The Berkeley Planning Journal: Change and Growth

By Michael B. Teitz The other night I had a dream—or more precisely, the morning, for it was a pre-waking dream of the kind that stays in one’s mind and nags at one’s consciousness all day. I was giving a seminar with Berkeley graduate students, but the location was a vast, stone walled room, mostly underground. There seemed to be an extraordinary number of students—at least sixty—and we could not stay in one place, nor was there any agreement on the subject of the seminar. Students became agitated and concerned that we were not dealing with their issues; some were angry. Their numbers began to shrink. Finally we were down to eight students, but we still had no topic, though I felt that we were approaching one. Then, the dream ended. Sigmund Freud is long dead, and his theories largely rejected. Nonetheless, from time immemorial both kings and peasants have sought to interpret their dreams, finding in them clues to action. I think that my dream was telling me something about the issues of the scholarly life today. From it, we might draw some lessons for the Berkeley Planning Journal (BPJ) as it metamorphoses into an exciting new form.

Academic life is far different from the way it was when the BPJ was founded 25 years ago by a visionary group, mostly Ph.D. students, at the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) at the University of California, Berkeley. It is even more different from 1963, when I joined DCRP as a young assistant professor. Even though the number of university programs teaching planning has increased, programs hire more temporary lecturers than tenure track faculty. Doctoral programs have grown faster than openings, and competition for academic positions has become much more intense. As in my dream, many more students are crowded into the grand seminar that we call the academic field of planning. They are still just as intense and committed to a higher purpose as students were in 1984, but today they face a tougher environment, intellectually and professionally.

The world of planning is challenged, perhaps as never before, both to define itself for the world it faces, and to respond effectively to changes, especially climate change, population growth, and massive urbanization. Competitor fields, such as public policy and economic development, have emerged, providing alternative approaches to urban and regional issues which reflect differing ideologies and political perspectives. On the other hand, people entering the field today have tools for research and intellectual exploration of which their forebears could scarcely have conceived. Among such tools are the Internet and new ways to find and analyze information, and new research methods that can potentially provide better information for understanding and for policy. How the field of planning as an academic enterprise will prosper in the 21st century will depend on its ability to navigate this new world, intellectually and in practice.

The Intellectual Challenge

Addressing the intellectual challenge to planning is a primary responsibility for those who pursue academic careers in the field of planning. They choose a life of the mind, even though planning as a particular academic discipline crosses traditional lines, and spills over greatly into practice. Along with a small number of practitioners and public intellectuals, academics write the books and papers that continually redefine the field of planning. They bring to the forefront issues that may be ignored or unrecognized in the general discourse on policy; for example, environmental justice or food policy. At their best, academics do not simply advocate, but they also do serious research that grounds arguments in the fractious discourse of politics. Planning has been shaped to a remarkable extent by the ideas of public intellectuals, such as Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, but such ideas seem to be a vanishing breed in a world of opinion blogs and short-term issues. Perhaps it is increasingly difficult for one clear voice to be heard above the tumult of conflicting voices, and for complex ideas developed at length to compete for attention against a constant flow of information. Thus, one might argue that the role of groups of scholars, whose collective voice can influence the shaping of issues and the thinking of students, is now more important than ever. Young scholars can make a real difference if they can work collaboratively and build schools of thought. For this purpose, a rejuvenated BPJ that takes advantage of new information technology to promote dialogue among scholars can be a powerful influence. However, whether that succeeds will depend on the coherence, innovativeness, and technical quality of their research.

As an academic field, planning, in common with some other professional schools in academia, lacks a single dominant theoretical or research paradigm of its own. If history is any guide, it is unlikely to have one in the near future. Technical fields such as engineering rely on the physical sciences for theory, and mathematics and programming for analysis and model building. Such fields group themselves into professionally identified clusters—in the case of engineering, for example, into structural, civil, electrical, and computer science. Other fields, which deal with social issues, find themselves looking to the social sciences, especially neoclassical economics and econometrics, for research paradigms. However, the past fifty years have shown that economics and other social sciences have significant drawbacks when it comes to understanding social and political issues. Even though economics has now become the main analytical tool for debate of public issues in the U.S., it can be too easily manipulated to support opposing ideological positions, as evidenced by the formation of public policy think tanks across the political spectrum.

Planning, true to its traditions since the early 20th century, stands on divided intellectual foundations. Its roots in design and advocacy for better functioning cities have nurtured a strand of discourse that links to architecture and uses physical design methods and concepts, first in zoning, and more recently in the New Urbanism movement. In parallel, planning’s origins in public health and advocacy for housing for the poor have given rise to a continuing search for social justice and public policies that alleviate social ills. It is no accident that while some early planners served real estate interests, others were ardent socialists. In addition, as planning departments proliferated in universities in the second half of the 20th century, the need for research credibility, and the desire to use scientific methods to solve difficult problems, led to more rigorous, largely social science, research methods, both as part of professional education and in academic research. Not all researchers adopted this strategy: some opted for qualitative methods, such as case studies and depth interviewing. Others, influenced by Marxist thought, used narratives informed by that framework. The result is that in the second decade of the 21st century, planning scholarship is a rather eclectic mixture that reflects the varying intellectual and ideological perspectives of faculty and students. While some departments may have nearly uniform styles of research, others are wildly diverse and often divided.

Journals are still the most important means by which researchers in a field communicate their results to each other. The articles that they publish, together with books, are the most important elements in judgments about their achievements, including promotion to tenure. By and large, the major journals in planning reflect the divisions described above, although there is an increasing tendency for papers to use rigorous methods, especially those derived from statistics and econometrics.

