Launching the Policy Focus Report at APA

For immediate release
Contact: Anthony Flint 617-503-2116

LOS ANGELES (April 13, 2012) — A team convened by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Sonoran Institute has taken the first steps toward making scenario planning tools openly accessible on a common platform, and open-source as well, to take advantage of ideas and innovations in technology going forward.

Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools was released today at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in Los Angeles. Scenario planning tools use the best in available technology to help citizens visualize different futures for their cities and regions, typically by taking inputs such as density, mixed-use development, and transportation nodes, together with population estimates, to show different outcomes.

Planners have for many years used scenario planning software in “visioning” exercises, notably by Fregonese Associates in Envision Utah and the planning process for Superstition Vistas, among many others. Software developed by Placeways LLC, Community Viz has also been deployed across the country.

Yet the Lincoln Institute team recognized that there was clearly a need for scenario planning tools to be more ubiquitous. Scenario planning is legislatively required in greenhouse gas emissions reduction planning in Oregon and California, and is also mandated as part of US Department of Housing and Urban Development sustainability grants.

Decisions about the future are increasingly controversial due to competing economic interests, different cultural values, and divergent views about property rights and the role of government, said Jim Holway, lead author of the report and director of Western Lands and Communities at the Sonoran Institute. To ensure community support for decisions about development and other land-related policies — and public investments — broader and more effective civic engagement is needed, he said. The traditional predict-and-plan paradigm is inadequate to address all of these challenges.

The initiative underscores thee major concepts for planners to engage in better scenario planning and tool-building — collaboration, capacity building, and creation of an open environment for engagement. Collaborative problem solving recognizes that interrelated issues cannot be resolved by one organization alone. Capacity building is needed to enable individuals and organizations to apply scenario planning methods and tools effectively to their specific planning concerns. An open environment for information sharing and education will help accelerate the use and improvement of scenario planning tools in multiple settings.

The goals include:

  • Creating an online platform to foster collaboration in the development and application of scenario planning tools.
  • Developing a curriculum on scenario planning for the next generation of professional and citizen planners.
  • Establishing a model process for conducting scenario planning and show how it can be used with existing community planning processes.
  • Illustrating different uses of scenario planning tools in various stages of the planning process to facilitate increased use of scenario planning.
  • Establishing data standards to improve information sharing, starting with development and place types for land use patterns.
  • Creating a model collaborative project to demonstrate the potential for integrated tools, models, and modules.
  • Advancing new concepts of anticipatory governance by using foresight and anticipation to address uncertainty and future challenges.

The other team members include a number of leaders in the burgeoning field of visioning and visualization, and public participation: C.J. Gabbe, an urban planner with Fregonese Associates, Inc., in Portland, Oregon.; Frank Hebbert, director of civic works at OpenPlans in New York City; Jason Lally, director of the Decision Lab at PlaceMatters, a nonprofit organization based in Denver; Robert Matthews, project director for the Decision Commons initiative in Seattle, a joint project of the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies and the Quality Growth Alliance; and Ray Quay, research professional at the Decision Center for a Desert City, a National Science Foundation-funded Decision Making Under Uncertainty Center within the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Computer-based planning tools have been around for many decades, noted Gregory K. Ingram, president of the Lincoln Institute The difference today is both in an explosion of availability of key data and advances in presentation, starting with geographical information systems (GIS). Programmers are making the formats more and more user-friendly.

Armando Carbonell, senior fellow and chairman of the Department of Planning and Urban Form at the Lincoln Institute, said the goal of the initiative was to take many different scenario planning tools and make them available and easy to use, for planners everywhere.

Many team members will be at APA in LA. Jim Holway, Frank Hebbert, Jason Lally, and Robert Matthews will appear on the panel, Advancing Scenario Planning Tools, with Ted Cochin, Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation, at the US Environmental Protection Agency, at 2:30 on Monday April 16 at the conference. Armando Carbonell, Jim Holway and other members of the team are available for interviews by contacting Anthony Flint at

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

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