perceived as selfish when neighborhoods are involved.

Unrealistic Expectations Regarding What Developers Can Provide

Developers need to make a profit to continue building, and there are limits to what they can afford to provide in conjunction with development projects. At the same time, infill higher-density projects often create extra risks and costs for developers, making it difficult or impossible for them to project what compromises they can afford, or even if a project is feasible. This is a major barrier to building projects that include sufficient quality features and mitigations to make them attractive additions to neighborhoods. Addressing this barrier will require not only regional and state action, but also more predictability concerning the policies and decisions of local planning authorities.

Until local government financing is rationalized and made sufficient to fund both the capital and operating needs created by higher-density infill projects, and made consistent (in terms of incentives and subsidies) with development policies that facilitate higher-density growth, no amount of good citizen process will make all the otherwise desirable projects successful.

Even where a combination of local government and developer funds covers the capital needs and operating costs of a project, it is frequently difficult for local government to afford the staff time and operating expense of a truly collaborative planning process. Shortages of funds and time often prevent local government staffs from getting the tools and training they need, which translates into not getting the practical experience that could foster changes in the negative attitudes described above.

The resulting reduction in collaborative planning means developers will continue to face unpredictable costs and risks, reducing their ability and willingness to commit to funding needed for project mitigation measures.

In conclusion, although in principle, collaborative planning processes hold great potential to help California move in the direction of smart growth, in practice, they will be greatly constrained by the broken condition of local government finance.

Public Involvement Program Design Checklist

The following checklist was provided by Jeff Loux and Mary Selkirk as part of a November 2003 class (Community Participation and Dispute Resolution) sponsored by the University of California-Davis Extension and the California Center for Public Dispute Resolution.

The Nature of the Issue

What are the objectives of the project and/or the nature of the policy issue?

How high are the stakes? What happens if we do not make an agreement or reach a decision? Do we need public support to proceed?

What is the level of technical complexity; what experts will we need; how much technical knowledge will be needed to resolve disputes; do we have or can we get the information?

What are the key policy issues/questions? What are the constraints and opportunities?


Who are the stakeholders and what are their primary interests? What are their technical capabilities?

Do stakeholders represent particular constituencies; do they cluster in coalitions or are they independent?

What are their characteristics and are we prepared to address them (geographic distribution, ethnicities, languages, income, tenure in the community)?

What is the history and legacy of community participation, values, and identity?

Are there existing organizational structures: neighborhood groups, associations, churches, etc.?

What are the options for stakeholders in the absence of collaborating? How good are those options?

Political Landscape

What is the overall political landscape? Are there decision-makers who are involved? Are there informal leaders? Do leaders support the collaborative effort?

Are there political constraints on particular solutions? Is there willingness to share power or at least accept new solutions?

Are terms expiring? Are election cycles going to intervene? Are there dynamics between staff and political leadership that you need to be aware of?

Practical Landscape

What is your budget for mediation/facilitation and for technical work? Are there options to expand the funding?

What partners may be available?

What is the time frame? Are there real deadlines and triggers/hammers? Can you use these to the project's advantage?

What about seasons, schedules, and availability?


How do you best communicate with each of the stakeholders and coalitions? Who is best to communicate with stakeholders?

What type of media is best to use: newspapers, cable TV, Web, existing newsletters, or other options?

Will stakeholders communicate to their broader constituencies? How can you enhance this? Intervene? Are there dynamics between staff and political leadership that you need to be aware of?

Tools and Techniques

The following was prepared by Sanhita Mallick under the direction of Professor Dayana Salazar, Acting Chair, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, San José State University.

Tools, for the purpose of this study, are devices used to prepare and convey information on development proposals or planning options. Techniques are the procedures or methods used as part of public processes conducted to consider development proposals or planning options. This appendix describes tools and techniques and provides websites and other sources of information.

See Database of Tool Developers provides information about companies and other providers of services associated with various tools and techniques. Sources of information on specific tools and techniques are also provided in See Web Resources and the Bibliography at the conclusion of this study.

A Summary of Tools

Graphic Representation Tools

Graphic representation tools used to present projects and their surrounding areas include drawings, photographs, colored maps, aerial photographs, and traffic flow diagrams. Drawings can be sketched by hand or generated by computer-aided design (CAD) programs. These tools can be used to express the project concept or other key project-related information graphically. The general public may understand graphically represented data more easily than charts, tables, and verbal descriptions.

These traditional methods are used widely where advanced computer software is not available. Maps and drawings are inexpensive and easy to produce and can communicate project concepts clearly. Maps of the surrounding area as well as aerial photographs present the project in a broader perspective and assist community members in understanding other land uses in the project area. Diagrams can make complicated information easier to understand. Photographs depict the existing condition of the site.

Two-dimensional drawings provide only a limited sense of the visual characteristics of the project. When a design changes, maps and charts may have to be redrawn, which can be cumbersome and laborious.

Visualization Tools

Visualization tools present realistic views of a project and are often employed for consensus building in higher-density projects. For people who cannot visualize the scale or size of a building from numeric specifications or two-dimensional drawings, these tools can provide a clear understanding of the visual effects of a project, enabling residents to assess the impact of specific options. Since the visual impact of a project is often a concern for community members, these tools can play a crucial role in gaining community acceptance.

In the Islands of Riverlakes project in Sacramento, the developer presented three-dimensional and drive-through views of his proposal. Although the residents were aware of the development that was allowable based on zoning, they had no idea what the proposed building would look like. Three-dimensional views were used to convey that perspective to neighboring residents and to solicit their input.

Several electronic and nonelectronic tools available for presenting visual characteristics of a proposed project are described below.

Physical Models

Physical models are three-dimensional models of the proposed project and its surroundings that show the project boundary, buildings, streets, open spaces, landscaping details, and uses of surrounding parcels. Models may show only the volume of the buildings or show in detail how the buildings would actually look.

Models portray the form of the proposed buildings. They show the relationship of built spaces to open spaces (for example, parks, plazas, roads) in and around the development, and show the relationship between the scale and mass of the proposed buildings and surrounding buildings (often a point of concern for higher-density developments).

For nontechnical persons, models are better than two-dimensional site plans for understanding the basic elements of a project. Models are attractive and, therefore, get more attention than drawings.

Because models are small, it can be difficult to assess the likely visual impact of the buildings on people walking or driving past them. Models are not flexible; to reflect any significant change in a project scheme, a model has to be rebuilt. This is impractical for a brainstorming process involving the community.

Three-Dimensional Views

Three-dimensional (3-D) views of a proposed project from different angles and locations can show the project concept and the physical realities of the proposed built environment. The views can be hand drawn or generated by computer. Colorful representations of the physical environment from the pedestrian's viewpoint help community members visualize and assess the environment the development would create.

For an audience with limited knowledge of the planning and design field, 3-D views are more appealing and easier to understand than 2-D technical drawings. With texture, design details, and lighting and shadow effects, computer-generated 3-D images often look very realistic. Animated 3-D views can show the visual experience when someone walks through or drives past a proposed development. Dynamic 3-D views (using sophisticated software) can produce multiple views from different locations and convey an even better understanding of the visual characteristics of a proposed project.

Resources for Three-Dimensional Tools

Autodesk Viz


Creates and animates detailed, realistic 3-D renderings. Light and shadow effects can be shown. Lets viewers visualize design alternatives from a set of predefined views, paths, and walk-throughs. Real-time interaction with the user is not possible.


Details at:

Enables real-time interaction. Creates 3-D massing renderings, and users can walk or fly to any location and view the details of the proposed built environment from there. Renderings are less detailed than in a non-real-time 3-D tool, but actual photographs of the project location can be used to make the views more realistic.

VIO (3-D runtime or viewer)

Details at: or

3-D rendering software program that depicts a project from any vantage point. A set of design alternatives can be displayed in real time. Photorealistic or massing images can be viewed in the context of the existing surroundings. Predefined viewpoints and walk-throughs can be created and shown at a later time.

Photo Simulation

Photo simulations alter photos of existing physical conditions in the area where a project is proposed. A digital image of an existing streetscape or built environment is changed by adding the proposed buildings and other proposed design features such as decorative street lights, trees, and grass medians, and transportation features such as light rail, bike lanes, and parking lanes.

Simulated photos let community members compare a project area before and after a proposed development. They can assess the impacts of several alternative development scenarios and see how a streetscape might be improved when a project is built. This process can also illustrate changes incrementally, first adding a median, then street trees and lights, then a building, and so on. By showing unanticipated positive impacts of higher-density development, photo simulation helps gain community cceptance. Displaying the present and future appearances of a development side by side enhances understanding of improvements that would result from the project. Showing incremental changes clearly illustrates the successive stages of a project.

Resources for Photo Simulation Tools

Richard Heapes, Street-Works
814 King Street, 3rd Floor, Alexandria, VA 22314
Tel: (703) 837-1630

Heapes uses painting software to simulate the proposed development.

Steve Price, Urban Advantage
436 14th Street, Suite 1114, Oakland, CA 94612
Tel: (510) 835-9420

Price uses photo-editing software to add a proposed project to images of an existing site.

Ron Morgan, Urban Ventures
1900 Dilworth Road E, Charlotte, NC 28203
Tel: (740) 342-2510

Morgan uses both aerial and street-level photographs to illustrate the effects of proposed neighborhood revitalization projects.

Visioning Tools

"Visioning" refers to community participation processes designed to find common ground and reach community consensus concerning future growth and development. Visioning is intended to give a community a better understanding of its surroundings, educate residents about potential improvement options, and define desired changes to be achieved in the development process.

Visioning tools are used by process participants working individually or together. The result is a collective vision of the community, and the process helps to develop a sense of ownership among community members.

Visioning tools help people to identify their development preferences and learn the preferences of other community members. These tools are intended to help achieve wide agreement about community development goals. Depending on the tools employed, a large number of participants can take part in these processes.

Specific visioning tools are described below.


Image Surveys

In an image survey, residents view contrasting pairs of images, such as streetscapes versus buildings, parks, and sidewalks. They use a rating system to indicate which image from each pair they prefer. The result is tabulated and reviewed by the group.

Contrasting images help participants make clear distinctions between what they like and dislike. The process contributes to the development of a common vision for the community, which helps everyone involved in the community development process.

The opinions of a large number of participants can be gathered using this process. The effects of higher-density development as opposed to other types of development can be clearly identified. Preparation of an image survey includes collecting or generating appropriate images, which can be time consuming and expensive. In community-wide image surveys, computer kiosks can be provided at different sites to facilitate participation.

Resources for Image Surveys

Visual Preference Survey

Anton Nelessen, Nelessen Associates
49 River Road, Belle Mead, NJ 08502
Tel: (908) 431-0104

A proprietary planning tool that uses paired photographs of built environments, with each pair showing different physical conditions or physical changes. These images are shown to community members and their opinions are solicited through a survey. The paired photographs are either contrasting environments or present and simulated future conditions.

Community Image Survey

Local Government Commission
1440 K St., Suite 600, Sacramento, CA 95814-3929
Tel: (916) 448-1198
Details at:

Developed by the Local Government Commission, this is a visual image survey in which contrasting images of the physical and natural conditions of a neighborhood are shown to a group of residents, who are then asked about their preferences.

Interactive Visioning Survey

Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK)
19 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton, NJ 08542
Tel: (609) 683-3600 Fax: (609) 683-0054
Details at:

Image surveys are distributed communitywide, either online or offline, using computer kiosks. Respondents are shown images of different improvement options and asked to indicate their preferences. A large number of citizens can participate in the survey process.

Box City

Box City is an interactive tool that can be used in a community participation process. Participants use kindergarten art supplies, including construction paper, cardboard boxes, glue, and markers, to make a model of a city block or a street in their neighborhood. The process is helpful in identifying what the participants value most in their neighborhood, where they want changes, and what changes will be acceptable.

Because of the method's simplicity, people of any age or skill level can take part. The exercise is fun and can help participants to better understand the built environment of their city or neighborhood.

Resource for Box City

Ginny Graves, Center for Understanding the Built Environment (CUBE)
5328 W. 67th Street, Prairie Village, KS 66208
Tel: (913) 262-0691

Visualization Tools Based on the Geographic Information System

Visualization tools based on the geographic information system (GIS) combine 3-D real-time simulation, GIS, and database software. These tools dynamically show the effects of a variety of land-use choices. Based on this information, residents can indicate their preferences among development alternatives. These software packages can also help in justifying a project in the larger context of a city or region. Some of them can help define the effects of changes in project design on a local or regional environment and economy.

When GIS-based tools are used during community meetings, the choices made by community members are incorporated and evaluated quickly, reducing the time required for gathering community feedback. They work quickly enough to give input back into the workflow of brainstorming during meetings. Users can make changes in the GIS data or in the modeling data, and the impact on the other is shown.

Resources for Geographic Information System Tools

3-D Analyst

Details at:

Creates a 3-D terrain rendering of a place and a 3-D massing image of buildings from GIS information. The software has zooming and panning capabilities. 3-D Analyst is integrated into the ArcGIS Desktop and allows the creation of dynamic and interactive maps that elevate geographic visualization and analysis.

Model Builder

Details at:
Discussion of the software at:

An extension of ArcView Spatial Analyst software that lets users develop, share, and save spatial renderings.


Details at:

Allows users to do a quick visualization of space based on GIS information and fly or walk through a 3-D environment.


Details at:

A mathematical framework and software package for modeling the spatial economies of cities or regions. Includes a comprehensive transportation-planning model. Understanding the impacts of transportation conditions on the location of various land uses is central to its function and purpose.

Community 2020

Details at:

Four CD-ROMs containing demographic and geographic information integrated with GIS tools. Each CD contains data on one region of the United States. Users can access information about a city block or a multistate area.

Impact Analysis and Forecasting Tools

These complex multidimensional software packages generally comprise several components -- a GIS system, a 3-D rendering visualization system, and a system for analyzing the environmental and economic impacts of alternative policy decisions-- so that community members can select preferences based on the future impacts of development alternatives.


Resources for Impact Analysis and Forecasting Tools

Community Viz


Has three integrated components: Scenario Constructor, Site Builder 3-D, and Policy Simulator. Scenario Constructor is a scenario analysis tool that lets users conduct impact analysis of development alternatives. Site Builder 3-D builds renderings of neighborhoods or projects that are both photo-realistic and interactive. The images can be explored and visualized using virtual fly-through simulation. Policy Simulator projects the effects of planning policies using agent-based modeling techniques. The components are integrated, so changing one component, land use for example, causes changes to the other components.


Nancy Hanson, Program Manager, PLACE3S
California Energy Commission, MS-48
1516 Ninth Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: (916) 654-3948
Website at:

PLACE3S (PLAnning for Community Energy, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability) is an innovative planning approach developed for local and regional governments. It integrates focused public participation, community development and design, and computer-assisted quantification tools based on GIS. It helps communities evaluate plans on the basis of financial benefit, energy conservation, job growth and development, reduction of pollution, traffic congestion, and conservation of open space.


Criterion Planners/Engineers Inc.
725 NW Flanders Street, Suite 303, Portland, OR 97209-3539
Tel: (503) 224-8606 Fax: (503) 224-8702

This GIS-based planning support system enables users to assess existing conditions and evaluate alternative plans. Also supports implementation of adopted plans. Indicators are used in the beginning to assess existing conditions. Based on this assessment, problems and opportunities are identified and alternative planning scenarios are constructed, visualized, analyzed, and compared by users. After a plan is adopted, Index supports its implementation by evaluating the consistency of specific project proposals with the plan's goals. The software is available in both standard and customized versions.


Envision Sustainability Tools, Inc.
1228 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6B 2S8
Tel: (604) 225-2000 Fax: (604) 225-2001

Uses a computer-game-like interface to collaboratively explore the key challenges facing a region. Users make planning choices and can see the effects of those decisions over 40 years. Can be customized for any region.

What If?

78 Hickory Lane, Hudson, Ohio 44236-2707
Tel/Fax: (330) 650-9087

This GIS-based system lets users explore community development alternatives. The system is easy to use and can be handled by nontechnical persons. It can project the impacts of policies on future land use patterns and on associated population, housing, and employment trends.

Citizen Participation Support Tools

The tools described below are not associated with any particular aspect of planning, but make it possible to undertake various citizen participation activities more easily and efficiently.

Resources for Citizen Participation Tools

Covision: Facilitation Support Tool


A system that enables the immediate tabulation of feedback from all participants in large group meetings by using multiple computers.

Community Education and Outreach Tools

Traditional public information tools can help educate community residents about a project, or about local and regional policies, environmental issues, or other factors relevant to a project. Examples include fact sheets, print and electronic media, flyers, telephone and fax, books, CD-ROMs, and websites. An Internet website can be used to disseminate information about a project, post announcements of community meetings and public hearings, post minutes of meetings or hearings, and gather data and input from residents.

A Summary of Techniques

Techniques for Successful Community Involvement

Involving the Public Early in the Process

Involving the public early in the process is recommended as a key to success in a public participation process. Early involvement fosters a feeling of ownership toward a project, gives a sense of transparency, and conveys concern about citizen involvement.

Ideally, the public is involved before any important decision is made about a project. Many cities advise developers to contact the neighbors in a project area early. Cities may require developers to have formal community outreach plans and have contact with residents before a proposal is considered by the city.

Choosing the Correct Type of Participation Procedure

Every participation method has advantages and disadvantages. It is important to select the participation method that is best suited to the project and for the population it will impact.

Depending on the circumstances, participation techniques may include large community meetings, small living-room meetings, open houses, workshops, or charrettes. If the project area is large (for example, a citywide general plan update), large community meetings may be needed. For small communities or communities with significant ethnic or cultural variations, several small community meetings may be the better.

Large community meetings and open houses are appropriate to convey thoughts to the public or to gather general opinions. Small meetings or focus groups are better when the purpose is to hear input from citizens about a given project.

Because design is such an important issue for high-density projects, charrettes and design workshops can be used to solicit community input and build trust. Architect Michael Pyatok successfully used participatory design workshops to engage residents in the design of affordable housing. Residents so engaged have become active project proponents and vocal supporters at city council and planning commission hearings.

Charrettes work best when a community is getting together to build a vision for its future or when design inputs are needed from the community on a project. They are less useful when a community is trying to decide whether to go ahead with a controversial project.

Educating the Community

Educating the community about higher-density planning projects in general, and about particular types of such projects (for example, affordable housing), can help in both the short and long term. People's ideas about higher-density developments often are based on misinformation. For example, many believe that higher-density affordable housing lowers the value of surrounding properties, although research has shown that this is not the case.

Brochures, slide shows, photo boards, and the like can be used to spread the word about different aspects of higher-density projects or about particular proposals. Inviting the public on tours of higher-density projects can be an effective way to overcome misconceptions.

It is important to undertake educational efforts before opposition begins to arise in a neighborhood. Once opposition is underway, it can be more difficult to educate residents.

Educating the media is also beneficial. Reporters and editorial writers are not always well-informed about the realities and advantages of higher-density projects.

Pictures and descriptions of popular and award-winning higher-density projects are available online and in books. They can illustrate the attractiveness and benefits of higher-density housing during the education process.

Resources for Community Involvement

Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing Website

Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing
By Tom Jones, William Pettus, and Michael Pyatok
Rand Publishing, Inc., 1996
Case studies of good designs at:

Design Matters: Best Practices in Affordable Housing Design

Online catalog of 75 projects built between 1980 and 2000.

Image Bank, Congress for the New Urbanism

Online database of images and drawings of higher-density developments.

New Community Design to the Rescue: Fulfilling Another American Dream

Report from the National Governors Association, Washington, D.C., July 2001

Identifying Key Persons and Supporters

A community may have residents who support a particular project and others who oppose it. Identifying supporters can be crucial for controversial higher-density projects, since supporters may help in finding other supporters in the community. In the Islands of Riverlakes project in Sacramento, the developer found that the group of neighborhood representatives had a disproportionate number who opposed the project. Identifying supporters early can help in establishing a balanced group.

Architect Michael Paytok begins a community involvement process by identifying religious leaders and asking them to identify other key persons. Before calling a larger community meeting, he meets with a dozen or so of these key persons informally, at someone's house or at a place of worship. It is often easier to deal with initial opposition on a smaller scale, and there is a better chance of conveying the potential benefits of a proposed project.

Choosing Strategy According to Problems

Understanding the Actual Issues

To formulate an effective strategy, it is critical to understand exactly what is (or is most likely to be) the basis of community opposition. Higher-density developments generally bring up such issues as housing type, traffic congestion, open space preservation, environmental quality, social problems, and questions about future residents.

Design issues that often come up include the appearance of a building, a perceived design mismatch with the existing neighborhood, and parking. Social issues can include concerns about living close to minorities, low-income, and disabled persons; fear of increased crime; and uneasiness and discomfort about more people in the area. Concern about gentrification is another reason people may oppose a project.

The persons managing the public participation process should try to understand the issues of greatest concern. To do this, they can use opinion research, informal discussion with members of the community, or the experience of city planners or other developers of higher-density projects in the area.

When residents will not admit the actual issues, such as fear of a particular group of people, and instead present land use or design issues as their primary concerns, the situation is challenging for the planner and the developer.

Addressing Public Concerns

Addressing each of the specific concerns of residents factually and in detail is important for controversial projects. To reduce opposition based on design issues, care should be taken to respect the existing character of an area when designing a project. Design solutions such as using the rhythm, scale, and typical architectural characteristics of an area can alleviate many concerns. A development may also be designed to be compatible with a local landmark, historical building, or culture. Extra amenities, such as shops, cafes, and parks, may be highlighted to the residents. Traffic, environmental, and social concerns can be addressed using fact sheets and diagrams.

Shattering Myths: Presentation of Facts and Data

Some issues raised in opposition to higher-density projects are based on misinformation. These include the myths that affordable housing or apartments lower property values or increase crime rates. An effort should be made to dispel these myths by presenting carefully documented facts.

Using Large-Area Plans

Many cities use large-area planning procedures to tackle the issue of density, such as general plans and precise or specific plans. While updating a general plan or taking up a new precise or specific plan, cities may approach residents with higher-density proposals. If these plans are approved after extensive public participation, individual higher-density developments are less likely to face severe criticism.

The cities of Mountain View and San Jose have successfully used this approach. Davis used its general plan update in 2001 to promote consideration of higher-density development.

Database of Tool Developers

Table 1 presents a list of tool developers, identifies their product or service, and gives information on contacting the company for further information.


Database of Tool Developers


Contact Person

Phone #


Service Provided/ Specialty

Box City/CUBE (Center for Understanding the Built Environment)

5328 West 67th St.

Prairie Village, KS 66208

Ginny Graves

(913) 262-0691

Developed a visioning process that has citizens make 3-D models of neighborhoods with construction paper.