Where, then, does the BPJ fit into this spectrum? Neither at one extreme, nor the other. Student-run journals have two great advantages. First, they are very flexible, as they are not held back by publishers’ constraints or by entrenched editorial boards. Thus, they can publish articles that would fit neither in form nor content into major journals. They can and should experiment. Second, they can tap into the currents and new ideas that students naturally seem to pick up on. This suggests that these journals can be innovative, and that they can roil the waters from time to time. The BPJ has done both; the new format should allow it to do more, so long as editorial control remains firmly in student hands. Journals such as this should not become house organs, though they may become the voices for new schools of thought that need to be heard.

The Challenge of Practice

For planning, the second issue raised above is practice. No planning journal can ignore practice; without it, the field withers. The question is how should the concern for practice, in its broad sense, including policy, be incorporated into a journal’s makeup. Perhaps the most evident way is through the identification and analysis of the large issues emerging at any moment. Students are strongly aware of those issues, for example, climate change, which will affect the course of their careers and lives. A journal cannot change the world, but reading a beautiful piece of prose—or, for that matter, poetry—can change someone’s mind. Good writing about important questions can be a powerful feature of a small journal. Not everyone can do it. The editors’ task is to find those among their colleagues who can and want to write, and to encourage them to think about doing it both within and outside the framework of rigorous academic research. BPJ has been good at this, with written and photo essays that convey important messages.

Practice, in the more limited and conventional sense, fits equally well into this framework. Students are continually interviewing local planners and political actors, and they are looking at local planning issues and achievements. They can write about the fabric of practice at the local level, identifying issues that reflect both global and local concerns. Students are continually creating reports and studio projects for local practitioner clients, but the fruits of this labor are not usually made available to the public. The journal could serve as a means of communication with the wider public and disseminate research concerning the communities that support us. It may even be our duty, as a public university. Ideally, this type of effort would be guided in part by a strategic sense on the part of the editors of what the journal is for, and where it should go. The editors can engage with practitioners through their choice of topics and methods; for example, by including a series of interviews or essays on planners in comparable positions in local cities, or dealing with a single issue. This takes focused thinking, and perhaps more time than hard-working graduate students can afford. Nonetheless, it is worth some effort. A side benefit might be material that will enhance students’ ability to make career choices. The important thing is to get well-done research that is relevant to practice into the hands and heads of practitioners.

A third element in relation to practice for journals such as BPJ is to be critical. Planners need to be challenged as well as supported. Flawed movements in planning, such as urban renewal, are often so widely accepted that criticism is vital, albeit often rejected. While students cannot be investigative journalists, they can probe into local planning issues and find out what is going on. A critical voice may cause issues for the institution in which the journal is embedded, but it remains a key part of a healthy profession. Nonetheless, critical analysis almost always raises questions, especially if it seems to be linked to an ideology that questions the status quo. No one is free of ideology, but an overtly ideological stance can be counterproductive, leading to lack of credibility among those whom the critic needs to reach and persuade. That may have been the case in some of the more strident criticism in the past, and it is worth thinking about.

Finally, a journal such as the BPJ can contribute to the practice of scholarship itself. As I discovered when thrust into the co-editorship of the Journal of Regional Science whilst still a graduate student, there is no better way to learn how to write and edit one’s own work than to be immersed in the publication process. The BPJ has helped generations of doctoral students learn how to assess potential publications, and how to edit them so as to improve their clarity and impact. My hope and belief is that this tradition will continue to take the BPJ to new heights. Future editors will build on a great foundation, while transforming the Journal to meet the needs and opportunities of their times. All of this will be done while sustaining the great seminar that is our joint endeavor.

Michael B. Teitz, PhD is Professor Emeritus at the UC Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning, and former Research Director at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Retrospective on BPJ

By Hilda Blanco The idea for the Berkeley Planning Journal (BPJ) came to me at a final exam I was proctoring when I was a Teaching Assistant for Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) Professor Karen Christensen in 1983. I had failed to bring anything to occupy myself, and wrote up the idea during the exam. The Journal was conceived with the law review model in mind: doctoral students editing and producing it, publishing both student and faculty work.

To move from idea to print took about a year, involving applications for funding to the College of Environmental Design, the Department, the graduate school association (which funded student activities), and other university sources. The Department and its Institute of Urban and Regional Development (IURD) were particularly encouraging and helpful. Mel Webber, who headed IURD at the time, lent the full support of the Institute for the effort. IURD was so instrumental that I thanked each and every one of the staff by name in the first issues. Their help was essential because we were able to process and typeset the first issues through the UNIX system, saving on printing costs. I remember sitting with a member of IURD’s staff, for hours, on several days, to make sure the issue was typeset the way we intended. But most important, the Journal was successful because of the efforts of many doctoral and masters students who made the Journal their project, and assured its continuity. Two of the editorial associates of the first issue, Nancey Green Leigh and Cliff Ellis, became subsequent editors. DCRP faculty were also enthusiastic, and we enlisted about half of them to review submissions and help in other ways.

As set out in the introduction to the first issue, the main purpose was to develop the BPJ as a vehicle for communicating thought and research among faculty, students, visitors, and alumni, as well as the profession at large; basically, as a vehicle to build community. It was also meant to serve educational purposes for graduate students by allowing them to improve writing skills and to provide opportunities to publish their work. The BPJ also published abstracts of professional reports, theses, dissertations, and alumni as well as departmental news, such as summaries of research projects. As I saw it, the articles as well as the abstracts and the news items all served the same purpose of building community. At that time, several people objected to the hybrid nature of the BPJ—a cross between a scholarly journal and a departmental newsletter. For some time, I did not have an answer to this objection, but took the opportunity in the introduction to the first issue to make a point about the nature of scientific inquiry. In effect, this argument was that our understanding of science over the last few centuries had evolved from conceiving of science as something mostly made up of facts, then of scientific laws, then of theories, then finally to the unit that generates knowledge, namely, communities of inquiry, that is, open communities that share a commitment to methods of inquiry. As I pointed out, if Berkeley was interested in advancing knowledge, then the best thing it could do was to build its community by enlarging its means of communication.

