May/June President’s Message: Viewing Our (Planning) World From Another Perspective 

In my career, I've been able to take advantage of several opportunities to meet with peer professionals from other states. I've learned a great deal from their perspectives and approaches to similar issues we face in practice here in Washington. However, absent some excellent discussion with planners from British Columbia, I have not had the good fortune to talk shop with many international colleagues - until recently. Our jurisdiction was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the ScanDesign Foundation to send a group of planning, parks, public works, Port of Bellingham and Downtown Bellingham Partnership staff to a master class in Copenhagen, Denmark to study connectivity and urban regeneration (i.e. redevelopment). Our specific goal was to observe, learn and return to Bellingham with new perspectives on how to make our public spaces (and the public-private edge) more successful.

Copenhagen may very well be planning's "promised land," at least if you favor effective multi-modal transportation! Attending the master class was enlightening, challenging and thought-provoking. My Bellingham colleagues and I were amazed at the focus on sustainability, clean energy, and accessibility. However, we were equally puzzled by the apparent environmental indifference to filling in areas along the marine shoreline.

Interestingly, we heard concerns from planning professionals regarding housing availability and affordability in Copenhagen. Although leading Europe in the construction of new housing units (and requiring 20% of new units to be affordable), there is still an acute shortage of available housing and what is being built is unaffordable to many. Additionally, issues associated with a growing homeless population are increasing. Unfortunately, it sounded very familiar to our own challenges in Washington. 

Out and about in our Chapter 

As President, I’ve made a commitment to seek out our members and learn more about how APA-WA can better serve them. In April, I was able to meet in Seattle with board members of the Young Planners Group (YPG) and learned more about their interests in connecting with seasoned practitioners for guidance as they progress in their careers. I also was able to attend the Peninsula Planners / Department of Commerce Quarterly meeting in Port Angeles. The program was excellent and the speakers informative. Peninsula Section President Judy Surber noted the good attendance and confirmed the need for regional sessions as a means of providing face to face professional development and training on topical issues. As I write this column, I’m off to join Inland Empire Section members for their annual Conference at Priest Lake, Idaho. 

Attending these meetings and conferences have renewed my appreciation for our member's commitment to community and good planning. Similarly, as an organization, we need to renew our commitment to continue to be responsive to their professional needs. 

Return to the May/June issue of The Washington Planner