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

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.

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 as Strategic Planning Tools

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 4304

Introduction to Housing

Lance Freeman
3 Points

This course will address many of the housing issues that have vexed Planners and policy makers for decades. Examples of such questions include: Why is there a shortage of affordable housing? Should everyone be guaranteed a right to decent housing? When, if ever, should the government intervene in the provision of housing? This course will provide students with the analytical skills to address the questions listed above. In addition, students will learn to take advantage of the plethora of housing data available so as to be able to assess housing market conditions in a particular locality. With these skills students will be better prepared to formulate effective housing policies.

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 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

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

A core course exploring 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

Advanced Urban Planning Studio: After Sandy

Ethel Sheffer
6 Points

Much of Lower Manhattan was deeply impacted and damaged by Superstorm Sandy which occurred on October 29, 2012. The area is surrounded on three sides by water and a good part of its land is in the direct path of storm surges and potential inundation from future storms.  The 2012 storm created serious disruption to transportation, to residential and commercial buildings and to utilities and power distribution. It also revealed the vulnerability of many populations and groups, including older people, lower income residents, and students living in the district, as well as to essential services, such as small businesses, restaurants and retail stores.  The geographical area where the greatest impact occurred is where landfill was added to the historical boundaries of Manhattan.
Lower Manhattan includes the five mixed use neighborhoods of Battery Park City, Civic Center, Financial District, Greenwich South, Seaport, Tribeca, as well as Governors Island, Ellis Island, and Liberty Island. Today there are over 61,000 residents living in more than 325 residential buildings in the District, and families constitute a majority of Lower Manhattan’s residents. In addition there are 39,380 visitors each day (10 million tourists per year), and more than 309,500 weekday workers in Lower Manhattan.
Community Board One, the local body representing the area, has already produced a number of reports and studies highlighting the hard lessons learned from the emergency response to Sandy. The Board states that it is clear that “This recent storm highlighted the need for planning to protect infrastructure and to improve the transportation and communications infrastructure, the electrical and steam grid and to reevaluate the Building Code and Zoning Resolution”.  The Community Board is also working with numerous governmental agencies and with the Mayor’s Office to improve its immediate and long term response to what are likely to be more frequent, serious natural disasters.
The Community Board would benefit from the technical assistance of this Planning Studio to develop its own recommendations and priorities for disaster prevention, response and resilience for its community.

This course is open to second-year students only.

PLA 6205

Transnational Planning

Marcela Tovar-Restrepo
3 Points

Planning in our interrelated world often transcends the boundaries of particular localities within nation states. Transnational planning is planning that occurs through societal relations spanning pluri-locally, between and above the traditional container spaces of national societies without a clear ‘headquarters’ or ‘motherland.’ This course explores the production and transformation of new and conventional types of spaces and planning engagements in a transnational arena. Through contemporary case studies, we will explore different agents that are engaged in transnational planning, including international organizations (such as the World Bank, the United Nations, USAID, transnational corporations, etc.), national and local public and private agencies, transnational NGOs, transnational community organizations (such as Hometown Associations, Casa Puebla, the World Social Forum, etc.). We aim to understand the different subfields of transnational planning they engage in (related, for instance, to border planning, environmental planning, labor management, infrastructure building, institution building, gender equity, housing, transportation, health, cross-sectoral governance, participation, and etc.) and perform SWOT analysis to assess their institutional and socio-spatial effectiveness. We also pay attention to the way in which subjected populations resist, adapt, or coproduce the planning deployed upon their communities and, in the process, transnational subjects are (re)shaped.

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 6233

Civic Hacking

Georgia Bullen
3 Points

“Civic” – (adj) of, or pertaining to a city, citizens, citizenship; e.g. civic engagement
“Hacking” – (v) activity done by “hackers,” usually meaning computer related, but generalized to people who reuse, repurpose or bend processes, tools, etc to be used for other means; e.g. hacking the system
Technology is changing how people interact with the environment and how we understand the environment itself. Social Media, cell phones, social networking, crowdsourcing, apps, and other Web tools all provide a window into how people move, interact, feel, and even seen spaces. These tools, plus the Open Data Movement, have started to bridge the worlds of civic engagement and technology with cities and city agencies hosting “hackathons” and “app competitions.” Fundamentally technology of this type changes the relationship between citizen and city, reinvigorating conversations about power, access and democracy.

Civic Hacking is not necessarily contained to the digital realm. New resources and information available online are providing citizens tools for better understanding how the city works. With the information, data, and tools to empower and organize themselves, citizens are creating non-digital hacks on the city such as temporary uses for vacant lots, protest weddings, and urban farms. 

As future planners, architects, urban designers, you will be part of bringing together the world of technology with urban spaces and designing new tools for community participation in the planning process. With your communities as your users, we will focus on using the Human-Centered Design (HCD) process in developing our ideas for these new tools.

 This workshop class evolved from the Crowd Sourced City Class (FA10, FA11) and will explore the tools available for civic hacking in real life applications and focus on using the human-centered design process to change the future of participatory 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

Although many urban planners see this subject as formulas, models and attempts to predict travel behavior, it is more understandable by relating  land use and the potential transportation connection. The hierarchy of transportation modes begins with the shortest distances between two points –walking , usually up to a distance of a mile or 20 minutes and biking which takes one a bit further. The automobile and various modes of transit, such as the bus and rail, are much more regional and are part of a network. In dense urban areas, where space is at a  premium , transit is the way to travel because more persons are moved more rapidly. However, Americas’ love affair with the automobile, furthered by major funding for highways across a mostly low density environment , does not always relate the most appropriate mode of travel to land development. This course contrasts the rise , fall and the latest attempts at knitting together transit into the metropolitan fabric while trying to improve the dilemma of too many people taking to the road for the convenience of being stuck in traffic.

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” (attached), 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, Argentina.

PLA 6607

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

Marcela Tovar-Restrepo
6 Points

Climate change 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 engage to climate change and development international processes like: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), Rio+20, Post 2015 agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), COP-19, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). They will be allowed to spend between 11 and 15 hours at the Women’s Environmental and Development Organization (WEDO) participating directly in these processes, under the supervision of Prf. Tovar-Restrepo in coordination with WEDO program directors. Students will be assigned specific responsibilities and tasks that they will have to present at the end of the fall semester. Some examples of these activities are: a) Analyze the papers submitted by countries and civil society organizations to COP-19; b) Participate preparing WEDO’s workshop for COP-19 with national authorities from different countries attending the meeting; c) Analyze and prepare the post-2015 papers coming out of COP-19. Students will attend United Nations Headquarter in NY if it is required.  

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 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.