In that first issue, I also identified a Berkeley orientation or idea with three broad features: a distinctive theoretical orientation; a close connection to the social sciences and social research; and a social conscience, expressed in the BPJ’s early rejection of the planning profession as something consisting entirely of technical expertise, its critical attitude towards established institutions, and its strong advocacy for social justice. This framework gave me the excuse to rephrase Peirce’s metaphor: the community does for the idea what cellulose does for the beauty of the rose: it affords it opportunity (Peirce 1931). The Berkeley idea, I argued, deserved a strong community and a lively means of communication.

We published important work in those first issues, often in its early stages. Before the rise of communicative theory, the articles by Rosen, Christensen, and Drury developed early participatory, consensus-seeking approaches; articles by Kroll and Glasmeier, Hall and Markusen, and Markusen et al. presented regional economic studies on suburban office markets, high-tech growth, and the regional effects of defense spending. But in reviewing the first issue of the BPJ recently, I was struck by the current relevance and insights of the first article, “The Future of Social Policy in America” by Peter Marris (1984) , who had been a visiting professor at Berkeley from UCLA during the previous year.

Marris began his article with newspaper accounts of the effects of unemployment on the lives of people, during a time, analogous to the present, when the country faced financial crisis and devastating plant closings and job losses in the manufacturing sector, with the average national unemployment rate in 1983 reaching 9.7 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. (In comparison, during the recent recession, the average national unemployment rate reached its highest rate in 2010 of 9.6 percent. [Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012]) The article was written at the beginning of the Reagan administration, amidst the rise of the free marketeers and the dismantling of social programs.

Marris went on to point out that at any one time only half of the population is gainfully employed, while the other half is either too young, too old, too sick, or lacks access to employment. As a result, all societies have to establish principles to decide how the half with direct resources are to share them with the other half, thus defining social policy. He indicated that in the history of human societies, there are four main answers or principles: kinship, charity, insurance, and rights. A combination of these four typically defines a nation’s social policy. After WWII, Marris argued, the conception of social policy that emerged in the United States had emphasized universal social rights expressed as membership in social insurance programs, such as social security or unemployment insurance. In these, contribution and benefit were loosely coupled, with benefit determined more by policy than by contribution. The same was the case in other initiatives, such as welfare programs, that were not dependent on contributions and that were less clearly seen as entitlements. Marris argued that this post-WWII conception of social policy was repudiated by the Reagan administration. As he put it, “instead of comprehensive welfare rights, the President [Reagan] proposes a ‘safety net’ to take care of the destitute under traditionally punitive conditions of eligibility” (ibid).

I was struck by Marris’s insight that the liberal ideal of the welfare state could not be revived. “Once discredited, the ideologies that justify policies, unlike the policies themselves, rarely return” (ibid). And history over the past three decades confirms the insight, as even the Democratic Party itself under the Clinton administration pushed to end Welfare “as we knew it.” Marris further argued that when such ideologies are discredited, there is an opening for a new ideology, and he reflected on alternative assumptions for a progressive social policy. In his reflections, he took for granted the staying power of social insurance programs, and argued that social policy in the future needed to go further and address people’s wellbeing in terms of their unique attachments and of the meaning of their lives, and not just the economic loss of a job. Furthermore, he argued that the management of uncertainty is crucial for living a meaningful life.

Today, in the absence of an alternative social policy, we are faced with a situation in which even the major social insurance programs, Social Security and Medicare, can no longer be taken for granted—final evidence of the erosion of post-WWII social policy. Marris’s ideas on how we manage uncertainties and commitments to keep our options open, and thus shift uncertainty asymmetrically to those less powerful than us is a sophisticated theoretical analysis that has yet to be fully appreciated. However, his insight that social policy needs to go beyond monetary losses and address people’s well-being is beginning to make inroads even in economics, with the emergence of hedonic economics (Dolan and Kahneman 2008; Kahneman and Kruger 2006; Kahneman and Sugden 2005). But overall, this seminal BPJ article challenges us, again at a time of social crisis, to imagine a new meaningful and sustainable social policy for our times, one that will live up to Berkeley’s ideals.

In conclusion, let me congratulate all the cohorts of students and faculty who have contributed to reaching this 25th anniversary milestone for the BPJ. Thank you for carrying the idea of the Journal forward. I hope you have found your involvement a lively and enriching experience.

Today, Professor Blanco is a Research Professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. She also serves as the Interim Director of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities.


Blanco, Hilda, “Introduction,” Berkeley Planning Journal, 1(1): 3-5. 1984.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (United States).
Dolan, Paul and Daniel Kahneman, “Interpretations of Utility and Their Implications for the Valuation of Health,” Economic Journal, 118: 215–234, 2008.
Kahneman, Daniel and Alan B. Krueger, “Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Wellbeing,”Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20: 3–24, 2006.
Kahneman, Daniel and Robert Sugden, “Experienced Utility as a Standard of Policy Evaluation,” Environmental and Resource Economics, 32: 161–181, 2005.
Marris, Peter, “The Future of Social Policy in America,” Berkeley Planning Journal, 1(1): 6-25, 1984.
Peirce, Charles Sanders. The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. 8 vols. Vol I-IV. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (eds.) Volume 1, paragraph 216 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931-1958).

Section editor’s note: Hilda Blanco founded the Berkeley Planning Journal, serving as its first managing editor. In this reflection, she looks back on her experiences starting the Journal, articulates the underlying values with which she imbued the Journal (which, I would argue, continue unchanged to this day), and relates larger trends in planning and in our political economy from the mid 1980s to the present day.

