City planning is a profession in which planners work to guide the present and future growth of a city by striking a careful balance between residential, commercial, recreational, and institutional needs. A planner makes the best use of a community’s resources, solves current community problems, and protects important physical and geographical landmarks, all while considering how the future needs of a city will fit in. A city planner in the US should be certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
The process of planning usually begins with planners collecting and analyzing data about every aspect of a city. Important aspects of their study include problems like traffic congestion; air, water, and soil pollution; ecological preservation; and infrastructure. Planners must analyze street and highway capacity, location and capacity of water and sewer lines, public schools, libraries, cultural sites, and so on. The use of computers has made this much easier and more efficient.
Once all the data has been collected and analyzed, city planners work with neighborhood groups, business leaders, law enforcement agencies, and government officials to determine the needs of the community. They deal with zoning and building codes and environmental regulations to ensure that the plan is legal and will work within existing codes. An important aspect of city planning is what type of industry exists in the community, and how that industry will best be served. Geographical landmarks are also a key factor in how a community is planned. A beach or lake community may have an entirely different plan than river, mountain, or landlocked cities.
Suburban sprawl can be a nightmare for city planners. Many plans that were conceived decades ago were not progressive enough to accommodate the inevitable sprawl that has developed in cities across the nation. As populations grow, many cities are stretched beyond their infrastructure.
City planners must allow for growth by planning cities where highways can be enlarged, schools can be added, and the citizenry can be served by government agencies. Some city planners are finding new ways to limit sprawl and to make suburban communities more self-contained. As suburbs take workers further from city centers and jobs, planners must also find ways to help the city foster new business development in the suburbs to create jobs for the growing population.