Claremont Research Institute

250 West First Street

Claremont, CA 91711

Thomas Horan

(909)399-5650, ext. 303

Uses GIS to explore citizens' attitudes of about their neighborhoods with highlights on strong positive and negative perceptions.

Community Viz

Orton Family Foundation

1035 Pearl Street, 5th Floor

Boulder, CO 80302


(303) 442-8800

(866) 953-1400



Provider of Community Viz Software, a suite of three software packages that lets people visualize, compare, and forecast planning issues.

Criterion Planning/Engineers

725 N.W. Flanders, Suite 303

Portland, OR 97209


(503) 224-8606

Urban planning firm specializing is software tools for community design and decision making. Designer and vendor of INDEX, a GIS-based community modeling tool.

Company 39, Inc.

Marathon Plaza

303 Second Street, Suite 700

San Francisco, CA 94107

1660 Lincoln Street, Suite 2400

Denver, CO 80264


(303) 390-5900


Computer simulation consultant--websties, 3-D modeling, photo simulation, motion graphics, video.

Dover, Kohl and Partners

1571 Sunset Drive

Coral Gables, FL 33143

Victor Dover

(305) 666-0446



Town planning firm that uses different electronic visualization tools.

The Environmental Simulation Center, Ltd.

116 West 29th Street

New York, NY 10001

Michael Kwartler

(212) 279-1851


A nonprofit laboratory that combines computer imaging, policy simulation, and computerized impact analysis techniques for citizen participation.

Harvard Graduate School of Design

48 Quincy Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Carl Steinitz

(617) 495-5419


Creates GIS maps for better understanding of natural landscapes and preferred development locations.

Local Government Commission

1440 K Street, Suite 600

Sacramento, CA 95814-3929

Karen Cole

(916) 448-1198

Creator of Community Image Survey visualization technique. Develops surveys for communities or provides previously created surveys. Toolkit, on website, is a good source of information.

Looney Ricks Kiss

175 Toyota Plaza, Suite 600

Memphis, TN 38103

James Constantine

(609) 683-3600



Planning and research firm that uses automated interactive Community Visioning Survey techniques.

A. Nelessen Associates

River Road

Belle Mead, NJ 08502

Anton Nelessen

(908) 431-0104

Creator of Vision Planning, a public participation process.

Prescott College

220 Grove Avenue

Prescott, AZ 86301

Wil Orr

Designer of U-grow, a computer model that assesses impacts of different development policies.

Roma Design Group

1527 Stockton Street

San Francisco, CA 94113

Boras Dramov

(415) 616-9900

Design and planning firm that uses computer simulation techniques.


814 King Street,
3rd Floor

Alexandria, VA 22314

Richard Heapes

(703) 837-1630

Uses photographs modified with painting software to depict visions of urban revitalization.

University of California, Berkeley

CRP 228 Wurster Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720

John Landis



Uses GIS-based maps to design models that project future land uses. Known for the California Urban Futures Model.

Urban Ventures

1900 Dilworth Road East

Charlotte, NC 28203

Ron Morgan

(704) 342-2510

Uses computer imaging technology to develop proposals for adaptive reuse projects.

Urban Advantage

15 Shattuck Square, Suite 208

Berkeley, CA 94704

Steve Price

(510) 486-0427

(510) 835-9420

Photo simulation consultant.


Consultant Interviews


Four consultants with extensive experience in facilitating community acceptance of compact plans and projects at the local level in California were interviewed. This appendix presents detailed results from these interviews and the consultants' suggestions as to possible case studies, and summarizes overall findings and recommendations from the interviews. This information includes broad objectives and guiding principles that should be considered in establishing participation parameters and designing an approach, and specific tools and techniques that can be effective. It concludes with potential problems or roadblocks that can be encountered.

The following consultants were interviewed:

Chris Beynon, Project Manager, Moore, Iacofano and Goldsman (MIG)

Bruce Race, President, RaceStudio

Debra Stein, President, GCA Strategies

Matthew Taecker, Principal, CATALYST

Broad Objectives

Sincere and early involvement is important. All consultants noted that it is critical that the sponsoring agency or organization and the consultants establish trust with the participants. Some of this can be done by demonstrating their credibility in encouraging public input based on past actions. More important, however, the sponsors need to make it clear to participants throughout the process that they have a serious commitment to public input.

All parties need to recognize that an effective public participation process takes time for participants to get to know each other, build trust, get needed information, and define and refine actions once they are deep into the decision-making process.

Recommended Approach

One consultant advised casting as wide a net for public participation as possible when starting a public outreach process, because those left out of the process could end up as opponents. Another consultant noted, however, that it was wise to tailor the scale of outreach to the situation, and not contact the wider comunity regarding an issue with limited community interest.

It was suggested that scripting the planning process was valuable. Such a script should not be manipulative, but aimed at ensuring that the process was designed to assure full community understanding of important issues, recommendations, and policies. Starting the process with specifics can be risky, create distrust, and lead some people to think that the process is intended to sell a solution. Most of the consultants interviewed suggested that the design of the process should allow time early on for participants to identify what they want or expect to see as an outcome of their involvement.

One interviewee suggested placing a priority on the attitudes and concerns of those who oppose density, not on its supporters. It is important to identify potential roadblocks to positive actions, redesign the process, if necessary, to avoid those obstacles, and cultivate grassroots leadership during the process.

Possible Roadblocks to Success

One consultant believed that using fancy models and providing too much information at the beginning of the process should be avoided so that information will not be seen as a sales effort. Density means different things to people (congestion and demographic change versus design opportunities and sustainability) and it is important to deal with these differences in the planning and decision-making process. The process should evaluate why people oppose density. Finally, the consultants clearly favored the use of design solutions and mentioned that it was often critical to link the provision of specific desired or needed infrastructure with greater density.

Effective Tools

The consultants identified several tools that they had used in a variety of settings. Although no single tool was stressed over any other, the following were mentioned:

Land use games, visual alternatives, and charrettes

Visual preference surveys that identify the types of environments that people feel positive or negative about

Workshops that provide opportunities for interaction, rather than passive listening or watching

Vision festivals that collect information about what people want for their community

Environmental walks that encourage citizens to identify key issues and analyze planning and design opportunities

Photographs to record likes and don't-likes, to facilitate discussion in an effort to find common ground

Technological techniques and simulations, including visual imagery and Community Viz and PLACE3S software


Consultant Interview: Chris Beynon

Project Manager, Moore Iacofano Goltsman Inc. (MIG), Berkeley, California

What techniques seem to be particularly effective in getting a community to accept density?

Most people have a sense of what types of environments (for example, buildings, open space, streets) are comfortable for them and what types cause discomfort. Mentally translating written planning and design policies and regulations into a visual image is difficult to do for nearly everyone. Using visual preference surveys is one way to identify what types of environments people feel positive or negative about. With a survey, the images shown to a group need to be carefully tailored to the local environment. Some communities want to draw from national examples, while others want to focus on local examples. Whatever is used, the selection needs to be based on an understanding of the community.

Workshops involve opportunities for people to interact and thus have a different role than public meetings. People need to talk to each other, and various workshop formats allow that to happen. Meetings tend to have experts at the front of the room and the audience listening and responding. This encourages people to talk at each other rather than to each other.

"Vision festivals" can be used for larger areas. Use booths and interaction areas (for example, for parks and recreation, historic issues) to collect information from people regarding what they would like for their community. A successful festival should include partnering with community groups rather than having the only organizational participant be the local government. Having community groups involved not only facilitates collecting information but also builds up partnerships between the governmental agency and the community.

Some general guidelines for a successful process are listed and explained below:

Remember that every community is different. Think through what the community expects and how the history of the issue impacts the involvement of the public.

Address the fears of the community. Fears come at various levels (for example, regional and subregional impacts and activities; community-, neighborhood-, or project-specific) and need to be identified before the public process begins so that addressing them can be part of a conscious process.

Directly solicit the community. How the community is involved will vary with the nature of the project, but in all cases there should be a strategy for directly soliciting public involvement. That strategy will usually involve numerous outreach mechanisms.

Do not start with a preconceived plan. Effective public involvement must allow the public to influence the outcome of the issue. Having a preconceived plan will quickly turn off the public and likely create opposition by casting the process into "our way" or opposition.

Tailor the scale of the outreach effort to the situation. Avoid an excessive or unduly complicated process (for example, a large-scale outreach/public involvement process for an issue having limited community interest). Likewise, avoid oversimplifying the process (for example, a two- or three-meeting process for an issue with broad community concerns and interest).

Define high density. High density means something different in different communities. Members of the public have mental images of high density that may or may not relate to the issues under review. If not carefully defined, those mental images will strongly influence the public reaction to whatever is being discussed.

Use projects as examples rather than plans or proposals. As noted above, most people cannot translate a set of plans or a written description into a clear and accurate mental image of what is being discussed. Having photos or visiting buildings comparable to what are being proposed can be essential for the public and decisionmakers.

Stress good-quality design. Good-quality plans and follow-through on design commitments are critical for both the immediate project and future efforts. A project that results in a physical product that does not match what was approved negatively influences subsequent proposals.

Identify and demonstrate what improvements are proposed for the community ( for example, parks, school playgrounds) and have guarantees regarding follow-through. Few things create more long-lasting public suspicion of the local development review process than approval of a project based on commitments that are not fulfilled. Public improvement issues need to address how and who builds the improvement, when it is built, and who operates and maintains it.

How would you describe the circumstances that make a technique effective or not effective?

Sincere and early involvement with residents is a critical factor. Outreach that starts after detailed plans are in the local newspaper faces an uphill challenge to convince people that a decision has not already been made. The process must focus on building trust, and that is often a complicated effort. Without trust, the public will not even consider something that has perceived disadvantages for their community. Once trust is built, it is critical not to betray it. Lost trust can lead to very motivated opponents.

When starting a public involvement process, use a wide net -- the wider the better. Those left on the outside are often the most effective opponents. Much better to start too wide and find that some people do not think the issue is important.

Are specific techniques more appropriate/effective at the general plan, specific plan, or project level?

Use a "vision festival" for broader areas -- community or neighborhood level, but not specific projects. There are various tools and techniques that are better for specific sites (for example, the software package called PLACE3S). A computer program called Community Viz is one simulation model that can provide great amounts of information, real-time changes, and fly-through views.

Is it important to link different types of techniques together?

Public involvement processes need to be designed for specific situations. It is always important to look at the surrounding context (urban scale, fabric) when designing a process to involve people. Start with a broader perspective and then, when appropriate, narrow the focus. Too many architects miss the broader context and want to start with the immediate site focus. Do not start with specifics -- that triggers distrust and can create a feeling that the process is intended to sell a solution. Start with simple techniques, such as using an aerial photo and blank paper to make notes about what the public believes are important issues. As the process unfolds, more elaborate techniques can be used, but they should come from a desire for information generated by the participants. Do not try to impress the public with fancy models and extensive information at the beginning of their involvement. That can come across as a sales effort.

Can you identify communities that have had success in approving plans and projects that notably increase density?

The City of Pasadena has done a great job with redevelopment of their downtown -- initial projects used as a catalyst for subsequent projects, nonresidential led to residential.

The City of Davis has had success regarding approval of new smaller mixed use with residential.

The City of San Diego's downtown housing program (Walter Rask, City Center Development Corporation).

The City of Santa Barbara's Housing Symposium (John Ledbetter, Planning Director).

The City of Huntington Beach.

Consultant Interview: Bruce Race

Founder & Principal, RaceStudio, Berkeley, California

What techniques seem to be particularly effective in getting a community to accept density ?

The most important issues are not techniques, per se. Recognize that if the focus is going to be on encouraging higher-density development, there are three elements of feasibility that must be taken into account: market, financial, and political.

Specific techniques, such as charrettes and visioning, should be considered as part of a larger strategy. The visual preference survey tool frequently dwells on comparing a delightful pedestrian-scale place with some obviously poor auto-oriented development, and if used in this way is not particularly helpful in designing a feasible solution for an area.

It is critical to recognize a community's values. No two communities are alike. Density means different things in different places -- congestion and demographic changes versus design opportunities and environmental sustainability. Finally, it is important to identify whether a policy initiative aimed at densification is grassroots or leadership based.

In approaching densification, it is important to identify and connect the issue with the following policies and potential local benefits:

Transit and density

Regional mobility and access

Local modal split

Demographic and socioeconomic groups

Central place/downtown

Downtown revitalization

Pedestrian scale and design

Creating new districts

New central district or downtown

Village neighborhood centers

Economic development

Housing as a catalyst

Mixed use as a placemaker

Agricultural preservation

Local economy

Urban/rural urban limit lines to protect agricultural land

Design reasons for rural/urban separators

Physical constraints



Coastal community

A few interactive design methods can facilitate participation and help communities better appreciate design issues. Some of the more interesting techniques include the following:

Environmental Walks. Most community-based design efforts allow participants to become experts as they help define the issues. These walks guide participants along a fixed route as they analyze planning and design opportunities. A list of questions is used to help focus their observations on particular issues.

Cognitive Mapping. One effective warm-up exercise involves asking citizens to draw from memory their community or neighborhood. When planning a particular site, for instance, participants need to consider its context. This technique asks them to draw the surrounding neighborhood or city. It works exceptionally well with children. With adults, as an impromptu exercise, it often stimulates discussions.

Box Cameras. People are asked to take photos of what they like and do not like in an area. The results are brought back to the entire group, and this often leads to sharing perspectives and finding common ground.

Which communities and/or projects might serve as excellent case studies for our research?

Using the topical issues mentioned above, communities to consider, broken down by type, include the following:

Larger cities

Sacramento and San Diego -- transit and density, central place revitalization, economic development

San Jose -- transit and density, central place revitalization, affordable housing

Urban-rural limit line communities

Napa -- central place revitalization, economic development, agricultural land preservation

Davis -- central place revitalization

Watsonville -- central place revitalization, agricultural land preservation, affordable housing

Santa Cruz -- physical constraints, affordable housing

Post-war suburbs

Hercules -- creating new districts

Citrus Heights -- transit and density, creating new districts

Based on the last question, can you identify people that could provide solid information (developers, public officials, environmental or community activists)?

A number of resources that should be considered to get more insights into techniques and possible case studies include the following:

John Dangeere, staff to the Capitol Area Development Authority in Sacramento, (916) 322-2114

Doug Jackson of the Great Valley Center

Jim Chappel of San Francisco Planning and Urban Research

Bob Odermott of ROMA Consultants

Can you identify any written and Web resources that provide good information on successful techniques?

The Charrette Institute's website is useful:

Bruce Race's website (RaceStudio) has a lot of good information: .

What circumstances make a technique either effective or ineffective?

Architectural/design skills and solutions are preferred. Just as every community is unique, no two processes will be exactly the same. However, every community design effort goes through three general overall phases: a period of discovery, understanding the available options, and deciding how to make the preferred option a reality.

Credibility should be a primary objective of every community process. Credible community design and policy efforts do not happen by accident. Successful planning efforts are scripted and planned to assure that the community understands recommendations and policies. Such a process has three characteristics:

Inclusive . All citizens and special interests must have access to the planning discussion through outreach strategies that include all groups on all sides of critical issues.

Informed . Because values are intrinsically emotion laden, they must be discussed openly and directly. Factual information regarding central issues is critical.

Open and visible . Participants need to see their input documented and reflected in the outcome of the design process.

Are specific techniques more appropriate or effective at the general plan, specific plan, or project level?

The specific or district plan is the optimal level of focus.

Is it important to link different types of techniques together? If so, can you cite any examples of where this has been done?

As noted earlier, each situation is different and will, therefore, require different approaches, some linked and some not.

Are some techniques tailored more for central cities, first-ring suburbs, or small towns?

The techniques do not need to be different.

Consultant Interview: Debra Stein

President, GCA Strategies, San Francisco, California

What techniques seem to be particularly effective in getting a community to accept density?

The answer focuses on attitudinal shifting of likely density opponents rather than attitudinal or behavioral influencing of likely density supporters.

In order to identify the best techniques for shifting attitudes, what is actually causing antidensity attitudes must be evaluated. The primary reasons for opposition involve misperceptions, loss of face, and fears about who will occupy the higher-density units.

Opposition based on misperceptions . A tremendous amount of opposition to dense projects is based not on the actual projects themselves, but on misperceptions, exaggerated fears, or outright lack of data. Citizens have misperceptions about the project description ("What do you mean you're building 20 luxury condos... I heard you were building a bunch of Section 8 apartments!") or about project impacts ("I hear the school district will go bankrupt!"). Clear and credible data can effectively reduce opposition based on misperceptions.

One of the most damaging misperceptions about density is the erroneous belief that "everyone" is opposed to it. Because citizens are afraid of peer disapproval, people who privately support density may refrain from speaking up, or even change their position if they think that an antidensity attitude will put them on the side of the majority. House signs, public endorsements, and letters to the editor can help break the spiraling misperception that "everyone" is opposed to density.

Opposition based on loss of face. While it is important to provide data to avoid opposition based on misperceptions, it is equally important to recognize that public information can be experienced as inherently condescending. Public information sometimes starts from the humiliating perspective that crucial decisions have already been made without the audience's involvement, and the speaker has only a patronizing obligation to inform the public of those decisions after the fact. Public participation activities such as charrettes and public workshops are often designed to convey information in a face-saving way that avoids the condescension of typical public information tools like fact sheets and newsletters.

In addition to conveying information, public participation activities serve as a mechanism for the sponsor to convey respect. "After all, if I'm important and you didn't ask me my opinion, that means you don't respect me. Your proposal is therefore fundamentally flawed." Simply going through the respectful process of consultation can promote project acceptance, even if the project itself remains unchanged by public opinion.

Opposition based on occupancy. Dense projects often include homes that are less costly than single-family homes, and because their residents may earn less money than we do, people sometimes think that they will be undesirable neighbors.

For some people, this can translate into fears that higher-density project residents may be more likely to engage in antisocial behavior such as graffiti, drug dealing, or nonmaintenance of property. Interestingly, expectations of antisocial conduct are not necessarily based on whether project residents are poor in an absolute sense, but only whether they are relatively poorer than existing neighborhood residents. In a high-income neighborhood, for instance, residents of million-dollar homes may complain that owners of half-million-dollar homes will not fit into the community.

Addressing this type of opposition typically involves disproving the assumption that "poorer" residents are bad neighbors. Tactics for overcoming opposition based on occupancy include focusing on pro-social residents such as teachers or firefighters, or getting the local police chief to establish that comparable existing dense projects do not have antisocial residents or high crime rates.

What about the use of charrettes?

A charrette is a carefully managed, collaborative design process aimed at providing a proposal that reflects the input -- and, it is hoped, the approval -- of all participants. As helpful as community-based charrettes may be in developing good designs, charrettes are not a miraculous cure-all for unfounded feelings of entitlement and "not in my backyard (NIMBY)" problems. Before committing to a costly or lengthy charrette process, it is important to consider the following:

When all interested parties agree that they want a new town center, a new campus, or a new pedestrian mall, a charrette can be a useful tool to help shape a common vision. But when people are debating whether any change should occur, then the "leave it untouched" camp will rarely cooperate with the "pave it over" camp to formulate a new plan. Design charrettes, in other words, are not the best way to resolve whether a community wants change or wants to preserve the status quo.

Charrettes are effective only if the right people are sitting at the table. If key activists or public officials refuse to participate in the charrette or community representatives cannot deliver the concurrence of their constituents, then concessions made as part of a charrette may simply be the first step in the design process. It is possible that once nonparticipants get their hands on a proposal during public hearings, they will dismiss the collaborative design plan or view it as little more than the starting point for additional community negotiations.

People are more likely to devote their time to protecting the existing quality of their lives than they are to considering the benefits future development might bring. This is why charrettes may attract project opponents rather than project supporters.

Design charrettes are enjoyable for rational thinkers who like focusing on facts and evaluating the merits and demerits of different scenarios. Charrettes are also attractive to linear thinkers who appreciate the constant refinements and revisions of the design process.

By giving less intense, less vocal citizens a greater role in the planning process, charrettes can help disempower the squeakiest wheels in the community. However, the ultrademocratic design workshop may fail to meet the ego and emotional needs of self-designated community leaders who often feel that they deserve special attention or worry about justifying their leadership roles to their constituents.

While a ground-up community-oriented planning process can help define what type of development citizens would like to see in their community, the charrette is not an effective advocacy tool to generate support for a specific plan already in mind.

Even when participants end up adopting positive attitudes toward the charrette's ultimate design plan, a supportive attitude will not necessarily lead to supportive actions such as offering favorable testimony at public hearings.

Opposition to land-use projects can sometimes be resolved by making non-land-use concessions that do not involve compromising critical project elements. Charrettes often focus overly on design-related concessions and not enough on emotional concessions and the non-land-use resources of parties not actively participating in the charrette process.

In summary, charrettes can play an important role in the development process, but they cannot substitute for conventional community relations activities. When strenuous opposition threatens to derail a plan, a charrette can be just part of the ultimate public outreach solution.

Which communities and/or projects might serve as excellent case studies for our research?

The Santa Ynez project in San Mateo is a 44-unit very-low-income multifamily housing project in a community surrounded by upscale single-family homes. The district council member said that, since there were no low-income units within miles of the site, the project might well be creating a ghetto. Sponsors ended up gaining enormous support for the project by working with churches, running pre-leasing advertisements, and working with unions.

Can you identify any written and Web resources that provide good information on successful techniques?

Cialdini, Robert. Influence: The Science of Persuasion. New York: Quill, 1998.

Susskind, Lawrence. Dealing with an Angry Public. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

GCA Strategies:

International Association for Participation Professionals (IAP2):

Sprawl Busters:

Are specific techniques more appropriate or effective at the general plan, specific plan, or project level?

When you are talking about community outreach at the general plan stage, you are talking about shifting overall social attitudes about density, not promoting acceptance for a dense proposal at a particular site. Gaining social support for density, however, can materially increase the likelihood of an individual's later supporting a dense project in his or her own backyard.

Getting an initial small commitment from someone, and then moving to a larger request, can be an effective tactic. In Columbus, Ohio, for instance, a survey showed that, of those people who made an initial commitment that "we need to build more housing for homeless in the Columbus area," an astounding 83 percent went on to support or not oppose the idea of a homeless shelter in their own neighborhood.

Getting support for a conceptual general plan is often easier than gaining support for a detailed specific plan with obvious impacts. Having endorsed a prodensity general plan, a citizen will often want to maintain consistency with that endorsement. This makes it more likely that he or she will support a specific plan including higher density.

Getting citizen support for a general plan including higher density is not the only way to get an initial commitment. Convincing a citizen to post a tiny sign in their living room window saying, "I support housing!" might be enough. When social scientists at Stanford got local residents to put little signs in their living room windows reading "Be a Safe Driver," a whopping 76 percent of those homeowners went on to sign papers allowing the installation of massive front lawn signs saying "Drive Safely."