Looking Back: Perspectives From Five Former BPJ Editors

Edited By Jake Wegmann Those of us on the Berkeley Planning Journal Editorial Board opened this academic year with a sense of excitement, proud that we were embarking not only on a wholesale redefinition of the format of the BPJ from print to virtual, but also that this transition would coincide with the release of the BPJ’s 25th volume. We thought it fitting, as we grappled with how to make fundamental changes in how the BPJ’s board members will do their work in the future, to take a good, long look at the past. While one could make an eminently plausible argument that 25 is just a number, the Journal’s silver anniversary is as good an occasion as any for us to break the usual pattern of lurching from one urgent deadline to the next, and instead take a deep breath and get ourselves acquainted with the exploits of those who came before us and bequeathed this institution, the BPJ, to our safekeeping.

BPJ Managing Editor Andrea Broaddus came up with the idea of a divide-and-conquer approach, where each of us on the Editorial Board would go back and read one of the previous BPJ volumes and report back to the group. You could say that we divvied up the task of the BPJ getting to know itself. The results were revealing: we noted changes in academic fashions and even several near-death experiences as students came and went from the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) and levels of enthusiasm for the Journal rose and fell. Seeing all of these changes over the years crystallized on the printed pages of BPJ volumes past made us realize with a start that the previous Managing Editors who had guided these efforts are still out there in the world. As we Web-searched them, it became apparent that this was a singularly impressive group of people, who had gone on to do great things in the field of planning and beyond. Wanting to hear their perspectives, with the added benefit of the passage of time to leaven their observations, we reached out to former BPJ managing editors and asked them to write a reflection on their experiences with the Journal. We are fortunate that a number of these extraordinarily busy people were able, on short notice, to respond to our invitation.

As we contemplated how to put together this retrospective section of the BPJ, we were acutely aware that if we were not careful, to those not connected to the Journal the results could read as a series of self-congratulatory indulgences, a common pitfall when any institution engages in commemorating its own history. To forestall this fate, we decided to prime our past editors’ recall of the recent (or, in some cases, not-so-recent) past by posing two broader questions to them: What do you see as the purpose of a student journal? And what did your experience running a student-led journal mean for your own career trajectory?

The last thing we would want would be to try to muzzle the multiplicity of perspectives from this eloquent and thoughtful bunch, so we presented those two questions to our past editors as mere starting points and encouraged them to proceed in any direction they chose. As you will see from reading the five pieces here, the results vary wildly not only in content but in tone, from inspirational to reflective to sardonic to bluntly self-critical and all points in between. Furthermore, although the authors are united in their contention that there is in fact some higher meaning to the expenditure of blood, sweat, tears, and pixels needed to bring out each new volume of the BPJ (what a relief!), they describe the inevitable moments when this hard-earned truth is, shall we say, hard to keep in sight. But I believe that I am on safe ground in observing that the experience of helping to shape the BPJ was highly important to all five of these individuals. Some things, it would appear, haven’t changed at all from BPJ Volume 1 to Volume 25.

Jake Wegmann is a third-year Ph.D. student in Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning, and is currently serving as the BPJ’s Retrospective Section Editor.

Raphaël Fischler, Volume 6

After I was asked if I would reflect on my past experience as editor of the Berkeley Planning Journal (BPJ) in 1991, I suddenly realized that I had not published in the Journal since 1996. And yet, BPJ was an important element in my training as a planning academic. My debt toward the Journal is real and the request of the current Editorial Board therefore became a welcome opportunity to share some thoughts I have had on academic research and publishing.

In many cases, journalists can trace the origin of their careers to their days as editors or writers for a student newspaper or magazine. The same cannot be said of the editors of academic journals: student-run journals in our field are few and, except in a very limited number of cases, academic editorships in planning are temporary stints, not professional careers in and of themselves. Even if our professional mandate is not to edit academic journals, it is to publish in them and to serve as referees for work submitted by our colleagues. Given that not all students have the opportunity to submit their work for publication during their schooling, and given that even fewer students are asked to comment on manuscripts, participating in a student-run journal offers useful training in an activity that will be part and parcel of a future job.

Student-run journals such as BPJ serve also to socialize their contributors as members of academe. Much like attending a conference, serving on an editorial board imparts a sense of belonging to a community of scholars. Especially when contributors to the journal hail from an array of universities (instead of belonging only to the journal’s host institution), the work can also be an opportunity for real networking.

Student-led journals, we see, have many advantages and real benefits. But, depending on how they are run and what they publish, they can also pose a real danger. If they are run like a good number of academic journals in our field, they may lead young scholars to emphasize rigor over relevance and make them part of an academic community whose ties with practice have weakened over the past decades. To avoid these dangers, it is important to know what purpose a scholarly journal serves.

The primary purpose of academic publishing in our field and in quite a few others is not to improve the world. It is to provide evidence of scholarly productivity in order to obtain tenure and get promoted. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that academic research in urban planning is not useful to cities and their residents. I am saying that it is more useful to its authors and their colleagues than to the public. I am making that claim for two reasons.

First, some research is simply not meant to be useful to practice; it is meant to make us more historically or politically aware, to expand our ‘culture’ of planning rather than inform our decisions or improve our tools in any direct manner. In that sense, its main use is to improve the education of planning professionals and planning amateurs. Second, policy and planning are not driven by research; they are informed by research but driven by political demands from various stakeholders. Unlike research in science and engineering, our research cannot affirm or conclude but only suggest, inspire, prepare, frame, alert, legitimate, etc. Research is at its most useful to practice when it is a reflection of practice and a reflection on practice, that is, when scholars put themselves at the service of practitioners and help them analyze and, if warranted, diffuse their new ideas and methods. Planning scholars have the time and opportunity to do what planning practitioners have too little time and opportunity to do, namely to assess what their practice does and what it means.

