WRT created an interactive display and gathering place at the American Planning Association National Conference in April.
APA hosted its National Planning Conference in San Francisco in April 2019, bringing thousands of our peers, colleagues, and clients to our home city. As our contribution, WRT created an interactive display and gathering place on the conference floor. The display faced in two directions. On one side, facing in, it showcased APA’s Community Planning Assistance Teams (CPAT) program and aimed to stimulate ideas for where Teams should be deployed next. On the other, facing out, it oriented visitors to our Bay Area region and created a place for people to share their ideas about the most important challenges all our communities face today.
With the CPAT program, APA organizes volunteer planning teams tailored specifically to a community's needs. Members offer their time and expertise to people and places where additional resources are needed. Our CPAT exhibit was arrayed around a large map of the U.S., showing the location of each site where CPAT programs have been mobilized. WRTers have participated in CPAT efforts in Philadelphia and rural Florida, and we’re believers in the program’s importance and the values it represents. We posed the question: where should CPAT go next?
The map was a draw—this was a conference full of urban planners, after all!—and we had many interactions here. Two Texas A&M faculty came by early on Saturday and placed the first flag in a mid-Texas town which they recognized as having been overlooked for flood recovery needs. Another planner placed a flag in Seward, Alaska—pinned to his business card. Suggestions came for CPAT actions in communities across the country and internationally, and those suggestions came with names and contact information, giving APA a great source of future project sites. At the same time, the map turned out to make a good meeting place, and became a social hub at the conference.
Welcome to Our Bay
The other side of the display featured a giant map of the Bay Area, with thematic layers representing resiliency challenges—ecological hazards magnified by climate change. Most of the map space was ocean, and that is where we created space for dialogue. “Here are our Bay Area challenges; what’s happening in your community? What are your most challenging issues? How are you resolving them?” People cited rapid growth, a crisis of affordable housing, access to food and transit, income and racial inequality, and lack of investment in rural areas. Some solutions? Mixed-use zoning, collaborative problem-solving, micro-mobility, and sending elected officials to the APA conference. One visitor took in the Bay Area region and underlined on the importance of the regional lens in addressing complex challenges.
Through this thought-provoking and engaging experience with APA conference attendees, the ideas being created will hopefully spark change and turn into action within our own communities.
We hope to see you in Houston next year!