Embedded Planning Is Worth The Struggle

Infographic by Columbia GSAPP students

Honored to close out the 2022 Lectures in Planning Series at Columbia GSAPP with:

“Embedded Planning Is Worth The Struggle”

Tuesday, November 29, 2022 @ 1:15pm NY / 4:15pm LA. We will be live streaming. For details, check out the event page: https://www.arch.columbia.edu/events/2735-jonathan-pacheco-bell

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. And 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 and practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces and 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. In this talk, 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 this 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.

Embedded Planning at Columbia University

Mark Your Calendars, 11-29-22

“Embedded Planning is Worth The Struggle”

Columbia University, Lectures in Planning Series, in-person & online

By: Jonathan Pacheco Bell, MAUP+MLIS @c1typlann3r

Session excerpt:

In this time of increasing interrogation of planning’s legacies of inequity, planners are moving with intention to be better partners. And 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 and practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces and 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. In this talk, Bell will show how #EmbeddedPlanning 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 this 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.

[… is that Kenny Uong on the cover?!]

Embedded Planning Praxis Keynote at APA Iowa Conference

[Collage by @mijacutsdeep on IG]

Feet on the ground in #Ottumwa for the Iowa APA Chapter Conference and my Friday 10/14 keynote:

𝘽𝙪𝙞𝙡𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙋𝙖𝙧𝙩𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙥𝙨 𝙏𝙝𝙧𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝 𝙀𝙢𝙗𝙚𝙙𝙙𝙚𝙙 𝙋𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜

Community engagement must evolve. We planners engage the public when we need feedback. People are consulted; input is gathered; and plans, for the most part, incorporate public input — then the relationship concludes, only to restart with the next project. Such transactional planning does little to build long-term stakeholder relationships.

In a time of increasing interrogation of planning and its legacies of inequity, planners today are seeking better ways to build and sustain meaningful partnerships. Urban planner Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) proposes #EmbeddedPlanning as a way to fundamentally restructure community engagement and practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces and places of community members. Embedded Planners build bridges with marginalized communities harmed by past planning practices. 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 embraced by emerging planners.

Through storytelling and personal reflection, Bell will illustrate how Embedded Planning is being used to build lasting community partnerships that center engagement as an ongoing process. Attendees will learn the benefits and challenges of Embedded Planning, including takeaways for implementation, and understand why this #praxis is the future of planning.

[Collage by @mijacutsdeep on IG]

Embedded Planning Praxis Interview on Instagram Live

Infographic by Isabelle Soares @UrbanDesignProject

I enjoyed discussing Embedded Planning praxis on Instagram Live with Isabelle Soares @urbandesignproject. Planners and designers from Brazil, Germany, Netherlands, Canada and the US took part in the event, making it the first international conversation I’ve done on Embedded Planning. I learned a lot from Isabelle and the audience. Every chat advances the praxis. More to come.

Embedded Planning Keynote at APA Iowa Conference 2022

Image by APA Iowa Chapter

Honored to deliver the Friday, Oct 14 keynote at the APA Iowa Chapter Conference

Building Community Partnerships Through Embedded Planning

Community engagement must evolve. We planners engage the public when we need feedback. People are consulted; input is gathered; and plans, for the most part, incorporate public input — then the relationship concludes, only to restart with the next project. Such transactional planning does little to build long-term stakeholder relationships.

In a time of increasing interrogation of planning and its legacies of inequity, planners today are seeking better ways to build and sustain meaningful partnerships. Urban planner Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) proposes Embedded Planning as a way to fundamentally restructure community engagement and practice. Embedded Planning means planning from the street, not from a desk. Embedded Planners work in the spaces and places of community members. Embedded Planners build bridges with marginalized communities harmed by past planning practices. 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 embraced by emerging planners.

Through storytelling and personal reflection, Bell will illustrate how #EmbeddedPlanning is being used to build lasting community partnerships that center engagement as an ongoing process. Attendees will learn the benefits and challenges of Embedded Planning, including takeaways for implementation, and understand why this #praxis is the future of planning.

Embedded Planning Cited in Planning Theory & Practice

I appreciate UC Irvine Professor Michael Mendez citing me and Embedded Planning in his article, “The Reflective Practitioner in the Context of Racial and Environmental Justice” in Planning Theory & Practice 2022. This is the Repair and Healing issue co-edited by Professor Courtney Knapp.

This is the first mention of Embedded Planning praxis in a peer-reviewed journal! The entire issue is Open Access. Read Dr Méndez and all the insightful articles.

Here’s the excerpt:

“Allowing time for critical reflective practice can be a powerful tool for planners to think purposively about their prior actions and to learn how in the future they can better challenge multiple forms of inequality embedded in the urban planning profession. Such an approach has led one county planner, Jonathan Pacheco Bell, to advocate broadly for planners to step away from their office desks and embed themselves in local communities, in what he calls, “Embedded Planning.” He believes that “for planning to achieve equity in communities, planners need to see the realities of community life…[and] connect with the people we serve” (Pacheco Bell, 2018). While he still works in an office and attends community meetings, he argues for prioritizing street-level engagement. Pacheco Bell often goes directly to constituents’ localized spaces: homes, churches, businesses, and bus stops to perform plain language outreach, conduct neighborhood organizing, give walking tours, mentor students, do empathetic code enforcement, and more. Pacheco Bell argues that working in such a manner helps produce more equitable plans, policies, and ordinances.

This type of emerging embedded planning offers a multidimensional view of the interactions between people’s well-being and the varying contexts of climate or environment or community shaped by wider political, institutional, economic, and social structures (Goldsmith et al., 2021; Mendez et al., 2020). For practitioners, in particular, such an approach can provide valuable contextual analysis and reflection on what hinders racial and environmental justice reform within the planning and regulatory institutions.”

With Edward Soja on Graduation Day at UCLA 17 Years Ago Today

Edward W. Soja and me on graduation day June 17, 2005 at UCLA Urban Planning. Photo by Jonathan Pacheco Bell

Edward Soja and me on graduation day 17 years ago today. Grad school was tough. I felt the weight of the neighborhood on my shoulders. I nearly dropped out 5 times, but Ed inspired me to stay and keep at it. My work with Soja would help me create Embedded Planning years later. The moral of the story: Find mentors who inspire you.

Reflections of the LA Uprising 30 Years Later

Still image from “Reflections of the LA Uprising” 30 Years Later

The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began thirty years ago today — April 29, 1992.

I was interviewed for “Reflections of the LA Uprising” 30 years later. This is a collaboration by JOVRNALISM, USC Annenberg, KCET, and LA Times.

I shared how the unrest led me on a path toward urban planning in/for South Central LA. And I testified this path would inspire me to create Embedded Planning as an LA County planner on the ground in Florence-Firestone.

Rightfully, this interview was done at the landmark Roosevelt Park pedestrian bridge over the Blue Line.

Many community voices are part of this project. Check out the immersive video “Echoes of the Uprising” where we share our memories and oral histories.

Three decades later, we still have work to do.

Echoes of the Uprising