BPJ and similar student-led journals can be places of training and socialization for aspiring academics. But they can also be spaces of critical thought on what it means to be a researcher and a teacher. With every issue, or at least with every new editorial board, basic questions must be raised anew: What is our aim? What difference do we want to make? Who are we serving? I do not recall that we asked those questions in 1991, when I was BPJ editor. At least, I know I did not ask them explicitly and I know I would not have been ready to entertain answers that departed significantly from the standard answers we give to them: that we publish journals to diffuse research that will be of interest to our peers and that, in so doing, we are strengthening planning as an academic field and advancing our own careers in it.

Toward the end of my doctoral studies—nearly twenty years ago—a classmate and I had a frank discussion about the role of research. My friend, whose research skills far exceeded mine in methodological scope and depth, expressed fundamental doubts about the usefulness of scholarly inquiry. He knew that only a small minority of works—some seminal books and articles—really make a difference in the field and thought that all the rest was fodder for academic resumes. True to his beliefs, he did not pursue an academic career and became a successful, socially conscious professional. (He did maintain strong ties to academia and taught as an adjunct professor). I couldn’t disagree with him but was wedded to the idea of becoming a professor, because the professor’s life was the life I wanted. Seven years later, a number of historical and theoretical articles earned me tenure at a good university. That position, in turn, gave me a platform from which to engage the policy and planning debates in my community. My most influential work for local policy-makers and planners has come in the form of research reports commissioned by government agencies, briefs submitted to public commissions, and op-ed pieces published in newspapers. The scholarly research that appears in these documents mostly serves a function of legitimation, as do my academic and professional titles. The real work of influence comes from well-expressed, educated opinions that mix fact and expressions of value.

We are very fortunate in North American planning to have a real community of scholars who, aside from occasionally making nasty comments in anonymous manuscript reviews, generally get along well and enjoy each other’s company. Being a member of that community is a privilege and a source of satisfaction. As a ticket to membership in that community, BPJ is a very valuable institution. How valuable it is for cities and their residents, however, is a question every editorial team needs to answer for itself.

Raphaël Fischler was the Managing Editor of the 6th edition of the BPJ in 1991. Nowadays he is an Associate Professor in the School of Urban Planning at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, as well as the School’s Director.

J.S. Onésimo Sandoval, Volume 13

The phrase “academic scholarship” conjures up many different images. Over the past decade, I have had the good fortune to have time to reflect on the meaning of academic scholarship. Strolling down memory lane, I have fond memories of my time as co-editor of the BPJ. At the time, I did not realize how important this academic endeavor would be to my professional life. As I reflect on my experience as an editor, I would like to share three themes that helped me evolve as a scholar. The first theme is community. After becoming an editor, I soon realized that any academic product would require a team effort. We could no longer approach this intellectual project with an individual consciousness but rather we needed a collective consciousness. My experience as co-editor gave me a small taste of the collective effervescence that is created from community scholarship. Little did I know, at the time, that most of my academic work would be with other collaborators that have similar academic interests. My desire to work in a team setting stems from my positive experience with collective effervescence as co-editor of the BPJ. Contemporary academic scholarship is rarely an individual accomplishment. Much of what we produce today is a product of peer reviews, a community of ideas, and synergistic scholastic enterprises. My experience as a BPJ editor helped me dispel the myth that academic scholarship should be pursued as an individual activity.

The second theme is human justice. One of the factors that motivated me to become a scholar was my desire to write about the contradictions of the human condition in cities. When I became a co-editor of the BPJ, I was determined to use the journal as a vehicle to address social inequality in cities. I was finally in a position to work with other editors to frame the research agenda that encouraged scholarship on social equity. Negotiating the fine line between my research desires and the general interest of readers of the BPJ gave me the experience and confidence to use my power as an academic to continue to frame research around social and spatial injustices found in the American metropolis.

The third theme is academic excellence. The pursuit of higher education is motivated by many factors: knowledge, recognition, creativity, etc. Regardless of the specific motivation, the end result is academic excellence. Our contribution to the academic community and society at large is our written words found in our libraries. At the end of the day, when we all die, we will leave a part of ourselves in our libraries for the next generation of scholars.

Volume 13 represents an important milestone in my academic career. Yes, we had many long nights, last minutes changes to articles, and other mishaps with the publisher, but in the end, we gained valuable academic experience, we matured as scholars, and we embraced the intellectual challenge to continue to work on the project that is called academic scholarship.

J.S. Onésimo Sandoval served as co-editor of BPJ volume 13 in 1999. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Peter V. Hall, Volume 14

Academic publishing is a mysterious thing. What better way, what more fun way, to learn about writing, editing and reviewing, about submission, revision, acceptance and rejection, than by editing the BPJ?

More than this, what the BPJ also did—does—is bind together the DCRP community and us to it. Communities are held together by more than good feelings and shared spaces; they need practices and institutions that remind us that we’re all in this together. Jonathan Mason, Larissa Muller, Mike O’Dell, Mike Reilly, and I edited the 2000 journal as the second year cohort. Accompanied by burritos and red wine we held long meetings in the Ph.D. student office, then temporarily relocated to a building at Fulton and Kittredge during the seismic retrofit of Wurster Hall. That’s right, there was once a time when California had money for things like that. After Planning Theory, those meetings were the last great activity we undertook together before our various specializations, fieldwork, and careers took us in different directions. But the Journal’s community-building stretched beyond the editorial cohort; as first-year students we had eagerly anticipated being invited to review articles, and as senior students we continued to submit and review articles, and see abstracts of our dissertations published. We had the good fortune of having Jennifer Dill as our business manager, by then in her third year on the job. Faculty members took turns serving as the Journal’s advisor—ours was Karen Christensen—while also contributing articles and serving as reviewers.