Consultant Interview: Matthew Taecker

Principal, Catalyst, San Francisco, California

What techniques seem to be particularly effective in getting a community to accept density?

What is critical is to establish trust among the participants, professional staff and officials, consultants, and the developer.

A major task is to identify what people really want to see as a result of the plan or development. Brainstorming within the context of a workshop can be effective in getting people to identify the range of issues.

Land-use games can be effective in getting participants to address the pros and cons of alternatives and identify tradeoffs. A game can be simple, with a base map, identified opportunity sites, and game pieces (or icons) that illustrate development alternatives. With six to eight persons representing a mix of interests as "players," participants first come to their own conclusions and then share them within the group. Later, if the game is used as part of a larger workshop, each group can report out what it learned to the whole workshop. The use of games can be effective both for public planning processes and with owners of larger pieces of land (who want to explore a variety of development scenarios).

Presentations of visual alternatives that show good development prototypes can be effective in engaging people in discussion of what types of results are most desired. The visual alternatives need to be quality developments, preferably on sites from within an area that people can identify with.

Charrettes can be effective in generating ideas in a concentrated time period. One problem is achieving staying power for the results. Charrettes need to have a follow-up process to reinforce the initial vision.

What are good written and Web resources regarding description of information on techniques?

For more information about charrettes, contact the Charrette Institute (Bill Lennertz at (503) 228-9240)

For community visioning, Professor Dayana Salazar at San José State University is a good resource. A PowerPoint presentation by Matthew Taecker and Professor Salazar stressed the following:

Cross-functional governmental teams. Involving a broad cross-section of governmental expertise is important in raising issues for an area. Sometimes nontraditional departments, from a land-use planning and development perspective, have important insights.

Taking time. Processes that involve people take time. Trying to rush the process cuts people off and significantly reduces likely productivity. Often time is needed not only to identify issues but to allow people to get to know each other and build a level of trust sufficient for them to effectively interact.

Cultivate grassroots leadership. Local leaders will emerge from an effective process. Local leaders also build in community memory of a visioning/planning process.

Meaningful decisions. People need to make decisions that are important and reflect choices among a variety of options.

Prioritization of needs/desires linked to specific actions and funding. It is important to take the time needed to sort out, get additional information, and refine definitions of actions. Implementation is critical, and getting that right is a key result. When dealing with a community situation that has a variety of possible public benefits, take the time to obtain sufficient information to clarify priorities and identify the timing of and roadblocks to implementing what the public concludes are irsmost important outcomes.

How would you describe the circumstances that make a technique effective or not effective?

There are two key ingredients: First, take enough time; second, involve a broad spectrum of people. Trying to rush a result to meet a pre-established deadline sends the wrong message to the public about the importance of their involvement. Processes benefit from having a wide range of community ideas and opinions. Conversely, not having an important constituency involved can undermine the entire process. A good public involvement process does not take the chance that a significant player can arrive at the end and say they were never given the chance to participate.

Is it important to distinguish between which techniques are best used in inner cities, first-ring suburbs, outer suburbs, and small towns?

Not really. The same types of processes tend to be applicable to different geographical locations.

Can you identify communities that have had success in approving plans and projects that notably increase density?

Five Wounds Church area in San Jose. Development of a specific neighborhood improvement plan that had extensive public involvement. Process addressed both longer-term land-use issues and near-term public improvement objectives.

Prototype site planning process for Portland (done with Peter Calthorpe).

The Catalyst profile (online) has information on four plans in Petaluma.

Catalyst also worked on an area plan for a portion of the City of Calistoga.

Exploratory Research on Potential Case Studies

This appendix summarizes initial research on potential case studies. Sanhita Mallick undertook the research under the direction of Professor Dayana Salazar, Acting Chair, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, San José State University.

Four of the initially identified projects became case studies (Brea, Hercules, Milpitas, and Pasadena). The principal investigator and research associates reviewed and discussed the projects summarized in this appendix, then chose four more projects (Reedley, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose) as case studies. The eight case studies are described in detail in See Case Studies.

Projects in Northern California

Downtown Precise Plan (2001 Amendment), Mountain View

Type of Project: Mixed use

Density: 6 to 30 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? No

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Facilitated consensus building, use of presentation software (MS PowerPoint), and hand-renderings

The City of Mountain View adopted the Downtown Precise Plan in 1988 and has since approved many area-specific projects under this plan. The Downtown Precise Plan was amended in part in 2001. All the specific projects entailed community involvement. According to Lynnie Melena of the Mountain View Community Development Department, the project that had the most community involvement was the 2001 Amendment of the Precise Plan. Al Savay of Mountain View, who is in charge of updating the rest of the Downtown Precise Plan, provided the information presented in the following paragraphs.

The Mountain View Downtown Precise Plan has 10 subareas. Seven of the subarea plans (Subareas A to G) were updated in 2001. These areas are located in between the central retail area of the downtown and the surrounding residential neighborhoods, creating a transition zone between these two uses. The updating process began in 1999. A joint committee was formed, consisting of the city's environment planning commission and a downtown committee of 14 people appointed by the council (business owners, members of chamber of commerce, and so on). This joint committee started developing a vision for the area.

City planning staff guided the process. Planning staff met separately with different groups (stakeholders) such as neighborhood associations, members of the chamber of commerce, business owners, and the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association (representing the neighborhoods around downtown). Feedback obtained in stakeholder meetings was taken back to the joint committee for refining a proposal. Consultants conducted special studies of different aspects of the downtown area. These studies were used by the joint committee for reference.

The constituent groups of the joint committee held several working meetings and public meetings (either jointly or separately) and came up with a final report to be presented to the city council. A community meeting was held before the final hearing at the city council, and the plan was adopted by the council after a public hearing.

The project did not encounter significant opposition from the residents. Suggestions presented by residents were incorporated into the plan wherever possible; thus, the outcome was shaped at least in part by public input.

The city hired a facilitator specializing in consensus-building to conduct the meetings. During the large public meeting, participants were first split into smaller groups and then joined again as a large group. Projects were presented using PowerPoint software printouts and hand drawings. Sixty people attended the large community meeting; the small group meetings were attended by seven or eight people on average.

Project details: .

The Integrated TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) projects of Mountain View proposed higher densities and involved community participation. According to Melena, the Whisman Station Precise Plan met opposition mainly from the city council. Some council members were concerned about adding more rental housing (which is usually higher density) because Mountain View already has 66 percent rental housing. As a result, the project was modified to ownership-only units at lower densities than originally proposed. The strongest neighborhood opposition was received for the Evelyn Corridor Precise Plan from the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association. More information about these projects is available at:

Details of the Evelyn Corridor Precise Plan are available at:

Contacts: Lynnie Melena
Tel: (650) 903-6466, E-mail:

Al Savay, City Planner, Mountain View
Tel: (650) 903-6104, E-mail:

General Plan Amendment 2002, Fairfield

Type of Project: General Plan update

Density: 2.5 to 32 units per acre

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes (in limited fields)

Citizen participation techniques used: Public meetings

An update to the General Plan for the City of Fairfield was adopted in June 2002. The main changes in the updated plan were to pull back housing and other development from near the Travis Air Force Base and change the land-use designation of eight specific areas in the city.

According to city staff, this project followed a top-down approach. The city council started with a predetermined objective: to stop development near the Air Force base and to stop sprawl. During the first half of 2000, three study sessions were held to develop a vision. Many residents of Fairfield attended these study sessions. On the basis of this analysis, city staff developed a plan in six months.

Twelve public meetings were held during the next year for the preparation of the EIR. The first seven meetings were held to elicit input on the potential impacts of the proposed plan; the last five meetings were to present the draft EIR and to answer questions from the public. Attendance at these meetings ranged from 20 to 75. The plan was finally adopted at a city council hearing.

Details of General Plan:

A press release calling for a public meeting:

Contact: David Feinstein, Associate Planner, City of Fairfield
Tel: (707) 428-7448, E-mail:

Compact Development in Berkeley

Type of Project: Mixed use

Did higher densities generate community opposition? No

The Berkeley Downtown Plan 1990 put forward a set of objectives and policies to achieve higher-density mixed-use development in the downtown area. Since then, 20 higher-density buildings (with densities between 100 and 200 units per acre) have been approved or built in Berkeley. Examples include University Lofts, The Berkeleyan, GAIA Building, Darling Flower Shop, Shattuck Lofts, 2517 Sacramento Street, Artech Building, Acton Building, 1797 Shattuck Street, and Jubilee Courtyard Apartments.

Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests is known for his compact development projects in Berkeley. Many of the projects listed above were developed by Panoramic Interests. Arguably the most notable of the projects is the GAIA Building of Berkeley. It houses the GAIA Cultural Center and 91 units of accessible/adaptable rental housing in the heart of downtown Berkeley. Twenty percent of the units have been reserved for low-income tenants. The architecture echoes the Mediterranean Renaissance style of the Shattuck Hotel.

Contacts: Patrick Kennedy, Panoramic Interests
Tel: (510) 883-1000, E-mail:

Mark A. Rhoades, City of Berkeley
Tel (510) 981-7410, E-mail:

Project details:

Downtown El Sobrante Transportation--Land Use Plan

Type of Project: Mixed use

Density: 20 to 25 units per acre

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Facilitated public meetings and visual simulation

This is a downtown revitalization project in an unincorporated area of Contra Costa County. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved the plan on January 15, 2002. The plan is based on the results of an earlier study by UC Berkeley titled "El Sobrante Visioning Workshop," conducted in January and February 2000, with guidance from the Project Steering Committee. Additional input was provided by the 94803 Task Force and the general public through a series of community meetings in 2000. The project received a $50,000 grant from MTC under its "Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC)" program. According to TLC Project Manager Ashley Nguyen, this project has involved extensive community participation. It resulted in a proposal for a mixed-use development of 20 to 25 units per acre.

The key person behind the community participation process was John Greitzer of the Contra Costa County Community Development Department. According to Mr. Greitzer, the outcome of the project was influenced by public input. The county developed four alternatives that were shown to the community. The community was more favorably inclined toward two of these plans. These were refined and again presented to the community. Visual simulation techniques developed by Ove Arup Associates were used for presenting the plan. Project outreach and education incorporated traditional methods (mailings, flyers) and a website.

Project details:

Contact: John Greitzer, Community Development Dept., Contra Costa County
Tel: (925) 335-1201, E-mail:

Downtown Development in Walnut Creek

Type of Project: Residential

Density: 12 to 100 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

The City of Walnut Creek has intensified development in the downtown significantly through the use of specific plans, some of which were adopted almost 20 years ago. The specific plans have provided guidance to developers regarding the desired development and were approved with EIRs that allowed subsequent development consistent with the plan (avoiding additional extensive environmental analysis). The adoption of these plans included public input, but because of the location of this development in the downtown core area, most input originated from the property owners and the business community rather than from residents. For instance, the Alma Avenue Specific Plan proposed residential uses with densities of 50 to 100 units per acre. This area, however, is separated from existing low-density residential neighborhoods by a freeway, and the proposal did not generate much public input or opposition.

Some parts of the downtown have had issues with higher-density housing. For instance, in the Overlook Area near the BART station, proposals to acquire property and incorporate single-family housing at twice the existing density of surrounding areas have faced opposition from residents who are concerned about traffic, impacts on schools, and lower property values. The developers have worked with the neighbors, and a few projects have been approved in the area.

A recent proposal to rezone some commercial land for residential use has created some community opposition in the Citrus Circle area. The proposal involved the conversion of a business park into higher-density housing (12 units per acre). Residential areas with densities of 4 units per acre already exist around the business park. The city is working with the residents on this issue, and the project is going through study sessions.

Contact: Janice Stern, Senior Planner, Community Development Dept., City of Walnut Creek
Tel: (925) 943-5899 x. 213, E-mail:

800 High Street, Palo Alto

Type of Project: Residential

Density: 60 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

The project involves 60 condominiums with 10 below-market-rate (BMR) units on a 1-acre parcel in downtown Palo Alto. The density meets Comprehensive Plan goals for higher-density housing near transit-oriented locations. The density is higher than the existing highest density in Palo Alto (40 units per acre). The project was approved in February 2003. Opponents placed the project on the ballot in November, and voters approved it.

Details of the project:

Contact: Steven Turner, City of Palo Alto
Tel: (650) 329-2441, E-mail:

Taylor Towers, San Jose

Type of Project: Mixed use

Density: 142 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

The project involves up to 400 attached residential units and 7,000 square feet of commercial space in four towers on a 2.80-gross-acre site. The towers are up to 150 feet in height. The site is a block south of the Civic Center and three blocks west of the Japantown Business District.

The project fronts onto the Guadalupe Transit-Oriented Development Corridor. The Guadalupe Corridor is part of a multimodal transportation system that combines light rail with a freeway and incorporates bicycle lanes along portions of its right of way. The project would be the first high-rise, transit-oriented residential development since completion of the Guadalupe Corridor light-rail line. The project is separated from the lower-density residential neighborhoods to the east and south by two major streets.

The developer held several community meetings hosted by the local council district office. Community members who attended the meetings raised concerns with the project height, density, traffic, parking, and shading.

Contact: Akoni Danielsen, Department of Planning, City of San Jose

Joe Horwedell, Department of Planning, City of San Jose
Tel: (408) 277-4576

Developer: Jessie Hall, Barry Swenson Builder
675 North First Street, 5th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112
Tel: (408) 287-0246

Comments: Laurel Prevetti mentioned that San Jose uses specific plans as tools for gaining community acceptance for a project. She also said that density alone is generally not the issue; residents are concerned with the visual and other environmental effects of a dense project. She suggested that well-designed architectural form and amenities such as traffic and noise control are the best tools for defusing public opposition. For communicating the architectural form, visual aids of different types (particularly 3-D views, either hand rendered or computer simulated) are used; maps and data are used for communicating other issues, such as traffic diagrams.

Los Gatos Gateway, Los Gatos

Type of Project: Mixed use

Los Gatos Gateway is a transit-oriented, mixed-use development on the periphery of the town of Los Gatos, east of State Freeway 85 and south of Winchester Boulevard. It consists of two commercial buildings of two and three stories, each with 164,000 square feet of space, and one residential building with 105 high-quality apartments. The project is in close proximity to retail, offices, and other services, including bus service and a future light-rail station. Los Gatos Gateway will provide 21 affordable and 84 market-rate apartments in accordance with Los Gatos' below market rate housing ordinance.

According to Janet Stone, the developer mobilized significant, diversified support for the project, from neighbors and local businesses to regional agencies and other organizations with credibility and clout. These efforts, plus other strategies to get support from decisionmakers, resulted in turning around the opinions of both the planning commission and city council.

Contacts: Tim Steele, Sobrato Development Company
Tel: (408) 446-0700 Ext. 133

Erick Morley, Morley Hunter Group
Tel: (408) 293-7680

General Plan Update 2001, Davis

Type of Project: General Plan update

Density: 3 to 30 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

The City of Davis updated its General Plan in 2001. In the updated plan, the density ranges from three to thirty units per acre. The density is evenly distributed throughout the city, so that very-high- or very-low-density developments are not limited to a few segregated clusters. Also, the city did not raise density radically. The biggest increase was from gross 18.8 units per acre (including a 25 percent affordable housing density bonus) to gross 25 units per acre inclusive of density bonus.

The General Plan Update went through a public participation process. The process began in 1993 with community workshops and conferences soliciting input from residents. In 1995, the city appointed 215 people in 14 committees to develop visions, goals, policies, and actions for the General Plan Update. The Administrative Draft General Plan was reviewed by city staff, and a Public Review Draft was produced. This draft was reviewed in public meetings for two years. Four hundred residents were surveyed by telephone during the review period. Finally, an EIR was prepared, and the update was adopted in May 2001.

According to city staff, there was limited concern about density. The city provided illustrations of different densities and density levels needed to support transit. It provided lists of the densities of existing projects and photos of different densities, and discussed the reasons for density in staff reports. The city showed that there were many existing apartment complexes within or above the higher-density range. Many residents saw that densities were part of an overall plan that minimized peripheral development and focused on infill. At the low end, the community did not want large-lot residential (1 to 2 units per acre) and saw 3 units per acre as the lowest density possible. According to city staff, affordable housing seemed to be the most accepted reason for higher density.

Details of Project:

Contact: Bob Wolcott, Planning Department, City of Davis

Olive Drive Apartments, Davis

Type of Project: Residential

Density: 14 to 20 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Community meetings and public hearings

The project involves 122 market-rate housing units, 45 affordable housing units, and 3,500 square feet of commercial uses on an 8-acre parcel close to the University of California, Davis. Land uses in the surrounding area include a mobile home park, a trailer park, and commercial facilities. All these surrounding uses are single-story buildings. The proposed development is three stories high. The occupancy of the market-rate housing is projected to be 622 persons. Because of its proximity to the university campus, it is expected that most of the renters will be students.

The project faced opposition from the residents of the mobile home and trailer parks on the basis of concerns about higher density and traffic impacts. Residents thought that the development was out of scale and was not consistent with the physical character of the neighborhood. They also complained about the traffic the project would generate. The project has incorporated several traffic calming and car management measures, including additional bike paths and high-speed Internet connections to facilitate telecommuting.

There were six community meetings and three public hearings. The traffic analysis report and the project itself were modified several times during the public involvement process.

According to Mr. Hiatt, the underlying reason for community opposition was fear of gentrification. He believes that they should have started the public involvement process earlier, instead of designing the project and presenting it to the residents. He points out that if citizens are involved early in the process, they have a sense of ownership about the project, which sets a different tone.

The planning and building department was in charge of facilitating the public participation for this project. Mr. Hiatt was the project planner and coordinated most of the meetings. The developer and their architect/urban planner (Mogavero-Notestine Associates) facilitated many of the meetings (depending on the context).

Project details:

Contacts: Ken Hiatt, Redevelopment Project Manager, City of Davis
Tel: 530-757-5610, E-mail:

Milpitas Midtown Specific Plan

Type of Project: Specific Plan

Density: 20 to 60 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Tours of housing projects in the Bay Area, 3-D renderings

The plan provides a vision for revitalizing 942 acres of underutilized industrial land with pedestrian- and transit-oriented mixed-use development. This higher-density development (20 to 60 dwelling units per acre) minimizes parking in the transit hub and allows for bicycle transit. It includes a mixture of affordable housing and market-rate housing, and provides multiuse urban open space by establishing a pedestrian-oriented district along Main and Abel Streets near Great Mall Parkway.

The planning process was community driven and facilitated by EDAW. Ten workshops and public meetings were held to educate the public and gather their input. Tours of housing projects throughout the Bay Area were offered to the residents. Site-specific illustrative and perspective diagrams were used to explain the relationship between density and building types. The process was designed to help the residents understand the realities of dense development.

Contacts: Tambri Heyden, Planning Manager
Tel: (408) 586-3280

James Lendzey, Project Manager
Tel: (408) 586-3274

Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Development, Pleasant Hill

Type of Project: Mixed use

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Charrettes

This project involved development of the BART-owned area around the Pleasant Hill BART station. A six-day charrette was conducted in 2001 to gather community input on different issues. The charrette focused on developing a master plan based on the framework provided by the Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan. Issues discussed in the charrette included future development on the BART property, traffic control and structured parking in and around the BART station, services and facilities for area residents, and specific building plans (including three- to twelve-story buildings -- offices, housing, mixed-use, and eventually a hotel). The charrette was conducted by LCA Town Planning and Architecture LLC. This charrette included persons potentially affected by new development around the BART station: neighborhood residents, BART users, local business owners, government agencies, community leaders, and activists.

A multidisciplinary team of professional consultants was involved in the project. They included Peter Katz, author and New Urbanism consultant; Fehr & Peers Associates, transportation planners; Nelson/Nygard, transit consultants; CSG Advisors, Inc., leasing specialists; Communities By Design, community outreach consultants; Strategic Economics, urban economic development consultants; and Ove Arup, bridge design/engineering.

Contact: Jim Kennedy, Community Development Director, Contra Costa County
Tel: (925) 335-1250, E-mail:

LCA Town Planning and Architecture LLC
321 SW 4th Street, Suite 800, Portland, Oregon
Tel: (503) 228-9240

Details of charrette available at:

Comprehensive Land-Use Plan for Town Center, Hercules

Type of Project: Mixed use

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Charrettes

The town of Hercules was a low-density bedroom community without a downtown or main street. A comprehensive land-use planning effort for the town center of Hercules was taken up by the Redevelopment Agency for developing a new town center on a 426-acre site in the middle of the town. The site was formerly used by a dynamite factory.

With guidance from Dover Kohl and Partners, the planning process began in the late 1990s. The process was headed by a steering committee. The committee worked for five months to prepare for a community design charrette. The charrette was held for 10 days, and the outcome was a Town Center Plan and a typological urban design code.

The plan divided the 426-acre site into four quarters, including a transit-oriented development adjacent to the town center. Housing in these quarters will include single-family units, multifamily units, live-work units, and townhomes. Implementation of the plan is in progress.

Details of the project are available at

Contact: Steve Lawton, Community Development Director
Tel: (510) 799 -8233

Projects in Southern California

Downtown Revitalization Plan, Brea

Type of Project: Mixed use

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Charrettes and community workshops

At the time of incorporation in 1917, the City of Brea was a small town with a small downtown. In the 1970s, as the urban landscape changed and regional malls were developed, the downtown lost its place as "Main Street." The city council recognized the impact of this loss, and committed to redevelop the downtown and reestablish its role as the heart of the City of Brea.

The redevelopment process began in 1987 with a downtown charrette. Business owners and residents of the surrounding areas took part in the charrette and developed a vision to guide the area plan. Since then, the redevelopment agency and the city council have worked vigorously to develop the actual plan. The council has met frequently with small groups of residents or business people, including members of organizations like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, and the Chamber of Commerce. In 1996, the city decided to follow up with a minicharrette to reconfirm the vision originally developed a decade before. Subsequent public hearings were held to refine the plan. Finally, there was a community workshop in which details of the plan were discussed.

The project faced some opposition from citizens who liked the existing downtown for its small-town feel, but now that the project has been built, opponents' opinions are gradually changing.

Contact: David Crabtree, City Planner, City of Brea

Details of project:


Paseo Colorado, Pasadena

Type of Project: Mixed use

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Community meetings

The project involved redevelopment of an old suburban-style mall into a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use project with approximately 500,000 square feet of retail/commercial use and 300 residential apartment units. The site was 14.9 acres, encompassing three city blocks. The project required approval of an EIR and amendments to the Civic Center Specific Plan.

Approximately 60 meetings were conducted, including numerous meetings with community groups. According to Karen Balchunas, a staff member of the Redevelopment Agency, "all these meetings were so successful that the project was approved unanimously by both the Planning Commission and City Council/Community Development Commission."

