PODC 2021: Survey Results are IN!

By Dee Caputo, FAICP 

Check out the new Planning Officials Development webpage

The Chapter’s new Planning Officials Development Committee (PODC) has, in just a few months, created a new resources webpage for Planning Officials, developed useful content for it, and sent out a survey to ask what information local planners and planning commissioners need to help them with their important work in our communities.

In early 2020, the Washington Chapter of the American Planning Association (WA-APA) asked Dee Caputo, FAICP, to gather educational resources that could be offered to planners, planning officials, and others interested in planning throughout Washington State. A committee was formed under Dee’s guidance that represented a broad variety of topics and expertise; a list of committee members may be found online. We immediately set to work to build a resource list of readily accessible materials to help planning officials delve more deeply into topics of concern to their local communities. The committee also worked with WA-APA staff to design a webpage to house these materials so they are easy to find and reference as needed.

We’re excited to announce that that page is up and running, and can be found at Planning Officials Development. Now that the page is live, we want to make sure we offer resources that address the concerns of planning officials statewide. A survey was launched in January 2021 to invite planners, planning officials, and others interested in planning to share with us the challenges their communities face, informational gaps they encounter when grappling with those issues, and how they can best access available resources. We share the results of that survey below. 

First, however, we’d like to send big thanks to those who participated in the survey: thank you for taking some of your valuable time to help us help YOU better! The survey presented 7 questions: 4 to help direct our work as a committee, and 3 to give us a sense of who you are and your role in your communities. Your responses help us gather resources that are the most useful to you.

Question 1 asked respondents to rate 7 current state-wide concerns as to their importance to their own communities. Percentages indicate that the topic is “very important” for respondents. Housing overwhelmingly was rated very important for 73% of the respondents. The related concern of Homelessness ranked second at 52%; Social and Environmental Equity and Economic Development/Recovery were very close (44% and 42%, respectively); Climate Change Adaptation and Emergency Planning rated exactly the same at 36%; and Shoreline Planning was very important to 24% of respondents.

Question 2 asked respondents to tell us how difficult it is to find information about each of those topics. Percentages indicate that the topic is “very challenging” to locate useful resources. Here, 32% of respondents had the most difficulty finding information about Homelessness, with Housing second most challenging at 23%. The remaining topics appeared to be fairly easily researched, with only 9 – 18% of respondents having difficulties locating information about them. In fact, Shoreline Planning was rated as relatively easy by 46%, along with Climate Change Adaptation by 41% of respondents!

In Question 3, we asked what types of information would best support your work; percentages indicate how useful each type is to the respondent. Case Studies were preferred, at 89%, followed closely by Best Practices at 77%. Research and Theory was rated useful by 35% of respondents, and 27% found Articles from scholarly or peer-reviewed publications to be of use.

Question 4 gauged which information delivery method you preferred; percentages indicate satisfaction within each delivery method. Online Links were a clear winner here, with 81% preferring to receive information this way; On-demand Webinars 62%, and Live Webinars 38%.

As mentioned previously, the final three questions are demographic in nature, asking for the respondent’s role, organization, and community size. The majority of respondents were planning staff in cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000.

The survey is not comprehensive by any means; as one respondent pointed out, topics did not include Transportation Planning. The Planning Officials’ Development webpage is very much a work in progress, however, and a link for comments and suggestions is available at the bottom of the page. We’d love to hear from you as you explore the resources offered; watch for more resources soon about Housing and Homelessness!