Fall Urban Planning Course Descriptions

PLA 4008

History and Theory of Planning

Clara Irazabal
3 Points

This course addresses the history of the planning profession in the United States with its intellectual evolution, while focusing on planning functions and planning roles. The course considers multiple rationales and alternative means of understanding and practicing planning. Particular attention is paid to the interplay of power and knowledge, ethics and social responsibility and issues of race, gender, class and identity. Consideration to some aspects of history and theory of planning in other parts of the world is included in comparative perspective.

PLA 4151

Economics for Planners

Smita Srinivas
3 Points

Cities are run by city governments. These governments are providers of Infrastructure and goods themselves and they also regulate the provision of goods by private firms; they promote health and welfare through land use and environmental regulation; and they are charged with ensuring that political power and economic resources will be distributed equitably. Yet governments operate in societies where resource allocation is governed primarily by markets. Economics provides tools, frequently controversial to guide decisions about when and how government should be involved in providing or subsidizing services and in shaping market activity. In addition, you will attend one of three one-hour recitation sessions each week on either Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday 1-2pm. Your section will be assigned to you at the beginning of the semester. 

PLA 4208

Planning Methods

David King
3 Points

This is an introductory course designed to help prepare students for common analysis methods used in planning practice. Common methods of analysis are covered using publicly available data sets and data collected through assignments. Through weekly readings, lectures and lab sessions students will gain a basic understanding of the tools and skills required in planning practice. For more in depth instruction on statistical methods students are encouraged to look into other courses on campus. You will attend one of three lab sections each week on either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday from 2-4pm, your section will be assigned to you at the beginning of the semester. 

PLA 4226

Presentations: A Strategic Planning Tool

Andrea Kahn
3 Points

Public presentations provide powerful tools to focus attention and influence the outcomes of urban planning and design processes. When planning professionals stand up in front of community groups to explain a neighborhood up-zoning proposal or leading designers address review boards about creative urban and architectural schemes, to see their initiatives realized speakers must clearly communicate the merits of their visions. Compelling presenters invite even the most doubtful listeners to become planning and design advocates. Conversely, great ideas, poorly communicated, rarely get materialized. This seminar approaches presentation as a strategic element of planning and design practice. It engages the presentation process critically, exploring it as a means of argumentation, an education tool, and a form of public advocacy. Today diverse tools exist to help planners and designers deliver their messages; nonetheless, the ability to craft and deliver a strong presentation remains an elusive goal for many. By emphasizing how to effectively integrate visual and verbal content in relation to messaging goals, the seminar examines challenges associated with conveying complex planning and design ideas to non-professional audiences. Readings, discussion and hands-on presentation opportunities provide participants with concepts, analytic tools and practical techniques necessary for developing strong presentation skill sets.

PLA 4340

Sustainable Zoning & Land Use Regulation

Jonathan Martin
3 Points

Sustainable Zoning and Land Use Regulations introduces the basic techniques of land use control as practiced in the United States today with an emphasis on regulations that support green building practices and promote sustainable development patterns. Attention is given to the history, development and incidence of a variety of land use regulations, from the general (or comprehensive) plan to the advanced including growth management and recent sustainable zoning practices. Of interest to the student is a focus on the practical questions of what works, what doesn’t, and why? Guided by readings from a wide range of sources (including adopted and proposed sustainable ordinances), the course will be structured as both a seminar and lecture format incorporating the following: 1) General Land Use Regulations, 2) Sustainable Land Use Regulations, 3) Growth Management, 4) Residential Regulations / Development Fees, and 5) Regulation of Aesthetics.