Contacts: Karen Balchunas, Redevelopment Agency, City of Pasadena

Bill Trimble, Planning Division , City of Pasadena

Projects in the Central Valley

Silver Bend Housing, Bowman

Type of Project: Residential

Density: 12 units per acre

The project is located in an unincorporated area of Placer County just outside Auburn. It includes 72 units of affordable housing on 6.09 acres. The property is surrounded by single-family housing neighborhoods on two sides and the parking lot of a shopping center on another side. The project met fierce opposition from the neighbors. However, a mitigated negative declaration was prepared for the project, and in January 2001, the developer was issued a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) with 55 conditions.

Two residents and an organization called Residents Against Inconsistent Development (RAID) challenged the CUP on several grounds, the chief one being the lack of an EIR. After a public hearing in March 2002, the Planning Commission upheld their previous decision; the city and the developer faced a lawsuit.

Contact: Charlene Daniels, Planner, Placer County
Tel: (530) 889-7470

Bill Spann, Developer, Affordable Housing Development Corp. Inc.
3128 Willow Ave., Suite 101, Clovis, CA 93612, Tel: (559) 929-2912, ext. 99
195 Pine St., Auburn, CA 95603, Tel: (530) 888-7111

Terry Davis, Conservation Coordinator, Mother Lode Chapter Sierra Club
Tel: (916) 557-1100 Ext. 108, E-mail:

Comment: There has been extensive citizen participation. This could be an example of a project where the consensus-building process failed, or is, at best, a work in progress.

Metro Square, Sacramento

Type of Project: Residential (single-family detached)

Density: 18 units per acre (lower density than allowed by zoning)

Did higher densities generate community opposition? No

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Public information meetings

Metro Square consists of 45 two- and three-bedroom single-family homes with a density of 18 homes per acre. The project was processed in 1996 and completed in 1999. At the time, Sacramento was trying to increase the percentage of home ownership in the central city (the existing rate was a low 15 percent). However, the parcel had received previous approval for higher-density apartments, and the proposed medium-density housing was a less intensive use of the land. The developer conducted a series of public information meetings, but since it was a less intensive use than the previously approved project and others that had been proposed, the neighborhood groups were generally supportive.

Contact: Michael York, Junior Planner (Central Team) Planning Division, City of Sacramento
Tel: (916) 264 -8239

Bill Heartman, Developer
Sarea Regis Group of Northern California, Regis Homes of Northern California, Inc.
Tel: (916) 929-3193 Ext. 18

Islands of Riverlakes Project, Sacramento

Type of Project: Residential (single-family detached)

Density: 8 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? Yes

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: Community meetings, visualization software (Digitally Accurate Reproduction), websites used for input and distribution of information

Islands of Riverlakes involved the development of a single undeveloped parcel situated in an upscale master-planned community. In 2001, 164 detached single-family houses were proposed on a 20-acre parcel. The city's general plan allows eight units per acre, while the community plan allows up to fifteen units per acre on this parcel. The project met opposition from the residents, who did not want less expensive homes to be built in their community.

The existing community of Riverlake is a master-planned community of 1,500 units located near Highway 5 in the Greenhaven/Pocket area of Sacramento. It consists of primarily single-family detached units on lots varying from 5,000 square feet to a third of an acre. The project was built in late 1980s and early 1990s.

The developer worked with the Home Owners Association (HOA) members and other residents in four community meetings and seventeen workshops during the past two years. Details of the meetings are available at:

The design of the project was changed to some extent to incorporate public input. Finally, the board members sent a conditional approval letter to the city ( ). The project was scheduled to be presented to the city council again in May 2003.

The developer hired consultants to develop a virtual simulation of their design using Digitally Accurate Reproduction (DAR). The HOA board members played an active role in the process. They used a website to keep in touch with residents and collect their feedback.

For the first two years, the developer and the architect managed all public participation. The Riverlake Community Homeowners Association Board of Directors helped to coordinate the community outreach. After the denial at the planning commission, but before the developer's appeal to the city council was heard at the full council, the district councilperson stepped in to coordinate and facilitate the small and general community meetings. The developer hired a land-use attorney at this stage because the opposition had raised some technical and legal issues.

According to Mr. Heartman, the city planning staff had limited involvement with the community outreach prior to the planning commission hearing, but they have been included in virtually all meetings with the community since the district councilperson became involved.

Contacts: Bill Heartman
Sares Regis Group of Northern California, Regis Homes of Northern California, Inc.
Tel: (916) 929-3193 Ext. 18, E-mail:

Architect: John Packowski, Packowski Heinritz Associated
Tel: (916) 554-6411, E-mail:

Comments: According to the developer, the residents did not directly mention the issue of density. The issue that was most important in community meetings was the design and aesthetics of the buildings.

Yuba City Infill Development

Type of Project: Specific Plan

Density: More than 12 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? No

Was community input solicited and incorporated? Yes

Citizen participation techniques used: Standard public notices, public hearings, and meetings with citizens' committees

The Downtown Specific Plan of Yuba City was developed 11 years ago, with an office district and housing with density of more than 12 units per acre. Public participation included notification to the property owners and discussions with citizens' committees. Most of the participation happened through public hearings.

Contact: Dennis Cook, Community Development Director, Yuba City
Tel: (530) 822-4703, E-mail:

Comments: A specific plan for an area that the city annexed in 2000 is now going through the public hearing process. The Harter Specific Plan covers the redevelopment of the 180-acre site of the Harter Cannery. The project involves a 68-acre business park, commercial space, and about 42 acres of single- and multifamily homes. Bike trails and a 5-acre park are included in the plan. The plan has encountered community opposition on the basis of traffic, noise, and the destruction of a historic building.

Doe Mill Neighborhood, Chico

Type of Project: Residential

Density: 8.4 units per acre

Did higher densities generate community opposition? No

Was community input solicited and incorporated? No

Visualization software and citizen participation techniques used: None

Doe Mill is a traditional neighborhood development on a 48-acre site within the city limits of Chico, in north central California. The development involves more than 300 homes, including single-family residences, courtyard units, and four-, five-, and six-plex flats, all within walking distance of a small commercial town center. The first phase, encompassing 21 acres, has a gross density of 8.4 units per acre, which is more than double that of nearby subdivisions.

The project approved in 2000 was a modification of a previously approved planned development. The earlier project was similar in several ways, with narrow streets and small lots. There was significant public input in the previous approval; however, this was part of a larger project that included a fairly controversial Environmental Impact Report. Chico always uses legal notices soliciting public comment, but in this instance, there were no specific public workshops, charrettes, and so on inviting public participation in the early phases of project design. Because Doe Mill was approved as a modification, there was no need to build community support for this specific project. According to city staff, there was almost no public comment at the planning commission hearing when it was approved.

Contact: Tom Hayes, Senior Planner, City of Chico
Tel: (530) 895-4853, E-mail:

Project details:

Comments: The new general plan adopted in 1994 for Chico emphasizes principles such as compact urban form, achieving a target average overall density of 7 units per acre (up from 5.4 units per acre), and developing neighborhoods that support multimodal transportation. Density was an issue during the general plan adoption process.

Details of general plan:

Case Studies

Introduction and Summary

Eight California planning efforts aimed at addressing community fears and resistance to densification in a variety of settings have been examined as part of this study. These cases include three aimed at central area revitalization, one that focuses on neighborhood revitalization, one that addresses establishing more compact future development on the fringe of a small but rapidly growing community, two comprehensive planning strategies for large cities, and one regionwide initiative aimed at creating a more compact pattern of development. Detailed descriptions of each case study are provided in this appendix.

The case studies examined were:

City of Brea -- Downtown Revitalization

City of Hercules -- Central District Plan

City of Milpitas -- Midtown Specific Plan

City of Pasadena -- General Plan Revision

City of Reedley -- Specific Plan

Sacramento Area Council of Governments -- Blueprint Project

City of San Diego -- A City of Villages Strategic Framework, General Plan

City of San Jose -- Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan

The following information summarizes the original planning objectives, discusses similarities and differences in approaches, identifies critical challenges faced during the process, and discusses accomplishments and disappointments. The remainder of this appendix discusses the case studies in detail.

Original Planning Objectives

Leaders in case study jurisdictions indicated that they initiated these community-based planning efforts to effectively address some fairly intractable issues at the neighborhood, community, or regional level. The overall objective was to explore plans and development that would lead to enhanced mobility, greater social interaction, and relief from the pressure to develop on outlying open spaces, as well as outcomes that would be more environmentally responsible and sustainable. The following objectives, which often overlap, were identified as high prioroties by case study policymakers and staff.

Encourage future growth near transit, commercial centers, and downtown. Policymakers from large city and regional case studies determined that the pattern of land use that was needed to respond effectively to future growth pressure should be altered. They believed it was critical to take advantage of existing and new fixed and light-rail transit systems to reduce future mobility challenges and accommodate growth in a more cost-effective manner.

Create a well-defined town center. Policymakers in several case study communities identified a need for action to address the lack of, and importance of, a well-defined town center. This was buttressed by the desire not only to create a sense of place, but also to generate needed revenue for the community. Local policymakers and staff determined that programs aimed at revitalizing downtown businesses or old industrial land in or near the heart of the city should also encourage new housing. The costs and liabilities associated with the reuse of vacant and underused brownfield (contaminated) sites was an additional objective in some case studies. Because the changes in these areas were more than cosmetic, and could lead to a rather dramatic alteration in the type and scale of development, it was determined that support for these changes needed to come not only from the immediate property owners and merchants, but also from the larger community.

Revitalize neighborhoods. The primary objective of one case study was the need to divert the city's focus and resources away from the downtown and into neighborhoods. As a result, an objective was developed to listen to residents' ideas for neighborhood improvement, connect neighborhoods to resources, and respond to neighborhood priorities.

Create more compact patterns of use in developing areas. In one case study, policymakers determined that if future housing development planned on the perimeter of the community continued at current densities, a significant amount of farmland would be affected. Policymakers therefore initiated a planning program with an objective of reducing future single-family lot size to mitigate some of future growth impact on farmland.

Types of Approaches

Although all approaches used in the case studies gave priority to community participation, some relied totally on a steering committee, backed up by task forces on specific topics. Steering committees ranged in size from 15 to 30 members, and all represented a diverse cross-section of key stakeholders.

The lead agency for nearly all case studies relied on a set of guiding principles to help provide organizing concepts and/or identify priority issues in the community participation effort.

Many of the case studies used redevelopment tax increments to support the development of the plans and some of the public infrastructure improvements called for in these plans.

One case study relied on a broad-based community survey to provide input into the decision-making process. This information was used to help sort out priority issues.

Only one case study relied on outside professional facilitation to support community participation. However, a number of studies depended on planning consultants and/or city staff for that purpose.

Critical Challenges Faced During the Process

The case studies investigated for this project ran into certain issues that altered or constrained outcomes in the planning process. The following issues were common:

Lack of trust. Issues relating to lack of trust frequently blocked progress in achieving agreement. Some of this distrust was directed at city government, based on perceptions of ineffective or heavy-handed use of past redevelopment authority, including the acquisition of property through the eminent domain process and financially subsidizing new commercial and residential development. Other examples of distrust in large city community-based planning efforts occurred between community residents and business groups, and between white neighborhood groups and those of minority populations.

Increased traffic. Traffic congestion that would or could occur as a result of higher-density development was frequently used to question or oppose increased density. Although it appeared that the public understood and supported the mobility benefits of transit-centered plans and projects, support for higher-density development within already congested neighborhoods and communities posed a significant challenge.

A different character of development. There was some resistance to proposals for land uses and development that were of a different scale from the existing community. This fear of change and preference for the status quo related to things like small-lot single-family development, mixed land uses, and higher-density multifamily housing. In one case study, the untested marketability and economic feasibility of new types of products led to opposition from the development community.

Overburdened infrastructure. The need to provide new facilities and services in areas impacted by higher-density plans and projects was a challenge faced in many case studies. Given the current financial constraints faced by local governments, the need to address overburdened infrastructure in general frequently was an issue.

Accomplishments and Disappointments

The case studies achieved community support for the establishment of higher-density and mixed-use planning and zoning policies and regulations. Several case studies produced economic and housing benefits and community pride, led to support for local redevelopment implementation, and guided the construction of low- and moderate-income housing and needed infrastructure in conjunction with new higher-density plans and projects. All case studies established a base of citizen understanding and clearly defined community objectives.

Although an extensive broad-based outreach effort was important in engaging and attracting broad citizen participation, it did not always overcome the public's lack of trust in government, nor did it always result in the intensity of development conceptualized and thought to be appropriate by some. The lack of significant infrastructure funding stifled some of the planning and development concepts.


Project Description and Development Program

The City of Brea, with approximately 35,000 people, is located in northern Orange County, about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Originally a reasonably self-contained community focused on oil extraction, Brea became part of the larger Los Angeles suburban environment, especially after completion of the Orange Freeway (Route 57) in the early 1970s. Most of Brea's housing was constructed before 1980. In the 1970s and 1980s, the community's economic base evolved to include industries other than oil, as well as white-collar employers such as insurance, banking, and back-office operations. Development of a mall in the 1970s led to the decline of Brea's traditional downtown. A residential area adjacent to downtown also declined. By the early 1990s, Brea was the location for approximately 100,000 jobs.

Formation of a redevelopment agency in 1985 led to acquisition of blighted commercial and residential properties in and adjacent to the downtown; however, an acceptable downtown redevelopment plan was not adopted. Because of the perceived lack of progress, a vision and plan for the redevelopment area began in the late 1980s. Requirements to use some redevelopment funds for housing resulted in merging the downtown housing and commercial planning issues. This led to two related efforts: Downtown Revitalization and the Housing Breans campaign.

The initial Downtown Revitalization community outreach effort was a downtown charrette held in October 1989. The charrette was an outgrowth of the Brea Project, a city council-initiated effort to have citizens evaluate the city's performance. The charrette led to a vision for downtown that is the basis for current redevelopment efforts. The Housing Breans campaign started in 1993, as both a supplement to downtown revitalization and a broader community effort to create primarily low- and moderate-income housing.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Has impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Uses public financial resources applied to mitigation.

Represents a project in Southern California.

Deals with managing infill in a suburban community.

The Role of Density in the Project

Downtown Revitalization focused on creating a new commercial core for the community. New development includes:

400,000 square feet of stores and restaurants;

A theater with 22 movie screens;

198 residential units;

1,750 parking spaces in two parking structures; and

New public facilities, including a police annex and a future downtown fire station.

The new downtown resulted, in part, from the widening of Brea Boulevard (which had served as Brea's main street), and it is located on Birch Street starting at Brea Boulevard.

Downtown area new housing includes 62 one-bedroom units located over commercial space (with 33 units dedicated for low- to moderate-income households) and 40 townhomes. The total new downtown low- and moderate-income housing is about two-and-a-half times the number of affordable units that were demolished by the city as part of redevelopment.

The Housing Breans campaign led to an ongoing city housing program that has assisted in creating more than 500 low- and moderate-income housing units.

Brea had traditional suburban densities, but the Downtown Revitalization project resulted in a higher-density mixed commercial and residential use project beyond the scale of conventional downtown planning approaches used in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Creation of housing outside the downtown has involved some densities higher than in nearby areas, including the recent approval of 68 units at a density of 18 units per acre.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

Barriers to higher-density development in the City of Brea included the following:

Distrust of city government . The city started acquiring land in the downtown area in the mid-1980s, both from willing sellers and through eminent domain. As properties were acquired, most were cleared of buildings and left vacant. The visual and economic impact of this vacant land, plus the anger of some that their property had been taken by court action, substantially increased distrust of city government.

Ideological opposition . A group of primarily downtown property owners consistently opposed Downtown Revitalization. Specifically they opposed the city acquiring property, especially through the use of eminent domain, and financially subsidizing new commercial and residential development.

Traffic . Brea's downtown is close to and impacted by both the Imperial Highway and Brea Boulevard, two heavily traveled roadways. The downtown project had to contend with resident concerns regarding additional traffic and the reality of existing heavy traffic in and near the new downtown.

Concern that development would be out-of-scale with the existing community . Brea's original downtown was a traditional, relatively low-density shopping street. Creation of a revitalized downtown required different uses and greater densities. Parking structures were a related addition.

Concern that redevelopment would threaten historic structures . When the city purchased land, the general approach had been to demolish the buildings. Some of the commercial and residential structures were viewed as historic, and local historic preservation advocates started to oppose downtown revitalization out of fear that additional damage would be done to historic Brea.

Length of the process related to turnover among public participants and decisionmakers . The Downtown Revitalization process started in the late 1980s, and the Housing Breans Campaign started in the early 1990s. The economic downturn that occurred in the early 1990s and liability concerns by private-sector developers substantially slowed Brea's implementation efforts. The final Downtown Revitalization street landscape improvements were planted in 2003. Communication with the public was complicated by the use of technical terms associated with planning, design, economic analysis, and other downtown and housing issues.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher-Density Development

The Brea Project . In 1987, the city council concluded that it needed feedback from the community about how the city was perceived. A steering committee was formed and undertook a community survey focused on three questions:

What do you like about Brea?
What could the city do better?
What do you think Brea will be like in 2010?

The three highest-ranking concerns in the survey responses were maintenance, development and redevelopment, and traffic. Each concern was assigned to a task force. The task forces were made up of more than 100 people new to city issues; the council did not participate in any way. The task forces sought extensive public advice and reached 66 recommendations for the council. Two of the recommendations were judged to be infeasible, and 64 were accepted and implemented. Concerns regarding downtown Brea led to the 1989 charrette described below.

Downtown charrette . A 1989 downtown charrette was generally regarded as the most important technique employed in this process. The city council realized there was no vision for downtown and the city did not know how to establish a viable downtown. As a result, city staff recommended a charrette so that creation of a downtown vision would involve broad community participation. More than 100 Breans participated in the charrette. The city hired a facilitator, invited specific participants to ensure broad representation of the community, and opened the process to a limited number of additional community volunteers. City council members, city staff, and representatives of three potential developers attended but, as with the Brea Project, were not allowed to participate.

The process started with a dinner, followed by a meeting to hear presentations by the city manager and experts hired by the city for the charrette (an urban designer, an economic/downtown market expert, and the lead consultant, the president of Partners for Livable Places). The next morning, participants took an "awareness tour" of the downtown. Each participant took notes to document his or her impressions and expectations. The tour was followed by a session at which ideas were stated, and small discussion groups were facilitated by professional staff from other Southern California jurisdictions. The whole group periodically shared progress reports and ideas. The day's final event was a full-group discussion of the conclusions of the day. The next day, a work session was held for the city staff and the charrette resources team, five design professionals selected for their expertise in downtown development issues. At the end of the day, the resource team presented their recommendations to the city council. Several weeks later, participants met to review a draft summary of the results of the charrette.

Critical to the success of the charrette was careful documentation of its outcomes, including the conclusions of both citizens and outside experts. During the charrette, the facilitator prepared notes in a colorful and graphic manner, and they were regarded as critical in tracking and documenting the evolving ideas and agreements. The formal report that followed, Brea By Design -- The Downtown Charrette, was a critical resource for the revitalization process for more than a decade. (Charrette participants reviewed a draft of the formal report to ensure a complete and accurate record.) The charrette established the vision of a multi-use downtown, including commercial, residential, office, and public land uses. While details evolved, the vision established in the charrette report was critical in sustaining the acceptance of the Downtown Revitalization effort, including the introduction of downtown housing.

After the charrette, the downtown vision was incorporated into the Brea General Plan and was the subject of a 1991 environmental impact report.

Efforts to educate the community and city representatives . The downtown charrette, as well as subsequent activities, placed great emphasis on educating city staff, the city council, and the community. Experts in architecture, land-use planning, noise, traffic, development financing, public art, and other topics educated city staff, city decision makers, and the public. Educational efforts minimized the use of technical jargon. Brea's city manager noted that there was agreement that city staff did not have the answers to many questions and needed to "go to school." Consultants hired were "the best that we could find." Staff also had tours, discussions, organized readings, and professional training classes.

As memory of the charrette faded, and new staff, decisionmakers, and members of the public became involved, an active effort was made to remember the charrette, reestablish the vision, and sustain its perceived validity as established by extensive community involvement.

Downtown Idea Fair . As the economic slump of the early 1990s receded, the city needed to reenergize its downtown vision. Specific goals included:

Updating the residential and business communities on the status of the downtown project.

Reinforcing values identified in the downtown charrette.

Providing opportunities for people to articulate their ideas, values, hopes, and concerns for downtown Brea.

To address these goals, the city sponsored the 1997 Downtown Workshop and Idea Fair. The focus of the event was the vacant site of the planned Birch Street Promenade in the new downtown. More than 200 people participated, including many people involved in the earlier charrette. The day started with presentations by city staff and a slide show that illustrated how other communities had created distinctive downtown areas. Participants then went to the Birch Street site, where tethered balloons represented possible building heights, chalk markings represented building facade locations, and idea and image signs helped people visualize a future downtown. Six stations represented areas of opportunity: events and celebrations, landmarks, links, public safety, public spaces and art, and themes and images. Each station featured exhibits, interactive displays, and other information. City staff and volunteers were available to answer questions, encourage thinking, and record ideas. About 1,800 ideas were recorded -- three were repeated more than 100 times, while many others were identified only once or twice.

Subsequent to the Idea Fair, city staff participated in a mini-Idea Fair at which nearly 1,000 ideas were identified. The public and staff ideas were documented in Shaping the Downtown -- Workshop and Idea Fair and used in subsequent planning for the area, specific buildings, and public events.

Housing Breans Campaign Task Force . The Housing Breans campaign was based on both the downtown charrette and a broader community interest in providing a range of housing choices. City staff identified three objectives:

Provide housing in the downtown

Create a range of housing types close to jobs

Address diverse economic and social needs.

In the early 1990s, the city council selected members for the Housing Breans Campaign Task Force to deal with various housing issues, including developing the policies and programs needed for the state-required General Plan Housing Element. A wide range of community interests were represented, and experts on housing policy, financing, and for-profit and nonprofit techniques worked with the task force. After an initial education effort, the task force focused on community outreach through meetings and publications.

Housing Breans Advisory Board . The city established an ongoing advisory board to address housing issues. Members include representatives of local organizations (for example, the Board of Realtors) and individuals appointed by the city council. The board focuses on specific housing projects as well as housing policies included in the General Plan.

Ad hoc groups . Two types of ad hoc community groups are used -- one focused on issues and the other on specific projects. For issue-focused groups, five to seven influential neighborhood communicators are identified through a community meeting and asked to participate. City staff works with the group to provide issue information and solicit reactions. Group members interact with the community to share this information and solicit community feedback and suggestions, which are brought back to the city.

