Fall Urban Planning Course Descriptions

PLA 4008

History and Theory of Planning

Bob Beauregard
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

Moshe Adler
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 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 4518

New Patterns of Metropolitan & Regional Development

Floyd Lapp
3 Points

Across the United States and around the world, metropolitan regions have been experiencing changing growth trends. Central cities are gaining population once again, residents and economic activities from suburban and even rural areas are gravitating toward becoming active participants in metropolitan regions. Between the new growth of urban areas and the slower and even population decline of many substantially built out suburban communities, the mobility of metropolitan regions has taken on new dimensions. This course will provide students with an overview of the strategies for management and change. Although the focus will be on regions in North America, the techniques and institutions that are examined will be related to those concerned with metropolitan planning throughout the world.

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 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 6232

Advanced GIS

Juan Saldarriaga
3 Points

This research seminar is meant to provide students with advanced analytical and practical skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Spatial Analysis. In addition, the seminar also aims to teach students how to identify and frame unique research questions, how to develop a methodology for answering those questions and how to visually represent their research and findings. Finally, the class also seeks to introduce students to new techniques in mapping and collecting existing data.

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 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 6526

Urbanization in China

Yuan Xiao
3 Points

As the largest and the fastest growing developing country, China’s unprecedented urbanization presents both a challenge and an opportunity. It has important implications for the country’s development and for the rest of the world. This graduate-level class examines salient issues facing China, institutional causes of these phenomena, and policy attempts the country has initiated in response. It covers topics such as rural-to-urban migration, land and housing markets, local public finance, infrastructure investment, environmental management, and the impact of globalization on cities. Course materials are drawn from academic publications, policy documents and analyses, as well as mass media. Different narratives and opinions about how China prepares for its urban future will be contrasted and debated. Students will gain a holistic understanding of China’s urbanization through discussion-based seminars, and develop deep insights of a particular topic by researching for and writing a term paper.

PLA 6573

Community Development Policy

Ethel Sheffer
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 6602


Kaja Kuehl
3 Points

With a global migrant population of over 200 million people, international mobility of labor is one of the most significant contributing factors to both globalization and urbanization worldwide. However, migration policy discussions at the national or international level give little attention to the local nature of this phenomenon; migrants move to cities and have an impact as well as spatial demands on the local environment in which they live. This class is devoted to the local aspect of global migration; the places where migrants settle, form communities and networks, and establish economic and social spaces. Through several case studies, using mapping, interviews and photography, we will explore the potential for planners, designers and urban policy makers to create and maintain inclusive, sustainable physical environments for migrant communities.

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 6606

Regulating the Material City

Laura Lieto
3 Points
Inspired by the new materialism, the course seeks to define ‘planning with norms’ as central to what urban planners do: a context-sensitive and political practice, entangled in the materiality of urban life. Planning norms are rules and standards that planners use to determine the appropriate use of an object (e.g., a parking space) or the size of a space – for example, the amount of park space needed for given population size. Such norms are ubiquitous in planning.

We will explore 1) how urban materials (streets, buildings, parks, solid waste, sidewalks, view corridors, underground pipelines) are translated into material artifacts (street width, building codes, zoning criteria, public space standards per capita) that incarnate legally relevant measures and forms; 2) how everyday life spaces, objects, natural elements, and technologies – enabling people to do things, providing possibilities, affordances, opportunities – are transformed into parametric requirements for planning more sustainable and just cities; 3) how real-world situations respond to the enforcement of planning norms, and 4) what planners have to learn from them.
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 6608

Communications for the Built Environment

Lisa Chamberlain
3 Points

Urban planners and designers, architects, real estate developers, sustainability consultants and related professionals are often surprised to discover the importance of written and oral skills to every aspect of a professional practice. This seminar is designed with a multi-disciplinary focus, as anyone entering professions related to the built environment will need to work in interdisciplinary teams. The class will emphasize practical, hands-on writing exercises that culminate in presentations designed to simulate a professional practice. Working in small teams, assignments will be organized into three parts: 1. developing language to establish a firm identity, such as a firm profile, marketing collateral and website content; 2. responding to an RFP, including a cover letter, a project understanding, a design approach and projects pages; and 3. preparing a presentation for a project interview—judged by visiting professionals – to win a design, development or planning job. Examples of projects might include a masterplan for a university campus, a competition for a micro-unit apartment building, or a pubic works/landscape project for a city agency. Students will come away with a better understanding of the basic principles of effective writing and presenting – and perhaps more importantly, how to think strategically about marketing and business development. The course will be supplemented with guest speakers/critics in architecture, urban planning and design, government, real estate, and sustainability.

PLA 6610

Owner's Perspective on Planning

Michael Fishman
3 Points
Public, Private and Institutional entities alike have internal planning processes (human and environmental resources and physical plant) as well as methodologies for incorporating or resisting external planning processes that inevitably impact owners from outside of their mission.
This course will focus on 3 main areas: Explore the range of definitions of ‘owner’ from City Agencies responsible for infrastructure (schools, water, transport, parks and power) and private (profit driven) real estate developers, to not for profit environmental stewards/cultural institutions or hybrid housing and healthcare entities. Understand what drives decision making behind the scenes and how the public informs and inherits space and systems effectively owned by others. GIS/web based portal focus on how planning can become routine in the day to day workings of owners, community interests and government as best practice. Ultimately, these technological advances can serve a critical function in the event of emergencies. This will speak directly to the current condition of urban planning as emergency response by default and how to proactively correct this trend. Communities and owners are often at odds when the NIMBY elements of infrastructure or profit creep into existing conditions. Changing the mind set to WIMBY (Where In My Back Yard,) accepting that infrastructure improvements and other investment are a necessity to the City’s prosperity requires finding win-win opportunities in planning Where In My Back Yard investments are most valuable.
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


Erica Avrami, Will Raynolds
6 Points
This studio will engage students in a study of the Gingerbread Neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, focusing on the relationship of urban morphology, building typology/construction, cultural traditions, urban economy, and community engagement. Students will assess how the historic architectonic and spatial form of this neighborhood influenced the socio-economic functioning of the community and vice versa. The aim is to identify and evaluate the factors that contributed to – or hindered -- post-disaster resilience in this historic context, with an eye toward potentially informing disaster response and adaptation planning in the future and in other historic locales.
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

Inna Guzenfeld
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
3 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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