Planning out of Context: Including Youth Perspective in Planning

December 11, 2012 While sitting in urban planning courses at the College of Environmental Design (CED), students are asked to think about the greater good, effective methods to improve cities, and how to plan for the future. Thinking about the future is a theme that is constant in all courses taught at UC Berkeley. Yet, within our Wurster Hall, we are taught that the planning profession is often undecided in the verdict of including or not including communities in the planning process.

Community perspectives in planning are often disputed in the field. Last week, a fellow city planning masters student, Sydney Céspedes, wrote of the role of community participation. However, when planners evaluate issues of community, youth perspectives are often dismissed or simply disregarded. The role of youth in planning is almost non-existent, because issues related to youth are considered to belong to the education field. Unlike some fields, youth in planning should not be thought of an issue but a perspective to challenge traditional comprehensions of who is the planner.

On December 4th, 15 Latino youth from Boulder, Colorado visited Wurster Hall to present their work on environmental impacts at the local and national level.  The students have been participating in a Science Video Lab through the El Centro Latino Americano para las Artes Ciencias y Educacion (CLACE), where they encourage diverse youth to learn, love, live and embrace science as an everyday experience. CLASE, is funded through a grant from NASA (NICE: NASA innovations in climate education), which promotes climate and Earth system science literary and seeks to increase the access of underrepresented minority groups to science careers, and educational opportunities. Through the efforts of these collaborators, the students from Boulder produced videos on their communities experience and response to climate change.

Their visit to Wurster Hall was just a pit stop before they presented their 3-7 minute videos at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. The videos presented by the students, although not rooted in planning practice or theory, touched on issues that are constantly debated as cities continue to grow. The videos below use creative to address the environmental issues that the students thought to be the most important to their state and the U.S.

Community Perspective on Climate Change by: Itzel and Gabriel

See the others below:

Carbon Footprint: I have a carbon footprint by: Nancy Contreras and Vero Castro

Climate Change: Colorado Snow and Climate Change by: Darian Valdez

Animal Extinction: Loss of Biodiversity (part 1) by: Jenny Aguilera (with and anticipation for Part 2 in Spring 2013).

Environmental and community concerns are not new to planning, however the method practiced by the students taking part in CLASE can only be described as a breath of fresh air. During their presentation students were asked questions about the role in choosing the topic. A few mentioned that the issues were concerns they had seen in their own community others credited the program with introducing them to new topics they had never been exposed to before.

While the students spoke about their work, I began to question if CED had youth involvement within the community. As it turns, since 2004 the UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education and College of Environmental Design have partnered with schools in the San Francisco Bay area. At Center for Cities and Schools, Professor Deborah McCoy created Y-Plan in 1999 to collaborate with high schools in the Bay Area. Y-plan is a course that brings graduate, undergraduate students, high school students, and government entities work together to develop suggestions that impact their community. Within the past ten years, Y-Plan has been a local leader in giving youth the space to create and present their opinions in planning.

So, now being aware of programs that include youth community participation in planning, is it enough? Has planning seen beyond the traditional, to include the un-conventional planner, in this case youth?

The answer to these questions of course is left to personal opinion. Personally, there is not enough youth participation in planning; it is not due to a lack of interest, rather the traditional tenacious planning that ignores community involvement is to blame. Planning does not solely affect transportation, land use and community development, it affects individuals. If planning is to plan the future, perhaps we, as planners should approach planning with grass roots objectives.

Maira Sanchez is a current graduate student in the City Planning Department at the College of Environmental Design. Her interests are Land Use and Community Development, and she can be reached at