The project specific ad hoc groups focus on design issues for particular downtown project sites. Local design professionals, members of the business community, and members of the public are assembled in groups of five to seven to provide project-specific comments.

Ongoing outreach . Newsletters, web pages, and meetings with community residential and nonresidential groups are used to transmit information to, and obtain feedback from, the community. Each city senior executive is expected to belong to a local service organization as part of the outreach and community involvement effort.

Project Outcomes

The downtown charrette resulted in the establishment of a vision that was effective, over a 14-year period, in guiding the Downtown Revitalization effort. The resulting development has produced economic and housing benefits and generated community pride.

Revitalization of the downtown increased confidence in Brea that the city could be trusted to plan for quality development.

The downtown charrette, because of the large amount of public involvement, provided political credibility to the city council when it was challenged on the use of eminent domain and on the degree of change being planned and approved. The charrette process produced an educated group of citizens. Some of them moved on to appointed positions, and three were elected to the city council. Citizen participants explained planning policies and actions to other citizens, often with a credibility that elected officials and city staff could not match.

The Housing Breans campaign established a base of support for ongoing citywide low- and moderate-income housing programs. More than 500 units for low- and moderate-income households have been built. In the downtown, the number of new low- and moderate-income housing units is two-and-one-half times the number of such units demolished in the redevelopment process.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

The city council and staff had a strong commitment to facilitating opportunities for public involvement, carefully listening to the public, and incorporating publicly generated ideas into city actions. A long-time staff member observed that the council and staff recognized the need to develop the downtown plan through a grassroots effort. By staying out of the charrette process until they received recommendations, the council strongly communicated that they valued and would listen to public input and would not try to manipulate it toward predetermined outcomes.

The charrette, Idea Fair, Housing Breans Task Force, and other community involvement opportunities were carefully planned to both educate participants and maximize opportunities for positive involvement.

The charrette's vision was actively reinforced so that it would not be forgotten as a result of periods with little or no development activity or because of new participants in the public review and decision-making processes. When changes were needed (for example, an inability to have attached housing units), the fundamental vision was maintained.

The city focused on quality design and construction in city-sponsored housing. The Ash Street Cottages adjacent to downtown have the highest per-square-foot value of any housing in Brea. The Birch Street downtown project used several architects to ensure variety and, in the words of a representative of the developer, to create an area that looked "as if it evolved over time, even though it was actually built all at the same time." When market factors pushed the downtown movie theater complex to 22 screens rather than 12, the design solution resulted in two theater buildings with street-facing retail shops shielding the theaters from the sidewalk.

Because the downtown was not adjacent to an existing single-family area, a range of options that contributed to the successful development of a new downtown could be considered.

Lessons Learned from the Project

Public participation processes should be carefully organized. Forethought regarding the people and interest groups that should be involved and how participatory events should be structured is critical to gaining the most value from the process. Using a person with expertise in organizing public participation is often helpful.

Being open and honest about constraints at the beginning of a process helps maintain credibility. Participants appreciate knowing early if (and why) something cannot be done.

Bringing in outside facilitators can be helpful because they can often be (and be seen as) more objective and neutral, and less likely to be seen as trying to steer the process in a particular direction.

Staff from departments throughout the city organization should have opportunities to provide ideas and advice.

For complicated issues like the revitalization of a downtown or the development of new affordable housing, it is important to educate staff, appointed and elected decisionmakers, and the public. Community participation events are also community education opportunities. Providing community education improves the quality of input from the public.

Hiring the best available consultants in order to get the best possible advice and assistance is often worth the extra expense involved.

A charrette can be a quick way to gain information about a community's wishes and views, but this quickness can also create a danger: The information may be left behind. If the results of a charrette are regarded as important, they must be carefully documented, incorporated into policy documents, and actively remembered.

Physical design factors are crucial in gaining acceptance of new types of buildings and should be considered early in the planning process. Often people will accept a design depicted visually when they would not accept a written version of the same concept. The Ash Street Cottages are single-family detached houses built on 2,500-square-foot lots. Approval of the concept included review of photos of similar designs and densities in other Southern California areas.

The sincerity of city staff and elected official interest in and willingness to accept public participation is crucial.

City staff had two observations regarding what they could have done differently: Have more celebrations of important events and successes, and bring the charrette participants back together more frequently to receive status reports and provide reactions to the city.

Persons Interviewed

Frank Benest, Brea's city manager from the late 1980s though the 1990s

Tim O'Donnel, Brea's current city manager

Eric Nicoll, Brea's economic development director

David Crabtree, Brea's city planner

Sue Georgino, Brea's former redevelopment services director

Bev Perry, Brea's current mayor and citizen participant in the Brea Project and downtown charrette

Documents Reviewed

Brea by Design -- The Downtown Charrette (1989)

Shaping the Downtown -- Workshop and Idea Fair (1997)

City of Brea website

New York Times, December 19, 1999

California Planning and Development Report , January 1998


Project Description and Development Program

Hercules, California, is located 16 miles east of San Francisco along the eastern edge of San Pablo Bay. The community began as a company town for the Hercules Powder Company. Hercules has many residential areas, but there is no well-defined town center. The waterfront along the bay was historically used for industry and has been fallow for many years. In 1999, the city commissioned a $300,000 study of Central Hercules District, an area comprising 426 acres of "brownfield" land at the center of the city and on the shore of the bay. A team of consultants was selected to design a master redevelopment plan and a development code to guide the regeneration of the heart of the city.

In a hands-on public participation program during the summer of 2000, the consultants responsible for preparing the plan rapidly gathered ideas from, and shared information with, residents of Hercules. There were many one-on-one and group meetings and discussions with landowners, developers, and other stakeholders in an effort to reconcile public and private interests.

The resulting plan called for mixed-use walkable neighborhoods that were significantly denser than the rest of the city. It focused on creating a sense of place, generating revenue, providing public access to the waterfront, and interconnecting all the parts.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Represents a project in Northern California.

Deals with managing infill in a suburban community.

The Role of Density in the Project

In the development of the initial goals of the plan, the concept of a walkable, mixed-use, compact design was set forth as an overall objective. The reasons for considering an urban-scale design are paraphrased from the plan's introduction:

To enhance the quality of life. The heart of the city should be where facilities to meet social needs are tightly concentrated: shopping, working, living, civic services, entertainment, and cultural activities.

To be more financially responsible. A dense shopping environment with an attractive, sustainable, pedestrian-friendly configuration is a pattern that is gaining in popularity with developers and investors.

To enhance mobility. Creating an attractive mix of retail and entertainment offerings, workplaces, and lodging within the town will minimize auto trips. By building the town center in a highly walkable and bike-friendly form, and by connecting it to surrounding neighborhoods, vehicle trips can be reduced. By growing in a reasonably dense, transit-supportive way, the town center can encourage the use of public transit, offering an alternative to single-occupant cars that congest streets and freeways.

To be more environmentally responsible. New places to work, shop, and live in this area will reduce the development pressure on land outside town.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

The community had concerns about allowing a pattern and style of development within Hercules that would be dramatically different from what already existed. Many residents valued the relatively low-density character of their neighborhoods and were apprehensive about dramatically changing this pattern of development. A particular concern was that higher-density development could cause traffic congestion.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher- Density Development

The Hercules City Council, at the urging of the planning commission, undertook a highly public process in developing the plan. Citizens and decisionmakers would be brought to the table simultaneously and challenged to work together in an inclusionary visioning process.

In June 2000, the plan was created through an intense design event called a charrette. Over eight days, a series of work sessions were held with community volunteers and a team of design professionals. The design team was led by Dover, Kohl & Partners (town planning/urban design) and assisted by Gibbs Planning Group (retail analysis), Zimmerman-Volk Associates (housing trends analysis), and Fehr and Peers Associates (transportation planning). Participants included property owners, neighbors, business owners, developers, members of the city council and planning commission, local and regional transit engineers, and city staff.

The Kick-Off Briefing. To start the charrette, an evening kick-off event was held. The city's consultants (who were responsible for preparing the plan) gave a lecture on town planning, dealing with sprawl and various development alternatives. The more than 150 people in attendance were informed about how the town planners and the community would be challenged to develop a plan for central Hercules, and were asked to offer their own input into challenges and opportunities facing the area. At this kick-off, representatives of the planning commission and the design team discussed development opportunities in Hercules, shared previous plans made by developers for various parcels in the area, and reviewed the format for the upcoming hands-on session. An open microphone discussion, surveys, and a "what's most important to you" exercise were used to solicit early feedback.

The Hands-On Session. At the hands-on session the next day, community members gathered to discuss their hopes for the future of Hercules. These "citizen planners" were not shy about what they wanted. More than 200 people, armed with markers and pencils, gathered in small groups around tables and drew their ideas on poster-sized maps. A spokesperson from each table then presented their main ideas to the larger group. Surveys were passed out asking for further input, and a website was established for communication about the Central Hercules Plan.

The Design Studio. After the close of the Saturday hands-on session, the design team set up an on-site studio in a local shopping center. Throughout the remainder of the week, meetings and interviews were held to gather more information. The designers and planners worked with development interests to create alternative scenarios to present to the community. Recurring "pin-up" reviews of initial ideas were held all week as the work progressed. The designers combined all the input from the various meetings into a plan for central Hercules, as well as a draft for an accompanying development code.

The Work-in-Progress Presentation. At the conclusion of the all-week charrette, the design team presented the results to more than 150 citizens. The presentation used extensive visuals and examined both big-picture ideas and technical issues related to the work-in-progress drafts of the plan and code. Large plans, cross-sections, perspective drawings, and computer simulations were used to explain the initial concepts. After this presentation, designers recorded comments and concerns from citizens and property owners for inclusion in later drafts.

After the charrette, the design team returned to their offices and continued to refine the ideas in close consultation with city officials, property owners, and affected agencies. The results from the effort were contained in the Plan for Central Hercules.

Project Outcomes

The adopted Plan for Central Hercules included a number of design concepts relating to density:

Building placement and height. Streets should be thought of as "three-dimensional public rooms with the buildings serving as the walls." The plan specifies that the proportion of "wall height" to "room width" should feel comfortable to the pedestrian, and notes that if buildings are too low relative to the street width, the sense of space dissolves. One-story buildings on wide streets are deemed inappropriate and to be discouraged.

Mixing land uses. Adding apartments to the upper floors of office and retail buildings, as in classic main streets, creates attractive, well-located, and highly prized residences. Apartments above shop fronts can vary from affordable housing for service workers and seniors to luxury dwellings for professionals and empty-nesters. With shared parking, dense housing can be incorporated without reducing the land available for the commercial uses needed to generate sales tax revenue for Hercules.

Directing growth toward the center. Local citizens and environmentalists are alarmed at the way farmland and natural areas on the perimeter of the community are being bulldozed to make room for expensive homes. Developments should be created and built in a manner that encourages and allows people to live and work closer to the center, thereby reducing pressure at the edge.

Developments approved since plan adoption have been at an average density of thirteen units per acre, significantly higher than the four- to five-unit-per-acre average throughout the city. These developments are embracing new urbanism and traditional neighborhood design elements.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

Before the project began, the city was in a serious financial bind. It had lost a major funding source due to the closing of the Pacific Refinery Company in 1991, and it was looking for new development to generate revenue. However, there was resistance to dramatically changing the character of the community. The type of planning approach used here was to deliver a process, and ultimately an outcome, that was a fiscal asset for the city and had physical features that reflected a small-town character.

The "calm and charismatic" style of the lead consultant was viewed as critical to getting citizens comfortable with and excited about possible higher-density development throughout the process. Visual images showing possible outcomes and the capacity of good design to resolve density concerns provided a clear idea of development choices. City leaders and consultants were open and responsive in communications with developers and residents throughout the process.

The development community played a role in supporting the effort throughout. This included initial funding for planning, and direct involvement with city staff and consultants as the plan and the development codes were being established and adopted.

Lessons Learned from the Project

Providing leadership, financial support, and needed infrastructure were all crucial for the support of the plan. The area was within a redevelopment area so it could use tax increment funding assistance for the desired type of development.

A detailed development code specifying key features of future development was critical in gaining the trust of the community. It moved the effort away from generalizations and presented a clear and enforceable promise of what would be built.

This type of planning process was time consuming and exhausting for all involved. Although in this case city leaders felt that the payoff was worth it, the effort called for an enormous commitment from those involved and significant funding support from the city.

Persons Interviewed

Steve Lawton, community development director, City of Hercules

Matt Tomas, former planning manager, City of Hercules

Judy Corbett, executive director, Local Government Commission

Documents Reviewed

Plan for Central Hercules , June 2001

Update: District Plan Initiative

Regulating Code for the Central Hercules Plan , July 2001

"Front Porch News," Builder Magazine, March 2003

Web Links


Project Description and Development Program

The City of Milpitas is situated within the larger South San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley region. It is a relatively new community that has experienced a steady two to three percent annual growth rate over the past 30 years. The midtown area includes the original commercial and industrial core of the community. This core is surrounded by recent residential and research and development office and industrial uses. Midtown Milpitas is an emerging transit hub. It will be served by the Tasman East Light-Rail Line (LRT) as well as BART. The LRT extension, to be completed in Spring 2004, will link Milpitas to downtown San Jose and Mountain View. In November 2000, voters in Santa Clara County voted to extend BART from Fremont to San Jose. This extension would traverse Midtown and include two stations. Although the funding for the BART extension is uncertain, according to city staff, a loss of the funding would only have a minor effect on Midtown Specific Plan policies around the Calaveras Station in the northern portion of the planning area.

In 1999, the City of Milpitas initiated a planning process for the midtown area with a team of consultants led by EDAW, Inc., a multidisciplinary planning, design, and environmental firm. The consultant team also included Fehr and Peers (transportation), RJ&A Associates (civil engineering), Sausedo Company (public outreach), and Community Design + Architecture. The plan was adopted in 2002.

The plan is intended to provide a vision to revitalize and transform 942 acres of underutilized industrial land located in the heart of Milpitas. Its primary purposes are to guide development and further evolution of the Midtown area over the next 20 years (with public and private investment) and to encourage development that responds to city and regional objectives. Midtown is envisioned to become a mixed-use community anchored by high-density, transit-oriented housing located around a town square on Main Street, which will become the primary pedestrian spine. The plan is a comprehensive document that includes 13 goals and more than 113 policies, in addition to development standards and design guidelines. It establishes the character of development, the physical framework of the area, and clarifies the basis for future implementing actions.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Includes carefully developed and high-quality initial policies.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Represents a project in Northern California.

Deals with managing infill in a suburban community.

The Role of Density in the Project

The densities proposed as part of the specific plan are substantially higher than elsewhere in the city, ranging up to 60 dwelling units per acre. The plan specifies density bonuses and reduced parking standards to enable a more urban pattern of development in areas adjacent to transit centers. It also calls for minimum densities for each subarea to ensure a wider variety and higher number of residential units. This is a significant shift from the existing development patterns and promotes infill development. The concept is that Midtown can accommodate much-needed housing in the region in close proximity to the transit stations, while promoting transit ridership.

The development anticipated in the plan area could result in up to 4,860 residential units, 720,000 square feet of office development, 300,000 square feet of commercial use, and 60,000 square feet of retail uses.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

During the citizen participation process, the concerns of meeting and workshop participants centered on traffic congestion, urban sprawl, lack of public infrastructure, fewer middle-income job opportunities, environmental degradation, and housing that is increasingly unavailable and unaffordable. Also, the comprehensive development strategy will require greater cooperation between public and private sector groups.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher- Density Development

The planning process was designed to include extensive community input. During the three-year planning process, ten community meetings were held to solicit suggestions, comments, and desires from the public and from community leaders. Five meetings were held in the Midtown area to encourage input from residents and property owners. Meetings were also held with property owners and developers with interests in the area. More than 100 people participated in the meetings. The city council appointed a Midtown Advisory Committee, composed of two members from the city council and two members of the planning commission, to guide preparation of the specific plan.

The community planning process was kicked off in November 1999. At that meeting, citizens were informed of the planning process, their roles in the process, and the intended outcome. A set of ground rules of group conduct was established. "Agreement" on an issue was defined to mean approval from 75 percent of those present.

In January 2000, the consultant team presented an overview of the existing conditions. This included an analysis of the existing land uses and its urban form, existing and proposed traffic and transit patterns, and market and economic conditions.

The next two community meetings included hands-on small-group workshops. The first workshop focused on establishing a vision statement for the plan area that would guide the plan. Community members were divided into groups of four to six persons. Each group was given a base map and drawing tools. The groups were asked to show, through words and drawings, all the elements they would like to see in the Midtown area. A spokesperson from each group summarized the discussions. The consultant team listed all the ideas from the groups and formulated a vision statement from the list. The vision statement was reinforced with four land-use goal statements that were developed from the community workshop. The land use goals were:

Encourage a compatible mixture of residential, retail, office, service-oriented commercial, and industrial uses within Midtown Milpitas.

Provide for a significant component of new housing within the area to improve the vitality of the Midtown area, address local and regional housing needs, and reinforce the use of transit.

Promote an intensity of development in Midtown that is appropriate to its central location.

Provide a land-use mix that supports major transit facilities.

The second workshop focused on land-use alternatives and also used a small-group format. The workshop was preceded by a presentation on density with images of built projects in the Bay Area and a visual preference survey. The meeting included an intense discussion on densities. One result of this discussion was a request for site visits to see the projects in their physical settings.

The workshops and public meetings were held both to educate and to obtain community input. The process helped shatter myths about density and what it means for quality of life. Some of the more significant community inputs included the importance of balancing pedestrian needs with traffic flow and the need to create physical spaces that support community activities. With tours of housing projects throughout the Bay Area, and with the use of images and detailed site-specific illustrative and perspective diagrams, the community saw the relationship between density and building types, the importance of higher-density housing around transit corridors, and the need for reduced and shared parking.

Based on community input, the consultant team presented the draft plan to the steering committee and received comments. Community members had several chances to provide feedback to the plan and the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The plan was then presented to the planning commission and the city council. No concerns were expressed about the density strategies developed by staff and consultants.

Project Outcomes

The Midtown Specific Plan was adopted unanimously by the city council in May 2002. The city's zoning ordinance was revised to incorporate all the changes suggested in the plan, including new transit-oriented overlay districts, a mixed-use land use designation, revised setbacks and open space requirements, and updated parking requirements. Concurrent adoption of the zoning updates and the Midtown Specific Plan ensured that potential developers would not need to get zoning changes approved. The preparation and adoption of an EIR in conjunction with the plan led to faster approvals for projects that conform to the assumptions made in the plan.

The Milpitas Midtown Specific Plan and EIR recently won first place for comprehensive plan -- small jurisdiction from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

The consultant team took on the role of facilitators and educators. Although this was a community-driven planning process, the planners believed it was imperative to take a pro-active advocacy position on issues such as increased residential densities, the importance of mixed-use buildings that contribute toward creating a livable community, and the provision of choices in housing types. A large component of the planning process was providing the public the information to make educated choices. The community was wary of change, but was receptive to looking at options and taking the time to understand the choices and trade-offs that had to be made.

A visual preference survey using a series of contrasting images was probably the most helpful tool in educating the public and the decisionmakers. It helped the community understand that higher density did not necessarily translate to undesirable impacts. Examples of built projects in the Bay Area were used to demonstrate various density ranges with a focus on scale, massing, location of buildings on site, and parking strategies. Several images were used to demonstrate the relationships of buildings to streets and building heights to street widths, and to illustrate streetscape elements of a pedestrian-friendly area.

As an example of the success of the public education strategy, at the beginning of the process, the community believed that a lack of sufficient parking prevented Main Street from being a successful retail center. At the end of the process, it was concluded that there was too much parking and emphasis on vehicular movement and access, and that this made Main Street unfriendly to pedestrians, which prevented it from being a successful retail center.

Lessons Learned from the Project

The nearly three-year planning process provided many insights, both into things that were done right and things that should have been done differently. After the plan was adopted, city staff and the consultant team had a debriefing session to evaluate the process. This session was useful in closing the loop on the process and strengthening ties between the consultant and staff teams. Listed below are some observations of the process.

Allow enough time to gain citizen input. Community-driven planning processes can take two to three years. In Milpitas, the process took more than two years from project initiation to plan adoption. The planning team learned that it is critical to keep community interest alive with focused, informative, hands-on workshops. It is easy to lose community members along the way, which can result in new members joining the planning effort. It is important to have a core group of people involved throughout the process (in this case, it was the city council-appointed task force) and to use them to provide additional community outreach and gain additional support for the project. The timing of meetings is critical to keep interest alive. If they are spread too far apart, the momentum set in previous meetings may be lost. Workshops that are topically related should be closely linked in time. It is also important to remember that a schedule set at the beginning of the process is only a guide. The number of meetings may have to be increased as a result of community needs and issues raised during public meetings. It is imperative to take the time to provide the community all the information it needs to feel comfortable about making informed decisions.

Specific Plan and EIR. The consultant team designed the specific plan planning process to integrate the EIR preparation. Typically, the specific plan process precedes the EIR. The integrated approach allowed more creative ideas to be tested for environmental impacts as part of determining and analyzing the alternatives instead of analyzing impacts once planning choices were made. This concurrency not only reduced the duration of the overall planning process but also was a useful tool in providing the community with comprehensive data.

Planners must be educators for good planning. It became clear in this process that a planner is more than just a facilitator. Success involved going beyond the traditional planners' role and being an educator (informing the community of options and trade-offs), and advocating for incorporating fundamental planning principles such as smart growth, livable communities, and an integrated approach to land use and transportation planning. There is a fine line, however, between the perception that planners have a hidden agenda they are promoting and taking the time to explain the issues and the tradeoffs related to various decisions.

For example, there needed to be a clear vision of the nature and type of open space needed to offset the loss of individual yards that would result from higher densities. The issue of affordable housing was discussed extensively. Community members came to meetings with a preconceived idea that all affordable housing would be Section 8 housing, and that this would be detrimental to their property values. When the price range that constituted affordability was discussed, and the people who would live in these houses were identified as school teachers, city staff, local service providers, and so on, there was more acceptance of affordable housing. The planning team also helped the community understand that the variety of housing types -- apartments, live-work lofts, and other multifamily housing -- added to the choices of affordable housing within the city.

Visiting other places helped alleviate fears of high density. As in other communities with predominantly low-density single-family neighborhoods, density was a sensitive issue, associated with traffic congestion and other undesirable impacts. The consultant team showed community members a range of higher-density projects without talking about density in numbers. Some members of the community wanted to look at built projects in their contexts to get a better understanding of how these projects worked. The consultant team and city staff put together a tour of housing projects in the Bay Area. Both the tour and the images helped the community to understand density in terms of building height, scale, massing, and design.

