Spring Urban Planning Course Descriptions

PLA 4022

Fundamentals of Urban Digital Design

Alejandro de Castro Mazarro
3 Points

A maturing internet continuously compiles amounts of data volumes above what can be analyzed in the words and numbers preferred by the brain's left hemisphere. It is the right side of the brain where the artistic skills to interpret and to communicate this data visually are found, and increasingly diversified specialists must possess technical skills to render their information understandable to all. This course teaches digital methods of creating visual information, and is designed to build those skills fundamental to understanding and communicating projects from the scale of the building to that of the city. Classes will observe and discuss techniques of effective visual communication and teach the methods and details of realizing such work using the computer.

PLA 4035

Negotiations for Planners

Lee Miller
3 Points

This course introduces students to the art of negotiations. Planners spend much of their time negotiating; yet generally devote little time thinking about how to negotiate. They tend to focus only on the outcomes achieved in bargaining, and fail to explore how the processes or tactics on which they relied could have been varied to attain even better results. Our goal is to explore both the theoretical and practical aspects of negotiations. In this seminar, we shall review the literature dealing with negotiating, engage in negotiations in a variety of settings and study the negotiating process.

PLA 4112

Physical Structure of Cities

David Smiley
3 Points

A lecture course focused on the historic emergence of contemporary practice of urban planning. Beginning with the birth of the industrial city in the 19th century, the course takes its subject matter from early planning attempts such as tenement house regulation and garden cities up to contemporary concerns with postmodernism, new urbanism, and sustainable development. The course focuses principally upon the American experience but also draws from Western Europe.

PLA 4214

Transportation and Land Use Planning

David King
3 Points

Urban sprawl, smart growth, traffic congestion and green cities are ideas that share a common policy linkage: integrated transportation and land use planning. This course is an overview of land use and transportation policy and planning drawing primarily on the United States experience with autos and transit. By introducing principles of urban planning, civil engineering, economics and public policy, students will learn about how to use planning tools, polices and other infrastructure investments to help develop effective places and networks. By the end of this course students will be able to think critically about the transportation and land use implications of accessibility, environmental and urban design policies. In addition, students will understand the mutually reinforcing incentives of transportation and land use systems at local, regional and national scales.

PLA 4340

Urban Design for Planners

Justin Moore
3 Points

This course is an introduction to urban design through weekly discussions and design workshops. The discussions focus on the history, theory, and analysis of urban forms, spaces, landscapes, and systems through presentations and case studies. The workshops develop a project-based exchange and application of the interdisciplinary ideas and techniques – from art and architecture to landscape architecture and environmental engineering – that designers use in developing projects in the urban context. This work will use a site in New York City as a context for exploring the complex interactions between users, program, buildings, public spaces, infrastructure, and environmental systems in the definition and performance of urban spaces and landscapes.

PLA 4381

Sustainable Urban Development: International Perspectives

Jyoti Hosagrahar
3 Points

The course focuses on understanding planning and policy oriented work on cities and urban development. It explores the relationship between urban development, modernity, and cultural politics, especially in South and Southeast Asia. The course includes international perspectives on sustainable urban development and the cultural and historical understanding of cities, urban development, and politics.

PLA 4577

Introduction to Geographic Information Systems

Jeremy White
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 4620

Public Financing of Urban Development

Richard Froehlich
3 Points

Public Financing of Urban Development will be an introduction to how public entities (cities, states, public benefit corporations) finance urban development by issuing public securities. We will start with an examination of how public entities leverage limited capital resources through the issuance of debt, including a review of statutory and political considerations as well as limitations put on such debt. We will explore the limitations of tax exempt financing and the kinds of development that can qualify for such financing. By examining different kinds of development financing, including mass transit, health care facilities, schools, public utilities, airports and housing, the class will see the major forms of tax exempt financing that are available. The class will also delve into rating agency requirements, security disclosure rules, market dynamics and the mechanics of offering bonds for public sale.