PLA 4387

Private Partnerships, Privatization, and the New City Government

Moshe Adler
3 Points

The current budget deficits that local governments face have given new life to the call to “reinvent government.” Public/private partnerships and privatization raise questions both about the proper role of government on the one hand, and about who governs on the other. They also raise the practical question of how best to manage them, given that the criteria for “best” must involve not only considerations of financial costs but of also of access and control. The integration of private contractors and not-for-profit organizations into the government has reached such a level that managing them is now a requirement of the practice of urban planning. To some, the relationship between the government and its private partners has evolved to such a degree that it is no longer hierarchical but co-dependent, best viewed as the relationship between nodes in a network. The course will examine when public/private partnerships and privatization make sense as well as the structure of the new government and the tools available for its governance.

PLA 4394

Planning for Disasters, Recovery, and Resilience

Ethel Sheffer
3 Points

This course focuses on the physical, social, economic and policy aspects of natural and human-made disasters. Particular attention will be given to basic issues of land use and development, institutional policies and response, and the political response to disasters in the immediate and long run. We will examine the causes and consequences of disasters and analyze the factors affecting recovery and resilience. The course will concentrate on planning in the United States, in the context of the increased urgency presented by climate change and fragmented government and private sector responses. There will be a major focus on the recovery after Hurricane Sandy of 2012 and in addition, case studies will be drawn from around the U.S, together with selected comparisons from other countries. We will examine a variety of issues and tools, including disaster prevention and recovery programs, disaster planning as part of the redevelopment process, risk and vulnerability assessment, hazard mitigation, urban design and preservation, and community and local participation. 

PLA 4501

Local Economic Development Planning

Stacey Sutton
3 Points

Urban planning is charged with attending to the myriad dynamics that make places attractive for living, working, investing and visiting; and weighing the politically palatable, socially acceptable, and financially feasible dimensions of social actions. Economic development is an essential component of urban planning that is primarily concerned with the “economic” health of urban dwellers and urban spaces. Therefore, economic development focuses on questions of economic growth, capital investment, local competitiveness, in addition to poverty reduction, equitable opportunity structures, employment, wages human capital development and labor market practices. This seminar demands reflection on ways that assumptions about: the ‘public good,’ equitable development, ‘public’ and ‘private’ interests, social stratification, the market, racialization of space, costs and benefits, equality, and geographic scale (neighborhood, city, region, global) affect the ways LED planning and decision‐making are carried out. Do these assumptions influence the types of outcomes we accept as “Fair and Just”? Students should come away from this seminar ready to examine economic development dilemmas with both technical acumen and essential, yet under‐emphasized, critical thinking skills.

PLA 4577

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Jeremy White, Jessica Braden
3 Points

This course provides instruction in GIS techniques for land use analysis using ArcGIS. Students enrolled in the course use real world scenarios to learn the spatial visualization techniques necessary for effective communication in the planning field. The course is held in the School's GIS Laboratory, a computer facility dedicated to the instruction of computer applications.

PLA 4579

Introduction to Environmental Planning

Peter Marcotullio
3 Points

This course provides an introduction to the background and practice of environmental planning through a review of the history of urban environmental planning thought and an investigation into the impacts of urbanization at different scales. Students will also be introduced to the tools of environmental planning in order to evaluate issues in both developed and developing countries.

PLA 6011

Cities, Nature, and Technology

Bob Beauregard
3 Points

The purpose of this course is to explore how human and non-human realities are intertwined in the making, re-making, and un-making of cities. The focus is on the materiality of buildings, "natural" forms (e.g., wetlands, rivers), infrastructures (e.g., sewers, streets), plant and animal life, structures (e.g., billboards, cellphone towers), and people. The course's perspective is derived from actor-network theory and writings on assemblages, "vibrant matter," cyborg urbanism, infrastructure and development, and the metabolism of the city. The goal is to provide the student with an historical and holistic understanding of the evolution of cities that privileges assemblages of human things, objects, and nature. Explicitly rejected is that intervention involves autonomous and empowered humans who engage a passive urban materiality.

PLA 6052

Planning Law

Andrew Scherer
3 Points

This core course explores the legal foundations of planning in the United States. Case studies and legal readings provide the foundations to understanding zoning, environmental law, aesthetic regulations, and housing policies.