Still, one of the problems with community is that sometimes you want it too much. I recall that we were thrilled when BPJ supporter and former DCRP faculty member Ann Markusen submitted a paper co-authored with one of her students. The paper had all the hallmarks of her incisive, empirically-rich, and policy-relevant writing. Yet, our reviewers pointed out some ways to improve the paper. Indeed, one of our senior student colleagues even dared to suggest we might… require revisions! Little did we know what an everyday event that was in academic life—that with some papers, revise and resubmit is cause for celebration. After much angst we wrote to Professor Markusen and her co-author, suggesting ever so politely that they might want to consider the advice of the reviewers. But we were unwilling to provide clear guidance. It was a confusing editorial message, precisely the kind of waffle that irritates me today. Needless to say, the paper was revised and resubmitted, and was better for it; the reviews had helped.

After the edition was published, Ann wrote to us. Her tone was stern but her message was supportive: you wanted the paper, you wanted some changes, why didn’t you just say so? This was also the DCRP community we became part of through the BPJ—the one that extends far beyond Wurster Hall and the redwoods. That cares enough to give advice, frankly, freely, and that takes the mystery out of a cornerstone of the academic trade.

Peter V. Hall served as co-editor of BPJ Volume 14 in 2000. Today, he is an Associate Professor in the Urban Studies Program as well as an Associate Member of the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Jeffrey M. Vincent, Volume 18

There was a time when I thought Berkeley Planning Journal (BPJ) Volume 18 would never come to be: BPJ would never celebrate its 20th anniversary with that issue. How could it, with seemingly everything conspiring against its very existence? Let me briefly recount the … agony. And the lessons.

I was three years into the Ph.D. program. Knowing that publishing was our golden ticket to fame, fortune, and…well, at least a job in academia, I very much wanted to pull back the mysterious publishing curtain and be an editor for BPJ. I knew this was a great opportunity. And I was right. We had a good cohort and four of us signed on to co-edit.

The year was 2004 and an unusual thing was happening in the halls of DCRP: one of its most famed scholars was (gulp) leaving. Manuel Castells—whom we all revered and worshiped—was leaving his longtime academic home for shores more southern and European. To honor the occasion, Castells was giving a ‘farewell lecture’ to the Berkeley community. Without a doubt, this was an important event for the college, DCRP, and for the entire campus. The talk was beautiful, soaring in scholarly scope, charming in its reflectiveness on scholarship at Berkeley, and challenged us newbies to carry the mantle. And carry it well. I still have my notes from this lecture. Castells gave a grand, whirlwind tour of all his books, especially ‘the trilogy.’ In short, it was stunning.

We editors landed on a brilliant plan: for BPJ 20, we would print Castells’ farewell speech and solicit commentary from students and faculty, past and present. We were on cloud nine with this idea. I went to retrieve the recording from the talk. The recording was nowhere to be found. Lost forever.

So we asked Castells for a copy of his talk. His response was something to the effect of, “Oh, I didn’t write anything down, I just talked.” (As an aside, my mind was blown away by that.) Our brilliant idea for BPJ 20 fizzled before our eyes.

Once the editorial board got back to fighting weight, we picked ourselves up off the mat and came up with a new idea: special issue. I can’t even remember the topic. But I remember that it was… cutting edge critical theory something something, micro and macro at the same time. Hip, edgy, rigorous. The call went out, far and wide. I think we got all of two submissions.

Suddenly, things took (even more of a) dive. My co-editors were dropping like flies! Two got too-good-to-refuse job offers in Boston. The third had a baby. It was solely in my lap. This came at a time when the last couple of Ph.D. cohorts had been very small, enough to count on one hand. So there just weren’t that many people to bring on board.

It was then that I had some conversations with faculty members about the BPJ. I learned there was great pride in the long-standing nature of the journal as a peer-reviewed, entirely student-run endeavor. Some of these very faculty members had at one time been BPJ editors themselves. But the institutional support for the BPJ from the department had eroded. And students were more and more pressed to meet Berkeley’s new ‘normative time’ requirements for extra funding. Thankfully, three of my colleagues in the program came on board to help me out. And at this time I was bound and determined to pull this volume together. Eventually we did, with seven solid articles. Getting those articles to print quality was truly a collective affair. We all read at least four versions of each paper, working diligently with the authors to refine and improve them and incorporate reviewers’ suggestions. We even changed the cover design—from the traditional shot of Berkeley’s famed Campanile to the view looking out into the world. As I wrote in the Editor’s Note: “We turn the gaze around and find ourselves inside the [Campanile’s] bell room looking out.”

I came away with a newly profound respect for all things well published. The care and effort it takes to convey a solid argument, back it up with good evidence, and extrapolate useful conclusions is an art and a skill. It’s also a collective effort of many hands. Even in the face of adversity and doubt. Thanks BPJ.

  1. Note: Some facts and minor details may be stretched, embellished, or forgotten, or have otherwise been given rigorous poetic license.
  2. To those of you laughing: this was before the ubiquity of iPhones and digital recorders.
  3. Note: My wife STILL blames BPJ for me taking a year longer to write my dissertation than [she thinks] I should have.

Jeffrey M. Vincent edited Volume 18 of the BPJ, published in 2005. He is the Deputy Director and co-founder of the Center for Cities and Schools within the Department of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley.

Alex B. Schafran, Volume 22

Soon after getting involved in the BPJ, I began digging through the stacks of back issues lining a long-forgotten bookshelf on the fourth floor of Wurster Hall. I knew little about the Journal, a testament more to my general ignorance of scholarly life and academic journals than to the obscurity of the BPJ, yet it was clear from the long list of well-known authors who had once written for the Journal that things had changed. Introduced at a time when there were far fewer journals and much more lenient tenure requirements, the BPJ had slowly morphed into more of a student journal, publishing solid work by young scholars as opposed to pithy texts by legends like Peter Hall, Ann Markusen, or Manuel Castells.