Persons Interviewed

Alan Folks, principal, EDAW

James Lindsey, planner, City of Milpitas

Valerie Barone, resident and former community development director

Documents Reviewed

Milpitas General Plan (2000)

Milpitas Midtown Specific Plan (2002)

Milpitas Midtown Specific Community Outreach Report (2000)

Web Links


Project Description and Development Program

Pasadena is a city of about 130,000 residents located east of downtown Los Angeles. About 100,000 people work in Pasadena. The city is home to the California Institute of Technology, the Rose Bowl and Tournament of Roses Parade, an extensive commercial base, and neighborhoods ranging from highly regarded historic single-family areas to areas with lower-income populations. About one-half of the city's population is nonwhite, primarily African-American and Latino. Pasadena's households tend to have incomes that are either well above average or below average.

In response to rapid growth, in 1989 Pasadena residents placed on the ballot, and voters approved, a growth limitation initiative. The Growth Management Initiative (GMI) imposed a cap on Pasadena's annual growth of 250 new residential units and 250,000 square feet of nonresidential development. Affordable housing, housing in redevelopment areas, nonresidential development in Northwest Pasadena, and development consistent with a Civic Center Master Plan were all excluded from the cap. The GMI would have reduced Pasadena's residential and nonresidential development by about 50 percent from what was experienced in the 1980s.

A lawsuit was filed to overturn the GMI. Lead plaintiffs included the Pasadena Interfaith Coalition, the NAACP, and the Board of Realtors. An out-of-court settlement in 1991 required that a measure to repeal to GMI be placed on the ballot in November 1992. The city would have the opportunity to revise the Land Use and Transportation (Mobility) Elements of the General Plan. The challenge for the city, between the summer of 1991 and September 1992, was to revise the General Plan in a way that would achieve a level of public support sufficient to convince voters that the city's approach to land-use planning was a better alternative than the GMI. If successful, the voters would have a reason to repeal the GMI.

The city council undertook the General Plan revision process with the philosophy of developing a unified vision of the city that was shaped and driven by community values and reflected the involvement of Pasadena's residents.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Has impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people.

Includes carefully developed and high-quality initial policies.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Represents a project in Southern California.

Deals with managing infill in a suburban community.

The Role of Density in the Project

During the 1980s, Pasadena experienced development that, while consistent with city regulations, was far greater than the city had anticipated. Properties with density limits intended to provide development flexibility were instead being built to the maximum allowed floor area and/or height. Residents reacted by proposing an initiative that, when approved, would decrease development from about 500,000 square feet of commercial space and 500 dwelling units each year to half those amounts. The revised General Plan developed in response to the out-of-court settlement described above set limits of 6,000 dwelling units over 17 years (an average of about 350 units per year) and, during the same time period, 10,000,000 square feet of nonresidential space (an average of about 590,000 square feet per year).

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

Three barriers to higher-density development were identified:

Fear of change/preference for the status quo . The city experienced substantial change during the 1980s, and a significant number of residents concluded that change was out of control. Many people living in upscale residential neighborhoods preferred the status quo and perceived change as a threat to their neighborhoods. The challenge for the General Plan process was to involve residents in such a way that they regained confidence in the city's management of land-use development and redevelopment. This would reduce the perceived threat and permit growth and change to occur.

Distrust of others in the community and of the city organization . One participant noted that a major challenge was to get people to listen to each other rather than just talking at each other. Development approvals in the 1980s convinced some residents that the city did not, and would not, act in the best interest of those who wanted to "protect the community." There were substantial attitude differences between residential and business groups, and between mostly white residential neighborhood groups and representatives of minority populations. This was aggravated by the fears of some that growth would result in an undesirable population in the city. In the General Plan update process, this issue was addressed in two ways. The city council appointed a General Plan Steering Committee to oversee the process. The 10-member committee included three residents who were strong supporters of the GMI, three who represented the plaintiffs, two advisory commission members, the vice-mayor, and the mayor, who chaired the committee. Second, the General Plan outreach process was designed to involve as many residents as possible and to give community members substantial control over decision making.

Perception of traffic impacts . Pasadena is part of an urban area subject to heavy traffic during both commute and noncommute periods. Within the city, many residential neighborhoods value their quiet living environment. Traffic congestion is a reality, but concerns also involve fears that traffic will spill into neighborhoods and ruin a valued quality of life. The challenge for the city was to identify measures to limit the impacts of traffic congestion while recognizing that there was a larger freeway and roadway environment that would continue to experience heavy congestion.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher-Density Development

The city council directed that the general plan revision process be based on an extensive and far-reaching community involvement effort. The goal was for citizens to develop a set of principles and policies to guide land-use planning and development in Pasadena. The underlying assumption, as articulated by a member of the consulting team, was that "Planning can be more successful when the community is engaged in meaningful discussion and deliberation, resulting in a community-driven vision for the future of their city or neighborhood." Public involvement in the process of developing new land use and transportation elements of the general plan started in November 1991 and concluded in September 1992. In November, the election on whether to keep or reject the Growth Management Initiative was held.

For the revised land use element, the city council gave city staff the lead role in preparing land-use planning documents. An outside consultant was given the lead role for the transportation element. The city funded a consultant with expertise in facilitation of public involvement processes. The cost of the public outreach program was $200,000.

One public outreach challenge was to obtain the participation of Pasadena's minority communities, who were traditionally underrepresented in the city decision-making process. The consultant team included an outreach expert who held interviews and meetings with community leaders to identify individuals who were most likely to participate. A list of 250 contacts was developed. People were phoned regularly to relay information and alert them to meetings and events.

The specific elements of the public involvement process were data collection and analysis, review of a sketch plan (including use of a Land-Use Tradeoff game), and public meetings. The process was intended to provide information and engage people in the cooperative identification of issues and the development of alternative land-use planning policies. The expectation, as voiced by the mayor, was that educated people would provide educated opinions. Specific activities included the following:

Data Collection and Analysis

Training facilitators . Pasadena has at least 85 neighborhood organizations, along with numerous business, civic, religious, and other community groups. One challenge was how to reach as many of these groups as possible given the time and resources allocated to the project. The first major public event, on November 9, 1991, was a training session for about 50 community leaders. The city council and the General Plan Steering Committee selected the participants; after being trained, they were asked to lead meetings of their organizations and to be available to facilitate meetings held by others. Training session participants learned and practiced facilitation skills and received workshop kits, including presentation materials and feedback forms. They had access to a 20-minute video slide presentation, city staff support, and up to $500 for reimbursement of meeting expenses such as publicity, facility rental, child care, refreshments, and translations.

Citywide forum . The General Plan revision received its first communitywide introduction at a citywide forum with more than 300 attendees. The forum was televised live and replayed several times. After an introduction to the General Plan revision process, including a video presentation, audience members offered ideas and comments. Spanish, Armenian, and sign language interpretations were provided; child care was available; and a Dial-a-Ride service was used to facilitate getting people to the meeting. Follow-up post cards thanked people for coming and encouraged their continued involvement.

Community workshops . Two types of workshops were used. Four city-sponsored workshops averaged 80 participants each. In addition, facilitators from the first training session, as well as representatives of other groups, were encouraged to conduct their own workshops. Fifteen organizations did so. The workshop kits described at the facilitator training session were used for these meetings.

Joint planning commission-steering committee-city council meeting . The results of all the workshops were compiled and discussed at a joint meeting in January 1992.

Review of a sketch plan and use of a Land-Use Tradeoff game

Citywide forum . A sketch plan incorporating the ideas from the workshops was prepared by city staff and presented at a citywide forum in April 1992. The sketch plan was intended to help organize ideas and facilitate refinements and changes to the initial planning concepts. The initial workshop process identified areas to be changed and areas where significant land use changes were not desired. More than 250 people attended the forum, and more watched on television. More than 40 percent of those who attended were first-time participants in the plan revision process. Child care, Spanish-language translation, and Dial-a-Ride service were provided to encourage participation.

Community workshops . Three city-sponsored workshops used a Land-Use Tradeoff game. A city map was the game board, and icons were used for different types of development. The game included evaluation of the costs and benefits of development alternatives in the identified change areas. As a result of continued public outreach, about 70 percent of participants were new to the General Plan revision process. In May, 15 groups held community workshops to review the sketch plan. All results were compiled and used by city staff as they prepared draft land use and mobility elements for the general plan.

Public Meetings

Joint planning commission-transportation commission-steering committee-city council meeting . The results of the sketch plan workshops as well as additional public comments were reviewed at a joint meeting held near the end of May 1992.

Council district meetings . Six meetings were held in council districts. City staff followed an introductory slide show with a review of land-use and transportation plans specific to the district. Average attendance was 80 persons. Written and oral comments were collected. Child care, Spanish-language translation, and Dial-a-Ride service were provided to encourage participation.

Final public meetings . In August and September, the planning commission held four public meetings and forwarded their recommendations on the revised General Plan elements to the city council. The council met twice and approved revised land use and transportation elements at the end of a 12-hour meeting. The next day, the Pasadena Star-News noted that "while some issues were contentious to the last vote, the real work had been done elsewhere and for the most part by others... More people than vote in some municipal elections participated in the process [of developing the revised General Plan]."

In addition to the three major public involvement efforts identified above, the city also undertook a major effort to educate the community on the General Plan process and issues. Some of the activities included the following:

A speaker series was presented, including six talks by land-use planning experts on topics such as "The Art of City Design" and "Breaking the Barriers: Mixed Use Development and the Creation of Community."

A series of community surveys was completed on land-use issues.

Three two-color tabloid-size general plan newsletters were mailed to 59,000 households.

The city's regular residential newsletter included numerous items on the general plan, with excerpts translated into Spanish.

Flyers were regularly distributed to general plan and Chamber of Commerce mailing lists, 600 Neighborhood Watch groups, numerous community organizations, and all students in the Pasadena Unified School District.

A bus was outfitted as a "story bus" with outside graphics and interior general plan revision exhibits. It was used at community events and provided opportunities for holding mini-workshops.

News releases were sent to local and regional newspapers, generating ongoing media coverage.

Advertisements were placed in five newspapers.

Cable television was used to broadcast meetings.

250 community leaders representing Pasadena's minority population received regular telephone announcements of upcoming events and other important information.

Project Outcomes

The immediate outcome was that the city had revised general plan land use and transportation elements that led to the repeal of the Growth Management Initiative (GMI). The public voted in favor of a higher level of future development than would have been permitted under the GMI. In the last three years, Pasadena has approved about 2,000 dwelling units with another 1,500 units in the city review pipeline.

The revised general plan land use element identified seven areas for subsequent specific plans. Creation of these specific plans has given the public additional opportunities for involvement in the implementation of the general plan's development-related polices.

The identification of change areas and related specific plans focused on future light-rail stations. The light-rail line has been built and development is occurring in the areas with access to transit.

Since this process was completed, there has been increased public confidence in the city and the city's land-use and development planning process. The city is reviewing the land use and transportation elements, and city staff indicate that the basic policy structure of the 1992 documents is likely to remain in place.

One of the seven guiding values that came from the 1992 process is that "community participation will be a permanent part of achieving a greater city." A citizen participation element was created and added to the general plan. In 1993, a general plan outreach program was established to continue to engage the community actively. The role of Pasadena's citizens in land-use planning and other public processes has been recognized as an essential and required part of the way that the city conducts public business.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

As a result of the city council policy that the revised general plan elements would be community driven, almost 3,000 people were involved in the plan revision process. That involvement contributed significantly to creating a sense that the outcome reflected what the community wanted. Thus, residents were willing to repeal the GMI.

The identification of change areas that would be the focus of future specific plans meant that nonchange areas were also identified. Having nonchange areas reduced the fear of change that had contributed to the adoption of the GMI. Within change areas, the public process involved review of alternative development scenarios. The public, especially in the Land-Use Tradeoff game, focused on tradeoffs. The seven specific plans that would be undertaken after the General Plan was revised would be focused on the change areas. The process increased the public's confidence that development would proceed within an understandable framework. Development was seen as being controlled by the city, and the process created trust that it would occur in accordance with agreed-upon community objectives.

The city's investment in a skilled consultant to manage the community involvement process was critical. The process was carefully thought out and focused to achieve the desired scope and type of public involvement. A belief that no one interest group dominated the process was the result of careful outreach to the community. When the vote to repeal the GMI occurred, residents had either been involved themselves or knew people who had been involved, and everyone could see that the city had listened.

The plan development process was successfully accomplished in a compressed period for two reasons. First, because the work had to be done prior to the November 1992 election, there was a willingness to move quickly and make decisions. Second, the environmental review process occurred after the election. The September 1992 approval by the city council was structured such that a future final approval could occur after the EIR had been completed.

Lessons Learned from the Project

A public participation process must be carefully and systematically designed with a combination of outreach methods to involve people who normally would not participate.

Active leadership is needed from elected officials who stress the need for and value of public participation.

Land-use planning has a better outcome and longer-lasting acceptance if it is highly informed by community opinion.

The Land-Use Tradeoff game helped participants think about tradeoffs and understand views other than their own. The game used in 1992 was a simple one with handheld icons. Complex computer-based games now available allow people to evaluate development tradeoffs more carefully.

It can be helpful to identify areas that will change and those that will not be the focus of change. The first concern of most public participants is where they live or make their living. If all areas are perceived as likely to change, the level of public concern will be magnified.

It is important to actively engage people, not just talk at them.

Documenting both the process and the results is critical to establishing the institutional memory necessary for staff in subsequent years (who may not have been involved in the process) to understand not only what was decided but also why it was decided.

Creation of a general plan public participation element can be valuable in institutionalizing public involvement policies and establishing community expectations for future involvement.

Persons Interviewed

John Poindexter, planning manager, Pasadena

Laura Dahl, senior planner for Pasadena and manager of the 1992 land use element

Carolyn Verheyen (Moore, Iacofano, Goltsman, Inc.), Pasadena public process facilitation consultant

Documents Reviewed

City of Pasadena website ( )

"Participation Tools for Better Land Use Planning," Local Government Commission (1997)

"General Plan: Building A Community Vision" (presentation prepared for APA conference by Carolyn Verheyen)

"A Citizen's Guide to the Pasadena General Plan Implementation," February 1993

Pasadena Star-News, September 24, 1992


Project Description and Development Program

Reedley is a city of 21,000 persons located approximately 40 miles southeast of Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley.

Several years ago, it became clear to policymakers and the community in general that there would be significant growth in areas surrounding the city. The citizens of Reedley, along with the city council and planning commission, took the position that future development in the fringe areas of the city should respond to the challenges facing all communities in the San Joaquin Valley: preserving farmland, protecting air quality, building a strong sense of community and livability in new neighborhoods, conserving energy, and fostering development that accommodates and encourages alternate forms of transportation such as walking and bicycling.

Reedley's leaders had significant concerns about the prospective loss of agricultural land from future community growth. They felt that the most practical way to reduce impacts on farmland would be to allow increased residential densities in new development.

In 1998, the city council determined that a specific plan addressing the challenges and objectives described above was needed to guide future growth. This case study focuses on a specific plan that was designed to guide future development in areas contiguous to the city limits and within the sphere of influence of the city.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities

Includes carefully developed and high-quality initial policies

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process

Represents a project in the Central Valley

Deals with managing expansion in a semi-rural community.

The Role of Density in the Project

Before initiating this planning effort, the Reedley City Council had been grappling with growth and planning challenges. They had adopted two far-ranging policy documents -- the "Ahwahnee Principles" and Landscape of Choice -- that called for a variety of strategies to promote sustainable development, smart growth, and livable communities. The benefits of these policies, which the city council felt should guide the development of the specific plan, were as follows:

Reduced dependence on the automobile, resulting in less air pollution, safer and more walkable and livable streets, and lower fuel consumption

More efficient use of city infrastructure

Reduced consumption of farmland by urban sprawl

More attractive development.

The Reedley General Plan designated approximately 935 acres within the specific plan area for single-family residential development. Based on past development patterns of three dwelling units per acre (and subtracting land required for streets), about 2,104 units would be built. The city council, planning commission, and staff thought that continued development at that level of intensity would fill up the areas within the city's sphere of influence, be contrary to the city's overall guiding principles, and lead to greater future pressure for development on agricultural lands beyond the city's sphere of influence.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

Community residents had concerns about allowing development that would be of a different character than what existed. They valued the semi-rural character of their residential neighborhoods and had some apprehension about dramatically changing this pattern of development. Developers of single-family homes in the area questioned the economic feasibility of small-lot single-family development that might be called for in the specific plan. These concerns stemmed from the untested marketability of this type of product. Home builders were also concerned that new policies might be inflexible and force them to deviate from successful product types.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher-Density Development

The city council appointed a 19-person Reedley Specific Plan Committee to work with staff and consultants in developing a plan. This committee met twice each month from April through December 1999.

The committee represented a cross-section of resident, business, and real estate interests. Public agency representatives came from the local school board, the city's traffic and safety commission, the city council, the planning commission, and the irrigation district that serves Reedley and its surrounding lands.

The Community Development Department staff played the lead role in this planning effort; however, all city departments had an opportunity to comment on the plan. The plan and its EIR were prepared by Collins & Schoettler, Planning Consultants, Visalia, California. Funding of approximately $50,000 was provided by the city. The Local Government Commission assisted in setting up and managing bus tours. Their costs were paid by a grant.

Staff and consultants searched for planning tools and techniques to be used in the preparation of the plan that would be "light and visual." Staff and consultants rejected the notion of collecting a wealth of demographic, economic, and environmental data to inform this planning effort. They were concerned that overwhelming the committee members with details could distract them from focusing on more critical public policy and design-related issues.

The first several months of the Specific Plan Committee's meetings were spent learning about planning principles, particularly concepts related to livable communities, smart growth, and neo-traditional planning theory and practice. The committee was introduced to these principles by the following techniques:

Watching videos, including "Back from the Brink," "Becoming Good Neighbors," and a video presentation by Michael Friedman on community design issues.

Reading a variety of publications on planning issues.

Hearing from approximately six guest speakers representing the Local Government Commission, development interests, and architects.

Taking a bus tour to view development projects in Davis, Sacramento, Suisun City, Mountain View, and San Jose.

Watching slide presentations on development strategies put together by city staff and consultants.

Participating in a visual preference survey based on slides of physical features in the community and surrounding localities.

Consulting with the American Farmland Trust on ways of preserving farmlands through various fee structures.

Brainstorming sessions.

After collecting information and giving the committee time to express opinions about which planning concepts made the most sense, the consultants and staff worked two months to prepare a draft plan. The committee did not meet during that period. After the consultants and staff had completed the draft plan, the committee reconvened to review and refine it. The committee, in conjunction with city staff and consultants, made the final decision on the content of the draft plan.

Those interviewed felt that the combination of the outreach and communication tools and techniques played a positive role in helping to develop a comprehensive view of critical issues and solutions. Videos, slide presentations, and tours of projects in other communities were cited as particularly valuable.

Project Outcomes

The specific plan ultimately recommended increasing density to five units per acre. This would accommodate about 3,500 homes and reduce the pressure to expand outward onto prime farmland. It was also recommended that residential projects at a lower density could be permitted, but in return a farmland impact fee would be assessed and used toward the purchase of farmland conservation easements outside Reedley's sphere of influence.

Under California law, specific plans must be consistent with the general plan and must be adopted through a prescribed process of public hearings before both the planning commission and city council. Since the specific plan's density recommendations were within the intensity range established in the general plan, no general plan amendment was required.

In formal hearings on the plan in front of the planning commission and city council, some citizens expressed concern about encouraging density higher than what had been the norm in Reedley. The staff used some of the same tools used with the committee, including visual preference survey results and slides from other communities. These helped to convey the rationale for the policies incorporated in the specific plan. This information, coupled with the recommendation of the committee, effectively reduced public concerns.

Members of the city council expressed concern about the plan's proposal for 32-foot-wide streets rather than the standard 40-foot width, and the final street design width recommendation was a compromise at 35 feet.

The decision to support the plan at the planning commission was unanimous. At the city council, after modifications were made on the issue of narrow streets, the vote for approval was unanimous, with one abstention because of a potential financial conflict of interest.

The entire process for preparing and adopting the plan took more than a year. The citizen participation and specific plan drafting process took approximately nine months. The preparation of the EIR on this plan was concurrent with plan preparation. The total time for deliberations (four planning commission meetings and two city council meetings) was approximately four months.

The plan was adopted with some changes. Modifications included the ability to approve development at a lower density than originally proposed in the plan, but the related proposed fee for the protection of agricultural lands has not yet been adopted. It was determined that the single-family lot size should be 7,000 square feet, but that 20 percent of the lots could be as small as 5,000 square feet. Zoning reflecting the plan's policy was subsequently established.

Since its adoption in 2001, several residential developments consistent with the plan's land use intensity and design strategies (approximately two units per acre higher than the previous average) have been built or are under construction.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

At the beginning of this process, some committee members were suspicious, even fearful, of increases in density. They expected that higher densities would push too many people into too small an area. After touring projects in other communities, the Specific Plan Committee learned that design quality is more important than density. For example, the committee visited a street in Mountain View that had two multifamily developments: a 1960s-era apartment complex built at 15 units per acre and a complex built several years ago at 60 units per acre. The newer complex was oriented toward the street and incorporated several livable-cities design concepts, including front porches and living room windows facing the street, parking out of sight of the street, and rich design details on the building facades. The 1960s project turned inward away from the street, and it was built with minimal architectural character and stark unlandscaped carports. Although the newer project was four times as dense, committee members agreed that proper design can overcome concerns about increased density.

Key to the outcome was the city council's decision to budget significant resources and time for citizen involvement. This was seen as critical to the success of the effort by all those interviewed.

The process was, however, unable to achieve larger increases in density because of continuing concerns from the development community about the market acceptance for small-lot single-family development in this area.

Lessons Learned from the Project

Even though the number of citizens involved in the plan preparation process was not large, its make-up as a cross-section of respected stakeholders was effective in bringing about a modest (15 to 20 percent) increase in future density. The committee was supportive of the effort throughout, and some members played critical roles as advocates in the formal adoption phase of the plan by the planning commission and city council. It is probable that the acceptability of the higher densities permitted and encouraged in the plan will pay off as the market for housing increases.

Persons Interviewed

Fred Brusuelas, community development director, City of Reedley

Karl Shottler, principal, Collins and Shottler Planning Consultants, (559) 734-8737

Judy Corbett, executive director, Local Government Commission

John Clements, resident and committee member

Documents Reviewed

The Reedley Specific Plan (2001)

The Reedley General Plan (2002)


Project Description and Development Program

The Sacramento region is expected to add another one million people during the next 30 years. The Blueprint project is a unique, future-oriented, regionwide initiative sponsored by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), an association of governments formed from the six regional counties and twenty-two member cities. The project is designed to explore and develop, through an intensive citizen participation effort, plans and programs that would create a more compact and livable regional development pattern than is projected with current plans.