PLA 6090

Transportation Finance and Economics

David King
3 Points

Sustainable cities require transportation systems that provide environmental, social and economic benefits. In the United States automobiles are used for the majority of personal travel. Many planners argue that auto-centric cities are unsustainable, and promote transit, bicycles and other modes as alternative ways of travel. Goods movement is dominated by trains and trucks, and these modes often compete with personal travel for road space and rail access. Making the overall transportation system more sustainable is complex, difficult and requires many trade-offs. This course explores the environmental, social and economic issues of sustainable transportation. Much of the class focuses on mass transit, which reflects the importance of transit in cities and the funding priorities of federal, state and local governments. Other topics covered include high speed rail, freight and shipping, local planning and the future of the automobile. Students will explore the incentives that shape our current system, new technologies that will influence transportation in the future and unintended consequences of well-meaning policies. Special concern for the equity effects of sustainable transportation is included.

PLA 6216

NYC Land Use Approvals

Eldad Gothelf
3 Points

The course will take a real-world approach in examining the various land use approval processes in New York City. Students will review the ULURP public review process, the Board of Standards and Appeals variance process, the Landmarks Preservation Commission procedures, and other elements of governmental approval processes. Students will attend public hearings, review past cases, and critically analyze what gets approved, what does not, and why. By following current and past development projects through these processes, students will get an understanding of the interplay between planning and politics.

PLA 6227

Political Economics of Development Planning

Smita Srinivas
3 Points
Political economy can be described as the study of institutions and modes of governance. It attempts to capture different models of how society’s politics and economy are intertwined. It is also a discerning look at the language, models and actual history of social change. There are many ‘schools’ within the field of political economy attempting to describe issues such as the role of the state, the optimal path to development, and the most equitable forms of redistribution. These also comprise strong behavioral and institutional assumptions about locality and nationality and how to run urban and other development projects. This course is essential for the international development planning specialization. It provides skills to analyze any development approach, and an understanding of the limitations and opportunities in project planning.
PLA 6330

Site Planning and Support Systems for Development

Graham Trelstad
3 Points

This course introduces students to the specific techniques employed by planners and developers to achieve a livable and healthful urban environment through effective and efficient site design.

PLA 6346

Planning for Emerging Economies

Xin Li
3 Points

This course will focus on contemporary urban challenges that emerging economies are facing as part of the interconnected world economy and society. These challenges range from increasing competition for economic growth, to environmental protection versus economic development, housing reform and slum upgrading in the process of urban renewal, rising conflicts over land use and property rights, urban-rural migration, and the rising power of social media. Students will have the opportunity to take a comparative perspective on how countries with different institutional settings deal with similar urban planning problems. Cases covered in the course will be drawn from countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

PLA 6434

Introduction to Transportation Planning

Floyd Lapp
3 Points

Transportation, or the lack thereof, directly influences the development of the built environment.  The current and future challenge of the land use/transportation connection is to redial the Post World War II years of primarily promoting highways, automobiles and low density spread, suburban development.  In the last 20 years, more sustainable, transit oriented development (TOD) is starting to emerge.  In the last decade vehicle miles traveled has declined.  However, all this will take much more time before the retrofitting of our metropolitan areas are achieved.

An introduction and overview of transportation modes, the characteristics of transportation planning policies and procedures will be provided with their effect on the location, economic development of urban places and the related land use patterns. The growing dilemma in moving goods and freight will be introduced as both components continue to increase their share of overall trips.  The role of the environmental impact statement and the increasing interest in environmental justice will be discussed.  The governance of transportation as it has evolved for more than half a century with the federal mandated metropolitan transportation planning organization (MPO) will also be evaluated.

PLA 6573

Introduction to Community Development

Lance Freeman
3 Points

The objective of the course is to prepare students to develop strategies for revitalizing forlorn inner city neighborhoods.  By the end of the course students will understand the various theories of neighborhood change, be able to use these theories to inform the development of revitalization strategies, and be familiar with techniques for analyzing and diagnosing neighborhood trends relevant to community development.