PLA 4711

Neighborhood Change

Stacey Sutton
3 Points

Processes of neighborhood-level change frame much planning theory, practice and policymaking. In this course we will: examine the meaning of neighborhoods– as social geographies, economic enclaves, sites of political action, symbolic spaces, and embedded localities; explore the potential and limits of localities for shaping local conditions; examine how public policies, institutional practices and spatial perceptions that, directly and indirectly, inform neighborhood effects; and analyze the consequences of change (or stagnation) for social groups, neighborhoods and cities. This course draws on extant debates that intersect with broader questions of “place-making” such as ethno-racial stratification, immigration, economic opportunity, urban redevelopment, gentrification, civic engagement and community planning. The three primary objectives of this course are: (1) to develop a common conceptual framework and language for discussing issues related to how and why neighborhoods change; (2) to sharpen the analytic and technical tools for conducting neighborhood-level research; and (3) to learn how to apply conceptual tools and research techniques when analyzing the intended and inadvertent effects of place-based public policies, institutional practices and planning decisions.

PLA 6010

Planning for Climate Change in Urban Ecosystems

Peter Marcotullio
3 Points

This course will provide background to debates on urban planning for climate change. The questions the course will address include: What is an urban ecosystem? How do we analyze the opportunities and challenges to climate change for urban ecosystems? What are the GHG emission concentrations and sources from urban ecosystems? What are the GHG sinks within urban ecosystems? What are some effective mitigation strategies to reduce GHG emissions from urban ecosystems? How can urban ecosystems adapt to climate change? The course is divided into 4 sections: Introduction to the issues, urban ecosystem analyses: Urban areas as sources and sinks for GHGs; Mitigation and adaptation strategies.

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 6065

Environmental Impact Assessment

Graham Trelstad
3 Points

This course will explore the key procedural elements of NEPA, SEQRA, and CEQR; the key analytic techniques used in impact assessment; and investigate how application of environmental impact assessment affects project outcome. Lectures will introduce students to the statutory requirements of the laws, important judicial decisions interpreting the laws, and standard methodologies for conducting environmental assessments. Case studies will be used to illustrate the effect of the environmental impact assessment on design and implementation of projects or governmental actions. Practical assignments will give students an introduction to the state of practice and the range of analytic techniques used in environmental impact assessment.

PLA 6108

Land Use Planning

Jonathan Martin
3 Points

This course presents the nuts and bolts of land use planning as practiced in the US today and gives you the opportunity to develop/design a land use plan for a small hypothetical city. Through lectures and readings you will be exposed to contemporary land use planning issues (including urbanization and urban growth trends, ethics, quality of life indicators, ecological land use planning, and inner city revitalization).

PLA 6217

Techniques of Project Evaluation

Moshe Adler
3 Points

The course has two parts: cost benefit analysis and economic development. Cost benefit analysis deals with the taxpayer as a consumer while economic development, which is fast emerging as an important function of government, deals with the taxpayer as a worker in need of employment and with businesses as a source of tax revenues.

PLA 6232

Advanced GIS

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga
3 Points

Advanced GIS is a research seminar aimed at covering a variety of advanced techniques in geographic information systems analysis, for both practice and research. As a skills-based seminar, the course operates with a two-fold mission: (1) to critically discuss the theories, concepts, and research methods involved in spatial analysis and (2) to learn the techniques necessary for engaging those theories and deploying those methods. Further, the class works to meet this mission with a dedicated focus on the urban environment and the spatial particularities and relationships that arise from the urban context.

PLA 6409

Politics of International Placemaking

Marcela Tovar
3 Points
Students in International Placemaking course will spend the semester addressing contemporary planning issues from across the globe. The students will develop semester-long group projects which critically analyze and compare the nuanced differences across planning contexts, assess the level of effectiveness of planning approaches used in addressing such conditions and their resulting place-based effects, and envision better planning practices to make progress in the attainment of more just cities. 
PLA 6526

Environmental Policy and Planning in China

Xin Li
3 Points

This course explores the environmental ramifications of economic development in China after the country’s first environmental protection law was enacted in 1989. Over the past twenty-some years, although both national and local Chinese governments have passed numerous environment-related policies and regulations, residents in China have experienced a deterioration of their living environment concerning air and water quality, food safety, and brownfields. As conflicts over these problems and related news reports have escalated in recent years, the Chinese government is confronting an extremely pressing request to tackle them, both from its citizens and the international community. But how can it accomplish this task when the damage has been done and the consequences seem so un-reversible?

