ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Public Involvement in City Planning

Updated on July 1, 2012
Charles L'Enfant's plan for Washington D.C.
Charles L'Enfant's plan for Washington D.C. | Source

The planning process requires a high amount of public participation because of the political nature of planning. Gaining this participation in a fair and equitable manner can prove difficult because it is often hard to reach all groups of a community and it is even harder to balance their interests with the interests of the community as a whole. Public participation allows planners to understand the views of the community, and it allows the community some control over what happens to their city. Although there are many methods of achieving public participation, it can have a number of problems and limitations.

The Political Nature of City Planning

Because of it political nature, planning requires a great deal of public participation and planners have an obligation gain understanding of the public’s views on planning issues. The enormous financial consequences of planning make it especially political. Also, planning is political because it so visibly shapes the community. Additionally, since it changes the environment people live in and often have grown attached to, there can be large emotional stakes. When citizens are involved, they gain details about the current plan. Feeling that their effort is potentially effective encourages the public to become involved in the planning process. Planning becomes more community-oriented and less a product of power-hungry politicians. In the 1920s and 30s, planners attempted to keep the field “above” politics, but modern planners now realize that planning inherently involves politics and that public participation enhances the process.


Methods of Public Involvement

There are many methods in which citizens can become involved in planning, each with advantages and disadvantages. One of the more important methods is field interviews, in which planners collect information in the field through formal to informal conversation. With this type of data collection, it is essential to establish the reliability of the interviewee and to record the conversation in a useful manner soon after the interview takes place. There are six different types of questions and each yields different information. These include experience/behavior questions, opinion/value questions, feeling questions, knowledge questions, sensory questions, background/demographic questions, and time frame questions. Surveys are another way planners can gain insight into the values of citizens. These, like interviews, can be skewed by the sample of participants and the ways in which questions are worded. Participant observation can also be useful. This involves a planner immersing himself within a group for research purposes. It can often be difficult for the planner to become accepted into the group and when he does, he may become empathetic to the group and therefore biased. The public can also become involved through more proactive means such as speaking at planning commission meetings or becoming involved on an advisory panel for a particular issue.

Problems and Limitations of Public Participation

Public participation does have some limitations. It can often be difficult to gain public involvement, especially for some underrepresented groups. Also, planners shape participation through who they contact for surveys and interview and by what information they give the public. This can greatly affect the how much citizens trust planners and how willing they are to become involved. Misinformation also can become a problem. The public can have difficulty understanding technical terms, and planners and interest groups can skew or exaggerate information. The public also tends to act on self interest and often will only act it they see a problem. It can prove difficult to separate their personal interests from their positions, which is essential to holistic planning.


The highly political nature of planning requires planners to accept and seek out public participation in order to make decisions that both serve the public interest and are equitable to all groups. There are many methods to achieve public participation, each with advantages and disadvantages, which allow planners to gain insight into the interests of the community as a whole.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Modern Lady profile imageAUTHOR

      Modern Lady 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks, Debbie! I appreciate your support.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      awesome hub.. thank you sharing.. debbie


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)