PLA 6605

Developing Urban Informality

Alejandro de Castro Mazarro
3 Points

This course draws from the experience of the seminar “Formalism and Informality in Latin American Architecture,” taught at GSAPP during the Fall semester of 2012. It aims to strengthen the International Development curriculum of GSAPP’s Urban Planning program, and to relate Urban Planning, Urban Design and Architectural disciplines that focus on the urban poor.
Poverty and inequality are too often perceived as problems attained to their present condition, so little effort is made to analyze the historical sequence of urban planning programs and design practices that emerged in the 19th Century. This lack of emphasis in historical precedents – in their success and failures – has weakened the consistency of some contemporary programs and practices dealing with informality such as “urban acupuncture”, “slum upgrading”, “sites and services”, “progressive housing”, and “social housing”.
This seminar will expose, explore and question contemporary, acknowledged urban planning programs and urban design strategies dealing with informality. To this purpose, it will showcase related texts and projects that can be understood as historical paradigms and paradoxes of current programs developing urban informality. These international case studies will include, among others, examples from Indonesia, Hong-Kong, Thailand, Kenya, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua, India, UK, and Argentina.

PLA 6607

Environment, Climate Change, and Vulnerability of Urban Cities: Our New “Normal”

Marcela Tovar-Restrepo
3 Points

Climate change (CC) constitutes one of the most urgent issues of our time. It has worldwide implications -from the exacerbation of poverty, to the loss of environmental, political, economic and social security-. Climate change threatens both industrialized and less industrialized world regions. Vulnerable social groups in precarious positions bear the burden of phenomenon like: displacement, interethnic and social conflicts, alteration of food production patterns and livelihoods, and spread of diseases among others. This course explores the vulnerability of urban populations making emphasis on context specific impacts in low and middle-income nations.  Using case studies we will analyze how climate change impacts different social groups in our cities, identifying adaptation and mitigation strategies being currently implemented. Tools to draw on climate change scientific data and the uncertainty inherent in future projections, will be provided. Students will have the opportunity to study and participate in climate change and development international processes like: the UN Climate Change Summit in Sept. 2014 in NY, Rio+20, Post 2015 agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), COP-20 in Lima-Peru, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and REED+.

PLA 6609

Territorial Imperative: Twentieth Century New Towns

David Smiley
3 Points
Central to the logic of New Towns during the 20th century was the precise delineation of territory. Modern land use, planning and urban design practices were based on the rationalization of parcels of land which could thereby be exchanged, regulated and controlled. The seemingly unknowable morass of the 19th century European industrial metropolis, fueled by an Enlightenment belief in rational progress, generated an epistemological shift based on the total control of action and space, a territorial imperative. Garden City and CIAM devotees alike, capitalist or communist, for homeland or colony, the New Town was rooted in a belief that regions with specified patterns containing settlements of fixed size and stipulated uses would create well-functioning communities. That this authoritarian control of space and human activity – which optimistically yoked together the formal methods of the Ideal City to the social content of Utopia – could be represented as socially progressive is a paradox of 20th century design.
This paradox is the entry point for the research of this class. We will investigate the theories and histories of New Towns in their Euro-American context and in their colonial dispersal, among their protagonists and critics, and through their trajectory in the overlapping disciplines required by implementation (urban planning, urban design, policy and architecture).
The class will also undertake the documentation of a number of New Towns because further interpretation, comparisons, analysis, comprehension and evaluation is precluded in the absence of such data. The study of plans and sections, occupants and programs, scale and size, infrastructure and siting, and policy and planning frameworks will allow us to understand more precisely the methods, means – and, perhaps, the varied ends – of the territorial imperative. With their dramatic rise in Asia as well as the active renovation of many extant examples, historic New Towns may yet offer new possibilities.
PLA 6611

