Embedded Planning is Worth The Struggle
Lecture by Jonathan Pacheco Bell. Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) is a Senior Project Manager for Land Use and Housing at the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and a Lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors spanning the fields of urban planning, architecture, and community libraries.
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While working as a Los Angeles County Planner in South Central LA, Jonathan created Embedded Planning: the praxis locates the planner’s work on the street-level to increase equity and participation for historically marginalized communities harmed by inequitable planning. In addition to teaching and practice, Jonathan serves as Vice President of the Florence-Firestone Community Organization in South Central and represented Southern California on APA’s National Social Equity Task Force.
Jonathan is a First-Generation college graduate and mentor to emerging planners. A product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school, he holds an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, a Master of Library & Information Science from San Jose State University iSchool, a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Cal State LA, and an Associate’s in Architecture/Liberal Arts from East LA College.
Planning is political. Decisions about the built environment inherently impact people’s lives. Everything planners do involves a struggle over “who gets what, when, where, how, and why?” Planners respond to this debate but many of our practices have resulted in unjust planning. In this time of increasing interrogation of planning’s legacies of inequity, planners are moving with intention to be better partners. And as part of repair and healing, planners are seeking more ways to build meaningful community partnerships. No longer is technocratic rational planning the default. But while the pivot to participatory methods helped democratize the planning process, professional practice still prefers project-based, one-off, transactional engagement.
Orthodox planning must evolve.
A better way is possible.
Los Angeles-based urban planner Jonathan Pacheco Bell urges practitioners to consider Embedded Planning praxis. Developed by Bell on the ground in South Central LA, Embedded Planning is a way to fundamentally restructure community engagement and practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces and places of community members, building bridges with marginalized communities harmed by inequitable planning. Embedded Planning is a praxis that puts theory into action to better this world. Since Bell declared Embedded Planning exists in 2018, it has grown into an international movement among emerging planners. In this talk, Bell will show how Embedded Planning is being used to transform engagement into lasting community partnerships rooted in trust.
Community members have embraced Embedded Planning because they feel seen and
included. Yet despite this praxis bringing ignored voices to the table, Bell encountered blatant hostility from planning figureheads who judged Embedded Planning as “too political.” Through storytelling and personal reflection, Bell will illustrate the struggle to carry out Embedded Planning in the face of power. Attendees will learn the challenges and benefits of this unorthodox approach and understand why this praxis is the future of planning.