The tools and techniques used in this process are integrated in a series of high-tech, interactive planning workshops, held at the community, county, and regional level. The outreach strategy is managed by Valley Vision, a nonprofit organization committed to building civic engagement while addressing regional issues. In this and other projects, they act as a neutral convener that provides objective information on issues and encourages a regional approach to the challenges and opportunities created by rapid growth. They do not have specific land-use policy objectives. Valley Vision's membership includes representatives of business, agriculture, the environmental community, organized labor, education, utilities, government, and the nonprofit sector. Their board of directors includes many well-known leaders.

Blueprint began in 2002 with an in-depth modeling and research process, conducted in cooperation with all jurisdictions in the region, that looked at the growth that would be likely to occur if local general plans then in place were implemented. The first product, the "Base Case Future," portrayed the likely results of a continuation of then-current trends and policies concerning housing availability, land consumption, the environment, and congestion. These results were presented in October 2002 to an audience of more than 1,000 persons attending a regional conference called "Tall Order: Balancing the Region's Needs." The overwhelming response was that the future portrayed in the Base Case was unacceptable. As a result, residents from the region's six counties were invited to come together in a process that would envision a preferred future for their communities and region.

In early 2003, a series of neighborhood workshops was held, using state-of-the-art, real-time, interactive geographic information systems (GIS) software to create scenarios for specific neighborhoods. The software gave workshop participants immediate feedback as they made different development choices. The results from these workshops were used to shape alternative county and regional growth scenarios for citizens to consider. As of October 2003, the Blueprint had reached thousands of citizens through workshops, surveys, and town hall meetings.

In addition to extensive public involvement and education, the Blueprint process has provided data and training to local jurisdictions that make land-use decisions. Funds invested in this effort by SACOG have been used to enhance local planning capabilities and to create a long-range regional context for local decision-making. In 2003, SACOG launched a funding program that provided financial incentives to support implementation of the outcomes of the Blueprint project.

Although as of November 2003, the Blueprint project has not yet been completed, members of the SACOG staff who have long-term experience with various local and regional planning initiatives are optimistic that this process could result in the adoption of local and regional policies leading to a more compact and livable metropolitan area.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Has impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Uses public financial resources applied to mitigation.

Represents a project in the Central Valley.

Deals with urban and suburban infill and community expansion plans and projects.

The Role of Density in the Project

The following are some common principles and themes established to guide the Blueprint process:

Housing diversity . Different housing types meet the diverse needs of residents, such as families, seniors, singles, and empty-nesters. Providing a variety of housing enables the spectrum of residents to live near employment centers and share commercial and entertainment facilities.

Building on existing assets . Transportation systems, community centers, churches, parks, and existing business centers are all valuable assets that can be a foundation for growth plans. Commercial land that becomes vacant can be used for multifamily housing and other infill projects. Maximizing use of these assets reduces the need for new facilities and land.

Protecting farmland and natural resources . Failing to use existing assets and not planning properly can result in the loss of farmland, water supplies, and woodlands that provide vital resources essential to the local economy. More than 35 percent of oak woodlands and vernal pools could be damaged by development under current plans, and more than 10 percent of farmland could be lost.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

During the citizen engagement process, participant concerns centered on traffic congestion, urban sprawl, lack of public infrastructure, fewer middle-income job opportunities, environmental degradation, and housing that is increasingly unavailable and unaffordable.

The lack of cooperation between public and private sector groups was a barrier to higher-density plans and projects. The inability to provide new infrastructure to serve new higher-density development in existing neighborhoods was an impediment because of the current overburdened infrastructure in existing neighborhoods.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher-Density Development

Blueprint workshops gave residents the chance to become planners through a new software program called PLACE3S. It enables users to apply a variety of zoning designations to potential development areas. Each designation carries with it characteristics such as the number of dwellings per acre and how many employees commercial areas can handle.

As zoning designations expand or change, PLACE3S shows the effects. Will traffic congestion increase, or will new work centers reduce the stress on roads? Will agricultural land or open space be lost, or can it be preserved while meeting housing needs? Will replacing commercial areas with new mixed-use development (in which commercial and residential share space) lead to a more vibrant and efficient community, or will it have negative economic impacts on other areas?

PLACE3S not only demonstrates how different growth scenarios affect quality-of-life issues, but also indicates what the return on investment would be from different types of developments. Members of the public who attended the workshops and participated in the PLACE3S modeling decided whether the community they were building was what they wanted to see the region become, not just for themselves, but for future generations and newcomers to the region.

The Blueprint workshop series began at the neighborhood level. Each city or county hosted a workshop that highlighted two or more case study areas. Citizens worked in small groups doing interactive planning using computers and table maps. The computer program modeled the impacts of choices made in a what-if exercise. Local planners had chosen the case study sites, one of which was already developed in some manner but could accommodate changes or updates, and one in an undeveloped portion of the city or county. This workshop series included more than 35 neighborhood-scale meetings in all parts of the region. Hundreds of citizens expressed their preferences for various planning solutions.

Once the workshops were completed, the collective input of all the neighborhoods was used to create scenarios for each of the six counties in the region. These scenarios showed potential development patterns for the entire county and were developed by teams of planners from each local government in the county working together.

Countywide development scenarios were the focus of another series of workshops in the fall of 2003. In these workshops, citizens again were invited to work with maps and computer programs to give input to development.

A similar process, scheduled for early 2004, will involve the region's planners working together to create scenarios for the six counties as a whole. The planners will be asked to work on maps of the region and examine computer-generated performance statistics related to alternatives they select for consideration. It is hoped that this process will produce a new, more compact regional vision supported by city and county general plans and development policies.

In mid-2003, while the interactive planning workshops were still underway, SACOG took two bold steps that validated Blueprint activities and provided needed economic incentives to implement the outcomes. First, SACOG agreed that the next update of the region's transportation plan, which will create a menu of projects to be funded though the year 2028, will be based on the new alternative land-use pattern suggested by the Blueprint public process. Transportation spending is the single largest investment in most regions and has an enormous impact on land use and housing distribution. Second, the agency agreed to set aside $500 million in transportation funding over the next 20 years to subsidize plans and projects consistent with Blueprint outcomes. SACOG leaders recognized that one of the greatest challenges facing plans for greater densification is providing adequate infrastructure to support it. The first $12 million of the agency's long-term commitment was made available in late 2003.

Project Outcomes

The results have been positive in providing participants both with a better understanding of land use and transportation decision making and with analysis of the impacts of various development options. The level of involvement has been high. The staff managing the process thought that participants had a new appreciation of the value of higher-density development, particularly as it would relieve development pressure on outlying open space.

However, no significant city or county land-use changes have yet occurred as a result of the Blueprint process. Leaders of the effort believe that a base of support for more compact development has been created, and that this support will, in the long run, play a significant role in promoting such development.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

Portraying the likely, and unacceptable, results of a continuation of current trends to a large and diverse group of influential Sacramento citizens created a significant public impact. It established a commitment for change from environmental, business, and social equity leaders.

Relying on a highly regarded and nongovernmental organization like Valley Vision to handle the citizen engagement process sent a message that this was a grassroots initiative, not an inflexible bureaucratic process dominated by politicians.

Starting the workshop process and investigation of growth alternatives at the neighborhood and community level created a solid foundation of support and understanding.

Interactive GIS technology was valuable in showing participants how land-use choices affect traffic, environmental quality, and other quality-of-life factors.

Lessons Learned from the Project

Sponsors of this initiative were both surprised and pleased by the degree of public support shown to date. However, providing the necessary level of technical and citizen participation and understanding takes time and money. Although the planning program is not yet complete, participants in the process indicated that SACOG's commitment to make the process work has been both crucial and effective.

Persons Interviewed

Mike McKeever, manager, Blueprint Project

David Shabazian, senior planner, SACOG

Randall Sater, chair, Sacramento District Council, Urban Land Institute

Sotoris Kolokotronis, president, SKK Developments

Susan Frasier, executive director, Valley Vision

Documents Reviewed

Community Design Grant Program , Sacramento Region Blueprint

Blueprint Website:


Project Description and Development Program

San Diego is expected to grow from 1.3 million to 1.6 million residents by the year 2020. In October 2002, the city adopted a strategic framework element to the city's general plan that calls for the concept of "A City of Villages." It is designed to guide future growth in a direction that rebuilds older neighborhoods as clusters of walkable urban villages ranging in size from three to more than 100 acres, with homes near shops, parks, and transit stops. This newly adopted general plan element also includes a Five-Year Action Plan and establishes a Pilot Villages program.

In developing this strategy, the city relied on an intensive citizen involvement program that began in 1999 and included more than 200 public forums, workshops, and local planning group meetings. A 40-person citizen's committee was formed to look at how the city could plan for future growth while maintaining a high quality of life.

The city is now proceeding with an incentive package to facilitate the establishment of three or four pilot villages over the next few years.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Has impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Uses public financial resources applied to mitigation.

Represents a project in Southern California.

Deals with urban and suburban infill and community expansion plans and projects.

The Role of Density in the Project

San Diego has been grappling with how to accommodate future growth for some time. Historically, there have been "pay-as-you-grow" strategies (established during the late 1960s and early 1970s when Pete Wilson was mayor), and a regionwide vote in 1988 (Proposition C) calling for the development of a regional growth management strategy that would preserve the livability of this growing metropolitan area.

The basic premise of A City of Villages is to encourage growth to go up in certain areas rather than expand out around the perimeter of the currently urbanized areas. It calls for using land more efficiently and creating livable communities.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

During the citizen participation process, San Diegans' concerns centered on issues such as traffic congestion, urban sprawl, lack of public infrastructure, fewer middle-income job opportunities, environmental degradation, and housing that is increasingly unavailable and unaffordable.

Participants in the citizen engagement process recognized that adopting policies and programs fostering higher-density development requires greater cooperation between public and private sector groups. Significant public concerns were expressed about allowing higher-intensity development, primarily because of overburdened infrastructure in existing neighborhoods. During this planning process, a citizen finance committee estimated that the city has an existing deficit in public facilities totaling $2.5 billion. The committee proposed several potential mechanisms to increase revenues, including state-local fiscal reform, instituting residential trash collection fees, increasing the hotel room occupancy tax for visitors, and passing voter-approved general obligation bonds. Each of these would generate serious opposition.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher-Density Development

Going into this project, the mayor and council, the planning commission, and the planning department staff expected neighborhood opposition to higher-density development. They felt that the best approach would be strong local government support for growth pattern changes along with education of residents about the benefits of integrated land uses, less car dependency, and other aspects of smart growth. They also believed that planning objectives would have to include more tax revenue, job opportunities, housing options, public amenities, and revitalization of blighted areas. City leaders accepted that the success of this effort would depend on community acceptance of the conclusions of the project.

The steering committee. To enhance the effectiveness of the planning process, a new entity, the Strategic Framework Steering Committee, was formed. Its ongoing role was to provide oversight and guide the Strategic Framework process. Members included the current and most recent past chairs of the city council's Land Use and Housing and Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committees, the chair of the planning commission, and the city manager. The planning department provided staff support.

Key stakeholders. It was recognized that there are many ways to define "the public." City leaders determined that it was critical to involve as many points of view as possible in the process of developing the framework. Some of these were the building industry, the business and financial communities, environmental and historic preservation groups, the arts and culture community, unions, youth, and other government agencies.

The citizen committee and subcommittees. A 40-person Strategic Framework Citizen Committee was appointed and met once a month for a year. Four subcommittees were formed to address key issue areas: neighborhood quality, urban form and environment, economic prosperity, and infrastructure and public facilities. Membership on the committee represented the key stakeholder groups identified above.

A five-phased process. An intense public involvement effort was begun in 1999, and has now included more than 200 public forums, workshops, and local planning group meetings. There were five phases of public outreach and involvement.

Phase 1 included developing key partnerships with the county, the regional council of governments (SANDAG), and the Metropolitan Transit Development Board. Public discussion centered on growth projections. San Diegans were invited to participate and provide input on the city's future. The purposes of this phase were to present the most recent SANDAG growth projections to neighborhoods citywide and to help gain an understanding of community concerns related to growth. City staff provided background information on the general plan and the proposed Strategic Framework Element. Participants watched the video "Visions from Yesterday and Today" and participated in a facilitated discussion focused on what they liked about San Diego and what they wanted to change.

Phase 2 outreach efforts built upon the information presented and collected during Phase 1. The public was invited to present their concerns and identify issues the city should consider in preparing the Strategic Framework Element. Specialists from government and the private sector began to create a picture of how all the issues -- environmental protection, traffic, public services and infrastructure, jobs creation, housing affordability, and neighborhood quality -- are related. The complexity of seeing the relationships among all the issues and related opportunities began to emerge.

Phase 3 outreach meetings enabled the public to give input on the work of the citizen committee, including a vision, core values, and alternatives for future development. Presenters also discussed other efforts in the region. At this point, participants voiced acceptance of the vision and values and demonstrated support for one alternative -- A City of Villages.

Phase 4 outreach activities presented the City of Villages strategy to each of the city's 39 officially recognized planning groups. The mayor and members of the city council attended many of the meetings for the purpose of having a meaningful dialogue. Each meeting consisted of a brief staff presentation and video, followed by a group break-out session to discuss how the strategy could be applied to a particular planning area. The planning groups were asked the following questions: What do you think about the concept of A City of Villages? What are some of the unique characteristics of your community? Where do you see opportunities to enhance your community, and what are the special needs of your community? Participants generally agreed about adding or improving transit, housing, and public facilities.

Phase 5 community meetings summarized how the City of Villages strategy had evolved and offered the public an opportunity to comment on the draft versions of the Strategic Framework Element, Five-Year Action Plan, City of Villages Map, and Draft Environmental Impact Report. Each of the five meetings held during this phase addressed issues related to possible financing mechanisms, key decision points, and likely implementation steps, including a pilot village program. When queried, attendees strongly supported the City of Villages concept, and indicated by a show of hands that, under certain circumstances, they would be willing to pay increased fees and/or taxes to finance the necessary infrastructure.

In summary, the public outreach from 1999-2003 included the following:

20 town hall-style public meetings with more than 1,000 participants;

225 Strategic Framework Citizen Committee and Subcommittee meetings; and

20 taped and televised public workshops.

A website was launched in the spring of 1999 and periodically updated. It included a program overview and background; information about community participation and upcoming public and community meetings, workshops, and hearings; copies of the most recent draft planning documents; and links to other websites.

The General Plan Hotline was established with a dedicated number for citizens to ask questions and request information about the program, meetings, and ways to get involved. The hotline was checked daily during regular business hours.

Mailing lists were used to send post cards, flyers, and letters to announce upcoming meetings and released documents for public review.

News releases were regularly distributed to several local publications, including all the major newspapers, most of the neighborhood newspapers, and several ethnic newspapers.

More than 50 PowerPointTM presentations were produced and given to community groups, organizations, nonprofits, businesses, planning groups, and other stakeholders in the community.

Project Outcomes

The planning effort resulted in the adoption of an amendment to the city's general plan, called the Strategic Framework Element, which addresses the challenges of growth. The City of Villages concept is the centerpiece of the element. It calls for creating a network of vibrant village centers served by a world-class transit system. It includes a variety of policy approaches dealing with protection of the natural environment, increasing housing affordability, increasing mobility, creating economic prosperity, providing for equitable development, and providing public facilities. The city council endorsed a Five-Year Action Plan and the establishment of a Pilot Village Program.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

Because of fluctuating projections of population growth provided by the regional Council of Governments during this planning process, the city council was reluctant to establish specific numerical density ranges in the new general plan element. They did, however, indicate that future development near transit stops should be at a minimum density of 18 to 25 units per acre.

As mentioned earlier, during this planning process a citizen finance committee estimated that the city had a deficit in public facilities totaling $2.5 billion, and that new and controversial revenue-raising strategies were needed to support future growth. Because of uncertainty in infrastructure funding, the city council was reluctant to call for across-the-board immediate implementation of the City of Villages concept. However, to demonstrate its commitment to the village concept, the council agreed to identify three or four areas for the creation of pilot villages and to offer an incentive package to promote their implementation. These incentives are grouped into five categories: infrastructure, fees and taxes, processing, funding, and policies/regulations. Some incentives will give pilot villages priority status to receive existing funds, while others require a reallocation of money. The planning department is soliciting applications from private developers, nonprofits, and community groups citywide to identify the specific pilot village sites. Candidate sites will need to offer the potential for enhanced transit services, higher-intensity mixed-use development, pedestrian access, and public amenities. Applicants must demonstrate grassroots community support for each village concept.

Lessons Learned from the Project

Although the extensive broad-scale community outreach effort was important and successful in engaging and attracting broad citizen participation, it did not overcome the public's lack of trust in government. Fluctuating growth projections and budget shortfalls during the planning process led to skepticism that the city council would provide the infrastructure and transit needed to carry out the City of Villages planning concept effectively. The limited funds available to provide needed infrastructure caused apprehension about whether the city could ensure that the higher-density villages would have adequate public facilities and services. As a result, the city deemed it critical to proceed cautiously and focus on creating a successful incentive-based pilot project program that would be a showcase for building support for broader action.

Persons Interviewed

Gail Goldberg, planning director, City of San Diego

Mike McLaughlin, director of planning, San Diego Association of Governments

Catherine Cleary, outreach coordinator, Planning Department, City of San Diego

Bob Dunphy, research fellow -- transportation, Urban Land Institute

Colleen Clementson, general plan program manager, City of San Diego

Documents Reviewed

"The Strategic Framework Element," City of San Diego General Plan

"The Commitment to Public Involvement," City of San Diego

Web Link


Project Description and Development Program

San Jose, with almost one million people, is the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city has experienced rapid and ongoing growth, including development of employment areas that form a major part of Silicon Valley. Over the last 20 years, San Jose has aggressively used public redevelopment funding to reinvigorate a downtown that in many ways had been left behind as new growth focused on outlying areas.

In the 1990s, there was increasing criticism that the city's downtown focus was diverting energy and resources from neighborhood services and improvements. San Jose's mayor emerged as an advocate for using the redevelopment agency to improve neighborhoods. The result was city council endorsement of the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative (SNI), an effort to focus city resources (including those from the redevelopment agency) on 19 predominantly residential areas. The SNI involves both planning and implementation and has three goals established by the city council:

Listen to San Jose residents' ideas for neighborhood improvement;

Connect neighborhoods to resources; and

Respond to neighborhood priorities.

Each neighborhood develops a Neighborhood Improvement Plan as part of the effort to establish land-use policies and funding priorities. Implementation focuses on achieving neighborhood improvements, including revitalization of existing areas, improved community services, and new development. The process to develop the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan started in early 2000.

Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace (FWBT) has about 22,000 residents, including a substantial number of Hispanics, many of whom are first-generation immigrants with Spanish as their first language. Another large ethnic group is Portuguese, many of whom are elderly. Most Portuguese are bilingual, and some use Portuguese as their first language. The third significant population group is English speakers, most of whom are economically middle class.

The majority of the FWBT area consists of residential development, including single-family and smaller multifamily buildings. Some higher-density residential is found in areas west of Highway 101. Alum Rock/Santa Clara Street is dominated by commercial uses. Exceptions include the historic Five Wounds Church and its associated school, the historic San Jose Library (a 1907 Carnegie building), the edge of Roosevelt Park, and social clubs and other organizations serving the area's ethnic communities.

Industrial uses are along the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way and Highway 101. The continued viability of many industrial sites is doubtful because of a long-term trend to more intensive use of land located within the city. Commercial activities focus on Alum Rock/East Santa Clara Street, which functions as a "Main Street" for the area. Commercial uses also occur in several other locations and include a neighborhood shopping center.

Future introduction of light-rail service and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) heavy-rail service will accelerate the redevelopment and intensification of land uses. The FWBT is about 4 miles from San Jose International Airport, which is another incentive for more intense use of industrial areas. The residents of the FWBT area have a difficult relationship with the industrial land uses, primarily because of noise, truck traffic, and on-street loading activities.

The Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan development process had two interrelated parts:

Developing a community plan for an area with 22,000 residents, significant amounts of commercial and industrial activity, and future light-rail and heavy-rail commuter services.

Establishing a system for stronger community involvement in city activities, including allocation of city funding and access to improved community services.

Development of the Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan began in 2000, and the San Jose City Council gave it final approval in 2002. The study process included identifying a neighborhood vision, developing land-use recommendations, establishing building design guidelines, and prioritizing more than 100 neighborhood improvement actions. The 14 top-priority improvements identified will be the focus for use of city, Redevelopment Agency, and other public and private funds. The plan includes the following major elements:

A summary of existing conditions;

Principles for transforming and organizing physical concepts for the neighborhood;

Public improvements;

Land-use and building guidelines; and

Priorities and actions.

The plan's principles and organizing concepts emphasize the following:

A walkable and small-town character.

Conserving and leveraging the area's cultural and natural assets.

Improving parks and trails.

Economic diversity, including support for local businesses.

Transportation improvements that support pedestrian activities and capitalize on proposed regional transit service.

Responsibility for developing the Neighborhood Improvement Plan was focused on a Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC). The 25 members of the NAC were appointed by the city through the mayor's office, with close involvement of the city council member representing the Five Wounds area. Because of their extensive knowledge of the area and its residents, advice was solicited from the Parks and Recreation Department staff at the neighborhood community center. The NAC's large size was both an effort to accommodate the wide range of interests and groups in the Five Wounds area and a strategy to minimize the potential for vocal and strong-willed residents to capture the planning process. The NAC's four officers, who formed the Executive Committee, were selected by the NAC members. The initial meetings, which were organized and conducted by city staff, provided information on the overall process, specific land-use and community issues, and the city resources that were available for developing the Neighborhood Improvement Plan.

Basis for Case Study Selection

This case study embodies the following criteria identified in the research proposal:

Applies to a wide range of communities.

Has impact on, and involvement with, a large group of people.

Uses a creative array of tools and techniques in the public review process.

Uses public financial resources applied to mitigation.

Represents a project in Northern California.

Deals with managing infill in a urban community.

The Role of Density in the Project

San Jose's land-use planning policies encourage upgrading existing housing in areas like FWBT and developing new housing, especially in conjunction with light-rail service and BART. To facilitate use of BART, policies include changing land uses near BART stations and providing parking for BART users. The San Jose General Plan identified policies and land-use designations suitable for substantial new higher-density development in the FWBT area. However, the planning staff thought that community knowledge of and agreement with these policies was minimal. Planning staff believed that a proposal to redevelop any of several larger sites within the FWBT area would likely trigger substantial community involvement focused on fear of higher-density land uses.

The Valley Transportation Agency (VTA) provides transit service and is responsible for coordinating countywide transportation planning. VTA planners work to integrate land-use and transportation decisions to facilitate the use of transit and create pedestrian-oriented environments. Within the FWBT area, a light-rail line is planned on Santa Clara Street, and a future BART extension is anticipated to pass under the FWBT area to serve the nearby downtown. A Five Wounds station was included in the BART system design.

