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Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning

Paul Davidoff, 1965

Argument is based around three main ideas that Davidoff considers outdated
andineffective aspects of planning: 1) unitary planning, 2) the traditional planning
commission, and 3) too much focus on physical aspects of urban areas

Author argues against these aspects, and offers an alternative to each problem:
1) pluralism in planning 2) a true democratic process of planning, and 3)a more
inclusionary view of the scope of planning field

General sense that controversy, tension, opposing viewpoints are natural andhealthy to
the planning process. These tensions should not be avoided; rather theyare a means for
true democratic decision-making.1)
Unitary vs. Plural Planning
a.Unitary Plan one agency prepares a comprehensive plan with little or
nooutside input, and without researching viable alternatives b.Plural Plan Exploring
and discussing multiple options for each proposed plan, hearing from different interest
groups, giving all groups a voicewhether they have had traditional power within a
community or not.c.Davidoffs encouragement of tension and contentious
discussion is criticalto plural planning.d.Three benefits to utilizing plural
planning as opposed to unitary planning:i.It better informs the public of
alternative choicesii.Forces public agency to
compete with other organizations preparing plans, thereby increasing the quality of
the work generated by the public sector iii.Gives outside organizations a chance to
take their work to the nextlevel not just protesting governments plans, but creating
their own alternatives.2)
Planner as Advocate
(brings this point up in the middle of his 3 arguments against traditional planning)After
stating that the correct
for planning is pluralism, Davidoff arguesthat the correct
of the planner is one of an advocate.a.Social values and justice must be integrated
into planning. Planning canno longer be just a technical field; the act of
recommending plans andactions to the city is in itself infusing technical worker with
ideas of socialand economic justices. This shouldnt be fought
or discouraged. b.Compares the role of advocacy planning to that of a
lawyer. Eachgroup/idea is entitled to fair representation and deserves a voice. Takesthis
comparison a step further and suggests that an advocacy plan would

be similar to a legal brief, in that it not only argues for its own ideas, butargues against
the alternative plans created by other agenciesc.Beneficial to community as underrepresented groups (such as low-incomeresidents) will have a professional to speak
for them; also beneficial to planners as they can select to work with organizations/firms
that holdvalues and interests similar to their own.
3)The public planning agency vs. democratic planning process
a.Three groups should be involved with a democratic,
public planning process:i.Political parties. Ideal situation would be
if both parties in thelegislative and executive branches would form their own
plans,these plans would be discussed and appraised, and the planningagency would carry
out its activities based on constituent demands.However, Davidoff admits this is a lofty
ideal that would bedifficult to realize.ii.Special interest
groups. Chambers of commerce, labor-rightsorganizations, civil rights,
environmental issues. Again, Davidoff mentions this is also difficult, as many
organizations are reluctantto disagree with city plans, as it decreasing their ability
for funding, supportiii.Adhoc protest organizations. Eg., neighborhood associationsdeveloping alternative
plans that better suit their community. b.Antithesis of the democratic process he describes
is the public planningagencyi.Originated in the conservative reform movement in
the early1900s.ii.Main problem is that they have no true
constituency. Not thatconnected to the public, and commission members are quick
tocome to a group consensus rather than discuss individual
opinions,disagreements. Therefore, when the public has complaints aboutactivities in
their neighborhood, they dont know who specificallyto speak with
4)Inclusive Definition of the Scope of Planning
a.Davidoffs third element that he argues should be changed is the
focus ononly physical space of a community. b.The purpose of buildings is to serve
people. Their functional use is of primary concern. Spaces and structures only take on
true meaning whenexamining them in relation to social and economic
conditions.c.Example Urban renewalarticle written during a time
whengovernment practiced physical determinismargued that if the buildingswere
changed, the social problems would change accordingly. Obviously,Davidoff contends
that this thinking should be reversed.d.Three ways that plannings scope can be
broadened to include more that physical aspects:

i.State legislation needed to allow municipal planning departments to address

issues outside of land use. Should address all areas of public concern
ii.Planning education should allow students to specialize in specific areas of
public planning (not necessarily physical planning)
iii.APA should widen its scope and purpose. Current missionstatement excludes
those planners not focused narrowly on physical planning

5)Planning Education and Conclusions

a.Planners should be knowledgeable in a wide spectrum of issues (on
social,economic, systematic, physical levels) affecting urban areas. b.Planners should
serve as coordinators and liaisonsc.Merge the advances in technical skills and
resources with the analytic practice of forming social policy. This allows planners to
address urban planning on many levels design, social work, law. Problems plannersface
are both pragmatic and philosophical, and its not an either/or decisionall angles must
be discussed and fought over in order for meaningful decisions to be made