This course exclusively focuses on environmental management that targets urban China. Using major environmental programs as case studies, students will learn to understand the rationale and theories behind each program and to evaluate the effectiveness and weaknesses of the program. In the light of the burgeoning use of the Internet and social networks, students will also learn strategies for engaging civil society in sustainable development.  Topics covered include air and water pollution, brownfields, green energy, and climate change. 

PLA 6546

Land and Housing Policy in Asia

Xin Li
3 Points
Over the last three decades, as a result of the fast rate of urbanization, a number of Asian economies have experienced an astonishing rise of low-income urban population.  Accompanying this phenomenon has been the demand of these low-income households for affordable housing and land. Governments in countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam face the challenge of designing housing and land policies that are economically, politically, and socially feasible. Although having long been implemented in advanced economies like the U.S., such policies are still at an early stage in less-developed economies.

Land and housing are closely intertwined in the design of any affordable housing policy for both urban-rural migrants and the existing urban poor. This course focuses on the important relationship between land and housing in Asia. In particular, it explores how local and national governments have used land control mechanisms and planning tools to promote affordable housing programs. We will first review the distinctive characteristics of property rights exclusively associated with land and housing. Then we will extend our analysis to specific land and housing reforms adopted by both the advanced (e.g., Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong) and less-advanced economies in Asia. By juxtaposing these economies in similar institutional settings, students will apply the analytical tools they learn in this course to the current challenges of land and housing reforms in Asia. 
PLA 6556

Development Strategy for Technology and Industry

Smita Srinivas
3 Points
This course is about economic development strategy and its focus is how to build industry as a core element of a viable economic planning process and how to plan for technology capabilities. This is a case-based and discussion course with attention to planning strategy and planning outcomes. In order to critically approach strategy, we will draw on planning sensibilities such as concern for the long-term economy, political astuteness, minimizing externalities, promoting employment, and concern for the environment. This course draws on examples of more or less successful economic strategies, as well as contention about data, analysis, and political context. Industry studies can be analyzed at several different units and scales, and one of our tasks together will be to assess ‘success’.

Students will analyze and debate several cases at urban, regional, and national levels of economic plans. They will delve deep into technology and sector details such as semi-conductors in Taiwan, automotive clusters in Detroit, and the health industry clusters in India and the US. Final cases will be given in the syllabus. We will study dominant debates about why some light manufacturing strategies are successful, which technological capabilities have flourished in certain cities, and why special economic zones are so popular in some countries. Fundamental to this, we will actively debate the economic and planning arguments that drive certain strategies. 

The course will give students critical analysis skills-both quantitative and qualitative, in approaching economic development practice and will familiarize them with the professional context for economic plans at international, national, and urban-regional levels. The course offers the opportunity for both individual and group projects to strategize and we will study trade-offs and compacts made by economic planners in the scope of their work. There will also be guest lectures from scholars and practitioners in economic development.

NOTE: This course also offers a unique opportunity for students interested in economic development and especially international work: there will be a choice of class projects (long-distance only) to assist  2-3 large international development agencies such as the UN and sister agencies, and the OECD on their economic development strategy. The project will directly serve the pedagogic needs of the course, but students can situate their professional interests more precisely, understand how agencies build strategy over time, and can offer constructive critique on particular given topics.
PLA 6700

Real Estate Finance and Development

Joshua Kahr
3 Points

The course is intended for planners and others in GSAPP who are interested in real estate development and financing, but who need an introductory explanation of concepts and valuation techniques. Topics within the course include: Introduction to Real Estate Markets and Cycles; Real Estate Cash Flows and Valuations; Financing Income-Producing Real Estate Properties Financing Real Estate Development – construction Liquidity Risk and the benefits of Diversification Important Entities in the Real Estate Industry Evaluating the Financial Performance and Strength of Real Estate Entities Important Real Estate transactions.

PLA 6805

Advanced Planning Theory (PhD Only)

Smita Srinivas
3 Points
PLA 6911


3 Points

A tactical planning course where students work on actual planning projects in New York neighborhoods, or in cities abroad. Under the supervision of faculty members, studio participants collaboratively develop planning solutions to real situations confronted by communities or public service organizations with limited technical assistance resources. Policy analysis and policy planning are also performed for government agencies at the city and state level (includes fieldwork, team consultation and seminars.) The entire planning process is covered, from data collection to client presentation.

PLA 6919

Thesis II

3 Points

The second semester of 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.