Far too often planning is defined in terms of physical structures and abstract economics. Planning’s central concern is people, and the society that they create. This course examines the social context of planning, especially the ways in which race and ethnicity, gender, and class shape people’s experience within the city, and how social attitudes towards others affect the planning profession. Specifically, we are going to look at some transcendental issues — ones that could be defined differently worldwide, but are present in some form virtually everywhere — such as discrimination, poverty, and identity, and discuss how those are manifested in the social and physical landscapes of the city.

That said, this course is not a history of social planning, nor a sociology of the city. Instead, it is a rather idiosyncratic approach to understanding the complex inter-relationship of urban landscapes and the people who live in them. The goals we aim to achieve are:

(1)  Illuminate some of the obstacles to good community planning,

(2)  Understand through your contributions whether social issues transcend national


(3)  Illustrate the importance of examining the societal context in which planning

professionals work,

(4)  Test some skills and methods used in assessing communities and “improving”


While we will use Los Angeles as a prism through which to look at these issues, the intention is to draw upon the broader experiences of class members and the readings to check the local focus against a national and international awareness. For instance, we will discuss crime as a community issue. However, crime in America is quite different than in other places. How it is different, and why it is different are questions we want to engage. How does that affect, or does it affect, physical planning precepts in those different places?

Since we could not possibly cover all the appropriate topics included under the rubric social context of planning, I have structured the course to allow students to delve into topics of interest to them while everyone examines some fundamental concerns. We will achieve this goal by having regular class readings, lectures and discussions as well as group projects assessing neighborhoods with specific planning issues. I have kept the class readings as slim as possible to allow the groups to have time to research their neighborhoods, related planning topics, and potential solutions. This exercise is also good training for the comprehensive examination.


RGL 101, Monday/Wednesday