In the ever-expanding world of academic egos, some would look upon this change as one of ‘decline,’ part of our broader predilection for judgment all too often deployed on cities. Much as scholars seem completely unperturbed by discussing the influx of low-income people to a community as ‘decline,’ somehow featuring work by people who may one day achieve fame and fortune is not equal to publishing those whose reputation, or at least academic appointment, is relatively secure.

What was clear to me is that the role of the BPJ had changed and needed to change, and that the world of intellectual urbanism and planning that we were inheriting was not going to be the same. Starting with Volume 21’s bilingual approach to Las Californias, helmed by Paavo Monkonnen, we tried to push the BPJ to open up, to see what it could become rather than simply attempt to be what it was or what it somehow was supposed to be. In 22 we pushed even further, bringing in poetry and satire to mix with the standard fare of theory and empirics. The Urban Fringe, a section from the early days brought back in Volume 21, became a regular feature, attempting to develop short, well-written pieces which were a hybrid of op-ed style writing and reportage, but with a strong intellectual bent. Volume 23 brought our first photo essay, as well as a piece by a legend, DCRP alum Peter Marcuse.

As we reflect back on 25 volumes, the question that is the BPJ’s future is in many ways the same question that faces DCRP, CED, and planning and urban development as a whole. The period from 1984 to 2012 cannot by any stretch of the imagination be labeled planning’s best, a fact which should be clear to anyone who studies the current state of California, characterized by a precariousness brought on by the most profound urban crisis in modern history. The question is not what should we become, or how can we return to the glory days, but what can we become, and how can that transformation be part of the larger transformation of our entire collective enterprise. What we have done thus far is take baby steps. It is my sincere hope that the editors to come, together with the Department and the College and planning as a whole, are able to take much larger leaps forward. It is too important not to.

  1. This is a generalization, of course. The journal always published student work, and continued to publish work by non-students, but the balance shifted.

Alex B. Schafran co-edited Volume 22 of the BPJ in 2009 and recently completed his PhD at Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning. He is currently a Visiting Researcher at the Institut Francais de Geopolitique at the University of Paris in France.

Insurgency in Academic Publishing

by Ruth Miller This year marked an important transition for the Berkeley Planning Journal: we are now an electronic, open access publication. Our new publication method of record is eScholarship, a service of the University of California. eScholarship allows us to publish our articles online, in an indexed publication, while granting our readers a wide range of rights to download, print, and share our author’s work. We are part of a movement in academia in which many scholars are taking a closer look at the way access to their research is controlled.

A Crumbling Ivory Tower

In January 2012, Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, ignited an insurgency in academic publishing. In his private blog, Gowers publicly pledged to stop publishing or reviewing articles for any journal published by Elsevier. Amsterdam-based Elsevier publishes and distributes over 2,000 academic journals, and its business is based on charging fees to access, read, and share academic articles. Gowers argued that Elsevier’s access fees are “so far above the average that it seems quite extraordinary that they can get away with it.” Meanwhile, Elsevier reported a 36 percent profit on revenues of $3.2 billion in 2010 (Lin 2012).

By May, nearly 12,000 researchers around the world joined the boycott of Elsevier. The movement developed its own website and an online manifesto, The Cost of Knowledge, which noted that for-profit publishers like Elsevier and Springer charge $1.20 or more per page, while similar journals published by nonprofit universities or professional societies charge $.13 to $.65 per page. How quickly the spark of Gower’s article found ample kindling in the academic community suggests many scholars have reservations about the traditional publishing model. Indeed, just a few years ago, the entire editorial boards of Topology and K-Theory, both mathematical journals, resigned in protest over restrictively high costs to their readers.

Publishers like Elsevier were founded to disseminate academic research. Academic journals, like the BPJ, solicit articles, coordinate a peer review process, and then contract with a publisher to disseminate the final content. The journal holds the copyright, but grants a publisher the right to redistribute. This right for redistribution, which is often exclusive, enables the publisher to cover its costs by charging libraries and others a subscription fee for journal access.

In the pre-Internet era, publishing was a cost-intensive business, involving skilled labor and large machines for typesetting, printing, and shipping. As publishing has become a desktop activity, these high costs are no longer necessary. Research may now be disseminated online directly by an author or a journal, for free. As stated in the Knowledge manifesto, academic publishing has become “a system in which commercial publishers make profits based on the free labor of mathematicians and subscription fees from their institutions’ libraries, for a service that has become largely unnecessary.”

Increasingly, accomplished researchers like Gowers are turning to the Internet to give their work away for free. “But proprietorship!” one might argue. “We can’t just give our work away for free!” Authors are given modest payments for their work under the traditional publication system, and it can be lucrative for the owners of significant findings. Yet once an author transfers the exclusive right to redistribute an article to a publisher, even the author cannot legally access their own work without paying a fee. These rules are rarely enforced, but technically, professors must pay to share their own article with their students. Inevitably, the publisher’s monopoly forces universities to pay in order to regain access to their own information—often knowledge that was created with taxpayer funding.

This perception of costly peer-reviewed journals as the sole guardians of knowledge is antiquated. Certainly, the peer-review process is one reliable indicator of quality, but these traditional publishers are not the only means of purveying peer-reviewed work.

Though the opportunity to self-publish is universally available, many researchers prefer to publish in the high-cost academic journals distributed by Elsevier and others. Academia often judges the quality of research by the prestige of the journal that publishes it. An author’s work is 36 to 200 percent more likely to be cited if is available online (Hill 2012), but online publishing is not yet regarded as serious enough to establish an academic career. This bias to tradition gives publishers an effective monopoly. The scholarly community depends upon the ability to disseminate research and read that of others, and so researchers and librarians decry high subscription fees to be a necessary evil.

Research is more than simply citations and profit. Research can inspire and engage beyond academia. Even research that isn’t widely practical has a place in public discourse: consider the public fascination over the Higgs boson particle accelerator. Quality research has respect in our society, and many researchers feel an obligation to share a snippet of their triumphs, discoveries, and radical theories with the public.

