Embedded Planning Is Worth The Struggle at UCLA Luskin

Originally developed for Columbia GSAPP’s Lectures in Planning Series, my talk “Embedded Planning is Worth The Struggle” is now home and coming to UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 5pm. Attend in person or through Zoom with registration.

Session Description:

Planning is political. Decisions about the built environment inherently impact people’s lives. Everything planners do involves a struggle over “who gets what, when, where, how, and why?” Planners respond to this debate but many of our practices have resulted in unjust planning.

In this time of increasing interrogation of planning’s legacies of inequity, planners are moving with intention to be better partners. As part of repair and healing, planners are seeking more ways to build meaningful community partnerships. No longer is technocratic rational planning the default. But while the pivot to participatory methods helped democratize the planning process, professional practice still prefers project-based, one-off, transactional engagement.

Orthodox planning must evolve.

A better way is possible.

Los Angeles-based urban planner Jonathan Pacheco Bell urges practitioners to consider Embedded Planning praxis. Developed by Bell on the ground in South Central LA, Embedded Planning is a way to fundamentally restructure community engagement & practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces & places of community members, building bridges with marginalized communities harmed by inequitable planning. Embedded Planning is a praxis that puts theory into action to better this world. Since Bell declared Embedded Planning exists in 2018, it has grown into an international movement among emerging planners. Bell will show how Embedded Planning is being used to transform engagement into lasting community partnerships rooted in trust.

Community members have embraced Embedded Planning because they feel seen and included. Yet despite the praxis bringing ignored voices to the table, Bell encountered blatant hostility from planning figureheads who judged Embedded Planning as “too political.” Through storytelling and personal reflection, Bell will illustrate the struggle to carry out Embedded Planning in the face of power. Attendees will learn the challenges and benefits of this unorthodox approach and understand why this praxis is the future of planning.