Regional Foodshed Resilience Practicum

Eugenia Manwelyan and Nicola Twilley
3 Points
The Regional Foodshed Resilience Practicum takes place simultaneously at universities in two global cities: New York and Mumbai. In each city, a similar set of pressing and large-scale issues around land ownership and access, a growing urban-rural disconnect; food security, access, and justice; health; and food system resilience in the face of increasingly common severe weather events are filtered through a very different cultural, governmental, infrastructural, and spatial reality — but, at scales both large and small, from street vendors to macro-economic policy, the varying weaknesses, failures, opportunities, and successes of all four regions’ responses can help inform a much more nuanced understanding of the challenges at hand.
Students taking part in the Regional Foodshed Resilience Practicum meet with experts in the field, engage in critical learning workshops, take part in hands-on projects, and collaborate across borders. During the first semester, students examine the resilience of their respective food system as it pertains to the natural environment, built environment, equity, economic development, and human health in their city and region. Their guiding question is: How resilient is our food system in the face of changing environmental, demographic, and economic factors? To focus these efforts, the classes trace one staple food item through their entire food system. The second semester is an international collaboration between the two classes during which they learn from one another and use their combined knowledge to draw connections, compile a list of best practices, and create region-specific recommendations and global synergies. Students and instructors collaborate to create a map, final report, and public programming at the conclusion of the course.
PLA 6622

Inside Urban Transit

Andrew Bata
3 Points
The aim of this course to offer students first hand, detailed knowledge of the inside workings of large urban transportation systems. Specifically students will be primarily familiarized with the specifics of New York MTA and its subsidiary agencies, however experiences of other major urban transport networks will also be introduced.

Managing, operating, and maintaining large, complex transportation networks is a daunting task. Forecasting and planning the actual services provided for customers is also an elaborate process. The provision of accurate, real-time information for planned and unplanned service diversion is also a major challenge. Intermodal integration, fare collection, transit specific design, engineering, and architecture are also key elements that play a significant role. Meeting customer expectations through superior customer service, communications/information and general aesthetics of physical elements are key challenges to meet.

The course will limit theory and will focus on practical elements that are considered essential knowledge base for careers within urban transit operating entities.
PLA 6633

Learning from Latin American Cities: Planning and Urbanization

Clara Irazabal
3 Points
Whether the Bus Rapid Transit from Curitiba, Brazil, the strategies for integral barrio rehabilitation from Medellin, the cable cars as mass transit systems from Rio de Janeiro, the participatory experience of communal councils in Caracas, or the disaster reconstruction programs in Chilean cities, Latin American cities are bursting with innovating planning experiences that are increasingly recognized around the world. This course will critically examine these planning experiences aiming to disentangle their buzz from their worth. How are these programs, projects and/or policies contributing to creating more just and sustainable cities in the Americas? How have they travelled, or could travel, around the world and to what effects? What are their ongoing challenges and how can they be perfected? This course will expand both the analytical skills as well as the toolkit of planning tools and case studies students can draw from to inform their professional careers wherever they may lead them.
PLA 6909

Myanmar at a Turning Point (Advanced Studio)