The city did not explicitly raise the issue of higher-density development when it began work on the FWBT Neighborhood Improvement Plan. Higher-density residential along the light-rail line and near the future BART station was among the initial city objectives, but having a community-driven process meant issues should emerge from public discussions rather than shaping public meetings to fit an agenda predetermined by the city.

The Barriers to Higher-Density Development

The community concerns in this process included traffic, parking, and a sense of overcrowding. In undertaking the planning study, the city addressed the following barriers:

Ethnic diversity and language differences. The FWBT area's 22,000 residents include a substantial Hispanic population, many of whom are first-generation residents, and a large Portuguese population, many of whom are elderly.

Lack of project area unity and coordination. The project area includes a variety of groups that have not functioned as a coordinated, unified neighborhood. City staff was concerned that the planning process might be dominated by a few vocal people, thus discouraging broader community involvement, and that community groups might focus on turf protection.

Inadequate local representation and organization. The planning effort was predicated on the belief that neighborhoods should be actively involved in setting their planning priorities and directions. The desired level of community involvement -- for example, to represent the extent and complexity of the planning area -- would not be possible without mobilizing local leadership and organization.

Poor planning track record. Previous planning efforts had not yielded positive community changes.

Fear of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. The agency has been a powerful force in downtown development. Agency staff was regarded as an outside force that might have motivations to undertake large-scale development out of scale with the neighborhood.

Resistance by city staff and consultants to a community-driven planning process. The city recognized that many professional staff and consultants are, by training and temperament, inclined to exercise control and avoid having non-experts make technical and policy decisions.

Techniques and Tools Used to Respond to Community Fears and Resistance to Higher- Density Development

To deal with ethnic diversity and language differences, project documents were routinely issued in English and Spanish, and some documents were translated into Portuguese. Most of the Portuguese residents are bilingual, but a significant portion of the Hispanic population is not fluent in English.

Two approaches to translating meetings were used. The first approach was the use of listening devices that provide simultaneous translations. However, the translations were slightly behind the actual speech, and participants following the translation often felt they were out of step with the meeting and did not have real-time participation. As the process went along, there was a shift to conducting meetings in two languages. While a slower approach, the level of participation increased. One result was that some ongoing agenda items that might have been addressed at each meeting were scheduled to be discussed at every second or third meeting.

Because of the lack of unity and coordination in the project area and the wide variety of groups involved, the process took longer than had been expected. The initial visioning process took seven months, far longer than was anticipated when it was proposed by NAC members. The visioning process was used to establish an initial level of integration among the geographically and ethnically diverse areas within the planning boundaries. As one participant noted, "You cannot agree to disagree until trust is in place." The community involvement process included NAC meetings and meetings in the subareas of the overall study area. Taking meetings into the neighborhoods achieved greater involvement.

Because previous planning efforts had not yielded positive community changes, a special effort was needed to establish credibility. The process of developing a Neighborhood Plan was accompanied by a city effort to work with community members to identify small problems that could be addressed immediately. Many of those problems were (and are) code-related issues such as illegal parking, trash, and illegal signs. City code enforcement staff attended each NAC meeting and provided active follow-up reports documenting the status of problems. Attending to the smaller but noticeable irritants showed the community that the city was willing and able to bring about positive community change.

A significant obstacle in the planning process was fear of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. The agency has been a powerful force in downtown and industrial area development, and it has had a more limited but growing role in neighborhood areas. The agency was regarded as an outside force that might undertake development out of scale with the neighborhoods of the FWBT area. This issue was addressed by increasing exposure of redevelopment staff in the community and conveying the message that the agency's objectives were to facilitate immediate community improvements and develop a plan that addressed longer-term issues.

To respond to the lack of adequate local representation and organization, the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services staff assisted three areas within the greater FWBT area to form neighborhood associations. The city also made sure that its neighborhood planning process had ongoing active outreach to the community. Sending information home with students was one way to reach residents. Social, cultural, and other community organizations were also used, as was the Five Wounds Roman Catholic Church. A priest at Five Wounds Church who both understood and actively supported the planning effort assisted the process.

Gaining broad city staff and consultant acceptance of a community-driven planning process was another challenge. An upper-management steering committee was critical to maintaining consistent staff direction. Emphasis on a community-driven plan was comfortable for Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services staff, both because of their close connection with the community and because senior managers actively facilitated the approach. Training was provided, and the Planning Department and Redevelopment Agency staffs became comfortable with the process reasonably quickly, in part because their leaderships embraced the idea. Other city staff, as well as the consultant team, had greater difficulty in letting go of a top-down approach built around their expertise. They needed to adjust to not being in control. One participant observed that having neighborhood representatives at process-planning and agenda-setting meetings had many benefits, including convincing the consultant to use less technical language and let the process unfold more flexibly and informally.

Project Outcomes

The Neighborhood Advisory Committee, through a 24-month process, developed a Neighborhood Improvement Plan that is regarded as successful, notwithstanding post-approval funding problems. The plan includes support for higher-density housing along transit routes and near a proposed BART station. The process led to an ongoing program of community involvement.

Having the NAC and the broader community actively involved in identifying a vision for the area resulted in the identification of issues and opportunities, including the desire for community amenities and an upgraded physical environment. Community members learned that improvements could come through private redevelopment. Some improvements were connected to allowing a level of density such that developers felt they could afford to construct related community amenities. Between that realization and a consideration of how design guidelines could be used to ensure high-quality development, the perception of higher-density housing went, in the words of one participant, "from bad to okay."

The community involvement process resulted in the identification of a number of physical design features that were integrated into the plan. Protecting views of the historic Five Wounds Church was important, and a scaled density and height system was developed to protect the church from being physically and visually overwhelmed by new development. The community also wanted a public plaza as part of the redevelopment stimulated by new light-rail and BART service to the neighborhood. The idea for a plaza as a community gathering place came from a high school study that was part of an effort to involve younger members of the community in the planning process. Once articulated, the idea quickly took hold as part of what the community wanted from new development. It became a reason to support higher-density development near the prospective location of the plaza.

The interest in and willingness of the city to have a community-driven planning process shaped the resulting process and outcome. More people were involved, and the plan is regarded as having more staying power in the face of budget problems and other obstacles.

The initial staff objective was to achieve 75 to 80 percent support among the participants. Extensive efforts to keep people involved and listen to their concerns resulted in almost no opposition to the final plan. The NAC was in charge of the presentations to the planning commission and city council. No opposition to the plan was voiced during the formal city public review process.

Community involvement added 6 months to the original 18-month project development schedule.

The creation of a vision as part of the public involvement process established a base of citizen understanding and defined community objectives that have contributed to both the Neighborhood Plan and the post-plan adoption implementation. The community's response to the funding cutbacks described below has been guided by their objectives. They have modified their implementation tactics to pursue the objectives more slowly and in different ways, and by so doing they have maintained the acceptability and usability of the plan.

Analysis of Project Outcomes

One key to success was the large effort made to take the process into the community. Initially, the NAC was seen as the basis of community representation. As the process unfolded, the NAC members realized that extensive involvement meant taking the process into the community. Area meetings, chaired by a NAC member, were set up. Outreach and decision making focused on both the NAC meetings and the area meetings.

As previously noted, the idea that the study should be community driven emerged at the start of the FWBT process. City staff and consultants let go of the process and accepted roles that did not always acknowledge the value of their expertise in a traditional way.

The planning process reflected the need to involve more people and do so in a manner that educated them to participate more effectively. One participant noted that taking the time to gain involvement and commitment was critical, and a process that stayed with the initial schedule would have been far less successful and would have had less long-term staying power. As a result of the extensive efforts to keep people involved and listen to their issues and concerns, there was almost no opposition to the final plan.

Spending substantial time creating a community vision established a broadly shared understanding of community priorities and desired land uses. The creation of a vision as part of the public involvement process brought the various elements of the community together and created shared understandings of hopes and concerns. The vision process created an essential framework for identifying specific community priorities and desired land uses. Everyone interviewed said that developing the vision statement was critical to project success.

Shifting from simultaneous language translation to conducting meetings in English and Spanish was a key to making participants feel engaged in the process. The idea of using new technology in the form of simultaneous translating devices with earphones was intriguing, but found to be less useful than conducting meetings in English or Spanish with immediate translation. Immediate translation required more time, but community members were more closely tied into what was being discussed. The ability to engage more actively in meetings helped participants to feel listened to and involved.

Creating a plan was the first step in an ongoing process of city and community cooperation. The concept of a plan has become part of an ongoing working relationship. The NAC continues to function, and new people are recruited for various tasks. Successes are celebrated, and new problems are addressed as part of a continuing process. When budget problems emerged for the city, the NAC identified priorities for the use of city funds. The NAC has started writing grant applications to obtain additional funding for work on its top priorities.

Lessons Learned from the Project

The following are some of the advantages of a government agency's having organized neighborhood groups as active participants in the planning process:

Extensive involvement of the community can generate deeper, longer-lasting acceptance and ownership of the results of the planning process.

A community-driven process must have strong support from senior elected and appointed officials and staff. Senior staff must ensure ongoing commitment by the many parts of a large organization, and they must actively counter organizational inclinations to keep real decision-making with staff and rely on traditional ways of addressing issues.

Ethnic and language diversity in a planning area often requires taking additional time and using multilingual techniques to communicate with and educate residents and other participants.

Churches, schools, and other community organizations are valuable informational conduits to and from the community. The role of these organizations can be reinforced if they are encouraged to become active participants in the planning process.

Development of a community vision is a critical part of preparing area plans. The vision development process identifies common values and can bridge between disparate parts of the community. The process takes time, and short-cutting weakens the basis for subsequent decisions.

Benefits of involving citizen committee leadership in the project and meeting management process include increasing public ownership of the process, obtaining feedback to identify critical issues, reducing the potential for staff or consultants to dominate the process, and assisting citizen leaders to use public meetings more effectively.

A planning process that addresses longer-term land-use issues in an area that needs short-term improvements benefits from addressing the more immediate issues and concerns during and after the development of an area plan.

Public agency staff should be involved with community issues and accessible outside of community meetings.

Staff should actively manage consultants to ensure that they tailor their work to the specific needs and desires of the local community.

Staff and consultants should use language that is understandable and not excessively loaded with technical jargon.

Persons Interviewed

Joan Rivas Cosby, neighborhood participant, member and current chair of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee

Eryn Demming, Redevelopment Agency staff person assigned to the FWBT project and subsequent implementation

Tara Kelly, Planning Department senior planner and project manager for the FWBT Neighborhood Improvement Plan

Paul Pereira, Community Coordinator for the FWBT area, Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services

Dayana Salazar, Interim Chair, San José State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning and manager of a study of a portion of the FWBT area done before the Neighborhood Improvement Plan with ongoing involvement by the neighborhood

Matthew Taecker, principal-in-charge and project manager for the lead consulting team from Calthorpe Associates/Catalyst

Documents Reviewed

The Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace Neighborhood Improvement Plan (August 2002)

The City of San Jose website

City of San Jose General Plan (2001)

Web Resources


Charrette Institute:

Congress for the New Urbanism:

Design Matters: Best Practices in Affordable Housing Design:

Environmental Simulation Center:

Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing:

Land Use Information Center (University of Oregon):

Local Government Commission:

National Governors Association:

PlaceMattersTools (Resource for community design and decision-making): .

Public Policy Institute of California:

Sprawl Busters:

Dispute Resolution

Association of Conflict Resolution:

Conflict Resolution Information Service:

Consensus Building Institute:

Consensus Organizing Institute:

Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Group:

International Association for Participation Professionals:

National Association for Community Mediation:

National Resource Alternative Dispute Resolution:

Policy Consensus Initiative:

United States Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution:

Western Justice Center Conflict Resolution:

Technical Tools

Animation Software

Autodesk Viz:

Creator and VIO:

3D Analyst:

Impact Analysis

Community Viz (Community Viz, Inc.):

Index (Criterion Planners/Engineers):

PLACE3S (California Energy Commission):

Quest (Envision Sustainability Tools):

What If? (What If?, Inc.):

Site and Model Building

Community 2020 (Caliper Corporation):

MePlan (Marcial Echenique & Partners):

Model Builder (ESRI):

Visual Preference Surveys

A. Nelessen Associates:

Local Government Commission:


Abbreviations and Acronyms





Bay Area Rapid Transit


Below Market Rate


Computer-Aided Design


Compact Disc Read-Only Memory


Center for Understanding the Built Environment


Conditional Use Permit


Digitally Accurate Reproduction software


Environmental Impact Report


Five Wounds/Brookwood Terrace


Geographic Information System


Growth Management Initiative


Homeowners Association


Light Rail Transit


Mineta Transportation Institute


National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Neighborhood Advisory Committee


Not In My Backyard


Planning for Community Energy, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability


Residents Against Inconsistent Development


Research Associates Policy Oversight Committee


Sacramento Area Council of Governments


Regional Council of Governments in San Diego area


Strong Neighborhoods Initiative


Transportation for Livable Communities


Transit-Oriented Development


Valley Transportation Agency



Allen, Peter T. "Public Participation in Resolving Environmental Disputes and the Problem of Representativeness." Risk: Health, Safety & Environment, Fall 1998, 297-308.

Alliance for Regional Stewardship. Empowering Regions: Strategies and Tools for Community Decision Making (Monograph Series 2). April 2001.

American Planning Association. Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook. Chicago: 2002.

Association of Bay Area Governments. Blueprint for Bay Area Housing. Housing Element Ideas and Solutions. Oakland, CA: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2001.

_____. Theory in Action: Smart Growth Case Studies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Around the Nation. Oakland, CA: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2000.

Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), Bay Area Alliance for Sustainable Development (BAASD). Smart Growth Strategy Regional Livability Footprint Project: Shaping the Future of the Nine-County Bay Area (Briefing Book for Public Workshop Participants and other Bay Area Residents). Oakland, CA: Association of Bay Area Governments, 2001.

Benfield, F. Kaid, Jutka Terris, and Nancy Vorsanger. Solving Sprawl: Models of Smart Growth in Communities Across America. New York: Natural Resources Defense Council, 2001.

Calavita, Nico, and Kenneth Grimes. "Inclusionary Housing in California: The Experience of Two Decades." Journal of the American Planning Association. Spring 1998, 150-169.

California Department of Transportation. Statewide Transit-Oriented Development Study: Factors for Success in California (Final Report, Executive Summary and Technical Appendix). September 2002.

Campoli, Julie, and Alex S. MacLean. Visualizing Density. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2002.

Carpenter, Susan, and W.J.D. Kennedy. Managing Public Disputes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

Center for Livable Communities. Building Livable Communities: A Policy Maker's Guide to Infill Development. Sacramento, CA: Local Government Commission, 1995, 2001.

_____. Participation Tools for Better Land-Use Planning : Techniques and Case Studies. Sacramento, CA: Local Government Commission, 1995.

_____. Why People Don't Walk and What City Planners Can Do About It. Sacramento, CA: Local Government Commission.

Cervero, Robert, and Michael Duncan. "Transit Is Added Value." Urban Land, February 2002, 77-84.

Clary, B. "NIMBY or citizen participation." Maine Policy Review 6(2) (1997): 6-7.

Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI). Community and Economic Development Toolbox. Cornell University and Pennsylvania State University, 2002.

Concern, Inc., Environmental Simulation Center, Denver Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Pl acemaking tools for community action: Tools that engage the community to create a future that works for everyone. Fall 2002.

Deletetsky, Richard, Alison Penell, and Paul Zykofsky. Building Livable Communities: A Policymaker's Guide to Infill Development. Sacramento, CA: The Center for Livable Communities and the Local Government Commission, 2001.

Duany, Andres, Jeff Speck, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Smart Growth Manual. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003.

Fisher, Roger, and William Ury. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In. Penguin Books, 1999.

Freilich, Robert. From Sprawl to Smart Growth. Chicago, Ill.: American Bar Association, 1999. Order online at

GCA Strategies. Nimby Notes.

Gray, Barbara. Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989.

Helling, A., and J. Clayton. "Encouraging Community Dialog: Approach, Promise, and Tensions." International Journal of Public Administration, July 2001, 749.

Institute for Local Self Government. California Inclusionary Housing Reader. 2003.

Jones, Tom, William Pettus, and Michael Pyatok. Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing. Victoria, Australia: The Images Publishing Group, 1998.

Katz, Peter. New Tools for Community Design and Decision Making. and

Leatherman, John, and Marlene Howell. "Meaningful Input to Public Policy: Citizen Participation Strategies." Kansas State University, November 2000.

Local Government Commission. Participation Tools for Better Community and Land Use Planning.

Meck, Stuart, ed. Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook: Model Statutes for Planning and the Management of Change. Chicago: American Planning Association, 2002.

Minnesota Environmental Quality Board. From Policy to Reality: Model Ordinances for Sustainable Development. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Planning, September 2000.

National Association of Counties, the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, and the Smart Growth Network. Local Tools for Smart Growth: Practical Strategies and Techniques to Improve Our Communities. 2000.

National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC). NIMBY Report: Smart Growth and Affordable Housing . Spring 2001.

_____. NIMBY Report: Does Design Make a Difference? Fall 2001 .

1000 Friends of Minnesota. Growing Smart in Minnesota (Executive Summary).

Patterson, J.G. How to Become a Better Negotiator. New York: American Management Association, 1999.

Pawlukiewicz, M., and D. Myerson. ULI/NMHC/AIA Joint Forum on Housing Density. ULI Land Use Policy Forum Report. Urban Land Institute, February, 2002.

Porter, Douglas. Making Smart Growth Work. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Land Institute, 2002.

_____. Managing Growth in America's Communities. Washington D.C.: Island Press, 1997. Order online at

PPIC Statewide Survey: Special Survey on Land Use. Public Policy Institute of California, 2002.

Sanders, Steve. A Strategic Scan of Smart Growth Issues in California. Miami: Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, 2001.

Schreiber, Kenneth, Gary Binger, and Dennis Church. Making Growth Work for California's Communities. San Jose, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute, May 2003.

Schreiber, Kenneth, et al. Sustainable Communities Draft Final Report. San Jose, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute, May 2001. (search Sustainable Communities).

Shea, Cynthia Pollock. Tools for Community Design and Decision Making. Florida Sustainable Communities Network.

Shell, Richard. Bargaining for Advantage. New York: American Management Association, 1999.

Siemon, Charles L. "Successful Growth Management Techniques: Observations from the Monkey Cage." Chicago: The Urban Lawyer, Vol. 29, No. 2 (Spring 1997): 233-250.

Smart Growth Network and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Getting to Smart Growth: 100 Policies for Implementation. 2001.

Snyder, Ken. "Decision Support Tools for Community Planning." Public Management. November 2001, 4-8.

Susskind, Lawrence, and Jeffery Cruikshank. Breaking the Impass: Consensual Approaches to Resolving Public Disputes. New York: Basic Books, 1989.

Sussking, Lawrence, and Patrick Field. Dealing with an Angry Public: The Mutual Gains Approach to Resolving Disputes. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Susskind, Lawrence, S. McKearnan, and J. Thomas-Larmer. The Consensus Building Handbook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1999.

Urban Land Institute. ULI on the Future: Smart Growth-Economy, Community, Environment. Washington, D.C.: October 1998.

Ury, William, Jeanne Bret, and Stephen Goldberg. Getting Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Costs of Conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988.

Ury, William, and Roger Fisher. Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People. New York: Arrow/Division of Random House, 1991. (Also an Audio CD, Bantam Books Audio, 2002.)

United States Environmental Protection Agency. Projecting Land-Use Change: A Summary of Models for Assessing the Effects of Community Growth and Change on Land-Use Patterns. EPA/600/R-00/098. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Cincinnati, OH, 2000.

Weisbord, M., and S. Janoff. Future Search, An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground in Organizations and Communities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1995.

Wheeler, Stephen. Smart Infill: Creating More Livable Communities in the Bay Area. San Francisco: Greenbelt Alliance, 2002.

About the Authors

Kenneth R. Schreiber, AICP, Principal Investigator

Kenneth Schreiber, principal investigator of this report, is a self-employed land-use planning consultant. He was a planner, senior planner, and assistant planning director in Rockford-Winnebago County, Illinois, and assistant planning director, director of planning and community environment, and deputy city manager of Palo Alto, California, before opening his Palo Alto-based consulting services office in January 2000.

Schreiber earned his Bachelor of Science in history from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Master of Arts in History from Columbia University, a Master of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Golden Gate University.

His areas of research interest include land-use and transportation strategic planning, rural and urban transportation planning, and transportation demand management.

Gary Binger, AICP, Research Associate

Research Associate Gary Binger has extensive experience in land use, development processing, and intergovernmental coordination. He has served as an assistant planner in Concord, California; an associate planner in Oakland, California; planning director for the City of Del Mar, California; chief of planning and community development director for the City of Walnut Creek, California; and deputy executive director and planning director of the Association of Bay Area Governments. Since 2000, he has been director of the Urban Land Institute's California Smart Growth Initiative.

Binger earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and his Master of Urban Planning from the University of Washington, Seattle. He has performed graduate study at the University of Manchester, England, where he studied the British New Town Program. He recently received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association.

His areas of research interest include land-use planning, state and regional planning, smart growth strategies, linking land-use and transportation planning, public participation, and law and environment regulations.

Dennis Church, Research Associate

Research Associate Dennis Church is president of, an Internet publishing and digital media company specializing in environmental, sustainability, and planning issues, and providing educational resources including speakers, video and still images, and related materials.

Church has 25 years of local government program development and policy analysis experience. He holds a degree in journalism from San José State University.

His areas of research interest include rural and urban transportation planning, state and regional transportation planning, land use, and energy and ecological systems.

Sanhita Mallick, Graduate Student Research Assistant

Sanhita Mallick is a graduate student at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, San José State University. Mallick holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Calcutta University, India, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Tokyo, Japan.

Her research interests include urban design, transit-oriented development, smart growth, transportation planning, traditional and vernacular architecture, and artificial intelligence in architectural design.

After graduation, she plans to work in the field of planning research in California.

Peer REview

San José State University, of the California State University system, and the MTI Board of Trustees have agreed upon a peer review process required for all research published by MTI. The purpose of the review process is to ensure that the results presented are based upon a professionally acceptable research protocol.

Research projects begin with the approval of a scope of work by the sponsoring entities, with in-process reviews by the MTI Research Director and the project sponsor. Periodic progress reports are provided to the MTI Research Director and the Research Associates Policy Oversight Committee (RAPOC). Review of the draft research product is conducted by the Research Committee of the Board of Trustees and may include invited critiques from other professionals in the subject field. The review is based on the professional propriety of the research methodology.