Andrew Scherer
6 Points
Students will be chosen via lottery, open to second year Historic Preservation and Urban Planning students only
This studio, organized in conjunction with the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) in Yangon, Myanmar as client, will assist YHT in thinking through the issues it faces in devising and implementing a comprehensive plan for the preservation and restoration of the historic colonial and pre-colonial center of the city while, at the same time, preserving and protecting the rights of the low-income residents of the downtown community.  An additional partner in the project will be the Law Department of Yangon University.
Myanmar is going through a period of rapid social, economic and political change.  After more than 60 years of military dictatorship, the country’s leadership has, over the past couple of years, been moving toward a more democratic society: lifting censorship, releasing political prisoners and creating new laws, institutions and policies that have been opening new avenues of discourse and public participation.  International economic sanctions against Myanmar have, for the most part, been lifted, and international investment is pouring into the country.  The city’s center has suffered from decades of neglect, but between lack of development and international sanctions, much of the original colonial and pre-colonial architecture remains relatively intact. YHT is a fairly new NGO with government, international and foundation funding that is dedicated to restoring and preserving the severely decayed historic center of the city of Yangon.  Thus far they have been cataloguing the buildings in the city’s center that have architectural and historic value and have obtained an agreement from the government to place a temporary moratorium on the demolitions in a designated area of the city’s center.  Most buildings in the area are severely deteriorated.  Current residents of most of the downtown buildings are extremely poor – some live in buildings that were intended for residential use, many live in buildings that were originally designed for commercial use.
YHT would like, in the long run, to preserve and restore buildings of aesthetic and historic value.  To do so, they will have to navigate the tensions that will inevitably arise between the needs of the current residents to remain in their homes and communities and the displacement pressure that will be generated by the physical work of restoration as well as the market pressures that are already driving up real estate values and that will only increase as the physical and aesthetic condition of the area improves.
The work of the studio will involve looking at the Myanmar planning and legal infrastructure (and lack of infrastructure) that relates to the intersection of housing rights and historic preservation, looking at how several other countries have addressed similar issues, and developing a set of recommendations for appropriate planning, legal and policy measures.  In addition, GSAPP students may be paired with Burmese law students to interview some local residents to understand the issues on an individual level and to gather information that will inform the recommendations.
PLA 6918


David King
3 Points

A six-credit two-semester thesis is an essential part of the planning curriculum. It is an individual study or investigation of the student's own choice, but it is closely supervised by a full-time faculty member of the Urban Planning Program. The thesis demonstrates the student's ability to structure an argument surrounding an issue or problem significant to planning practice, planning theory, and/or the profession itself.

PLA 6926

Advanced Research / Independent Study

Trisha Logan
3 Points

Each semester, there is the possibility of registering for “Advanced Research” within the Urban Planning Program. This is what you may know as “Independent Study”. The student plans a course of self-study and inquiry, and seeks an advisor who will review and grade the work. If you wish to register for Advanced Research, students must submit to the UP office a one-page description of the project, including methodology, goals, and final product, as well as the advisor’s name and the number of credits before the end of the add-drop period (September 16, 2011 this fall semester). Advanced Research may be for 2 or 3 credits, depending on the scope of the work, and this should be determined at the time of application for the Advanced Research. Indicate who the faculty advisor will be – and discuss your interest in working with that faculty member to gain their approval. Although students will do the research on their own, the advisor will review the final work against the description and goals of the proposal and provide a grade to Trisha Logan as the central on-line grader. Faculty do not receive any additional financial compensation for their work as an advisor to an Advanced Research project. Students may not use paid employment within or outside the University as a basis for an Advanced Research project. An e-mail note to the UP Office from the faculty advisor is requested before the end of the add/drop period indicating that the faculty member is advising a student in an Advanced Research project, and approving the proposal submitted by the student. Advanced Research may involve library research, lab work, fieldwork, or other research methods, and the final product could be a paper, or digital design, or map, or something else alternative to a standard paper - whatever the student and advisor agree is the best format for illuminating the results of the research.

PLA 6930

Quantitative Methods

Lance Freeman
4 Points

The purpose of this class is to introduce students to the concepts, techniques and reasoning skills necessary to understand and undertake quantitative research.  By the end of the semester students will be able to:
·         Design a quantitative research proposal
·         Conceptualize a quantitative statistical model
·         Estimate a quantitative statistical model
·         Interpret the results of descriptive analyses, t-tests, chi-square and multivariate regression analyses.
·         Students will learn and hone their skills through a combination of attending weekly class meetings, participating in weekly labs, completing written assignments and writing a research paper that tests a hypothesis using quantitative techniques. 

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