For urban planners, public access to our work is particularly important. Our research concerns the public realm and the built environment, and our words support individuals that are actively working to improve lives. The current restrictive pricing system suggests that only people in well-heeled academic institutions can meaningfully contribute to the academic discourse. This is simply untrue. With increasing frequency, researchers and professionals are engaging in dialogue online, for free, in front of an unrestricted audience. Among many others, the popular and respected Atlantic Cities blog offers high quality, daily content about the built environment from industry professionals for a less formal audience.

In the parlance of our times, companies like Elsevier represent the much-derided “1%.” Their steep success does not damn the entire industry, but it does suggest that the rewards for research are not being distributed equitably. It is thus worth exploring more equitable and progressive means of disseminating academic research.

Introducing Open Access

Though we are living in a period of rising class-consciousness, and the Elsevier boycott is gaining strength (The Economist called it the “Academic Spring,” suggesting a connection to the political revolutions of last year’s Arab Spring), the barriers to academic publishing are not a new phenomenon. The phrase “ivory tower” as a symbol of intellectual aloofness was coined by a French poet in 1837, and is still largely applicable today.

Fortunately, our 21st century technology makes it easier to share information. Since 2007, anyone in the world can access the lecture notes, exams, and lecture videos from MIT’s entire curriculum through OpenCourseWare for free. Other universities, including Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan have followed with their own massively open online courses, or “MOOCs” (Lewin 2012).

The notion that intellectual property can be free is as old as the idea of copyright itself (Rose 2012). Shakespeare is a central feature of every American public high school theater club largely because his works are widely accessible through the public domain.

When should information belong to the public domain? Information produced with public tax dollars, such as the Census or a county general plan, is typically shared at no cost because taxpayers effectively already paid to produce it. Much of the research at public institutions, like UC Berkeley, is supported by taxpayer-funded grants, fellowships, and operating budgets, and one could argue that this information should belong to the public domain as well.

Even without the requirement for public domain, many content creators dismiss the option to retain exclusive control over their work, preferring to allow unlimited access and sharing. Creative Commons, founded in 2001, challenges the idea that “All Rights Reserved” should be the default. Through a set of simple legal language, Creative Commons allows authors, writers, artists, developers, educators, legal scholars, and others to pick their own level of copyright. In essence, Creative Commons has allowed content creators to unbundle their creative rights. Today, hundreds of millions of Creative Commons licenses cover a wide variety of content. Given the option, these individuals chose wide accessibility as a higher priority than retaining absolute proprietorship.

The openness movement has spread to academic publishing, where is it called “open access.” According to the Directory of Open Access Journals, maintained by Lund University in Sweden, a journal must allow anyone “to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full text” of its articles to qualify as open access. Lund lists hundreds of journals that follow these accessibility guidelines and use their free open access website template.

Open access publishing has benefits for authors. The research trade is largely defined by citations, and an author’s work is more likely to be cited if it is accessible to the public. This is intuitive—charging more for something reduces the number of people who can access it.

As city planners and scholars, we should welcome this movement toward the democratization of knowledge. Unlike capital-intensive research fields, such as genetics, planners trade in ideas about how our places should function. Planners work in universities, the private sector, government, and backyards. If the BPJ publishes an article on gerrymandering, wouldn’t we want an advocate in a small town to be able to reference those findings at a town hall meeting?

The Berkeley Planning Journal’s Transition

The BPJ quietly transitioned to the electronic, open access publisher eScholarship after Volume 24. Now available through open access, our article downloads have increased beyond our wildest expectations.

In the month of April 2012 alone, our article downloads tripled our total from the entire year of 2011. This rate is likely to increase; if it remains steady, we are on track to increase article downloads by 36 times by the end of 2012. Over 60 percent of our April 2012 downloads were from past volumes. Almost two-thirds of our readers now reach us through Google. Once our entire archive is digitized and available online for free, we anticipate even more readers will find something relevant, provocative, and stimulating in the BPJ.

Our new website on eScholarship is a functional replacement for a printed book, but if content were no longer restricted to paper media, what else could be published? Think beyond high-resolution images and hyperlinks. This spring, a Masters student in our department submitted a video thesis. What other media will city planners use to share their work in the next decade? In order to support the creation and publication of new media content, the BPJ decided to develop a new, more interactive website. As the site’s designer and developer, I had the privilege of facilitating our discussions about form and function, as we expanded the opportunities for both beyond our written page. It was a conversation I highly recommend for any publication.

We hope that by introducing new formats for publication, we will encourage planners to explore the full range of communicative methods available to them. Authors can now share text, audio, video, data, interactive applications, and nearly any other form of digital media at

Freed from the constraint of printing a single annual volume, we are also excited to experiment with a less formal, but more frequent, blog. We have dubbed this experiment Urban Fringe, after the long-time BPJ section. We view this not as a departure from our mission to offer peer-reviewed research from emerging scholars, but as an opportunity to couple our academic work with a practitioner-oriented discussion. We look forward to welcoming new ideas and reader participation, especially from Masters students.

As excited as we are to go digital, the BPJ recognizes that some of our readers aren’t quite ready to give up their printed books. A website cannot entirely replace the reassuring weight, crisp pages, and archival value of a physical book. A variety of emerging publishing services lessens the divide between the digital and printed product. We worked with Bound Book Scanning, a non-destructive book scanning service, to create electronic text-searchable PDF documents of the past volumes of the BPJ. Through Createspace, a print-on-demand service, we turned these PDFs into new books. Now we are proud to offer all 25 volumes of the BPJ for purchase on Amazon. Anyone can order a single copy of any of our volumes online, and it will be printed and delivered anywhere in the world.

In Conclusion

Public universities, like the University of California, Berkeley, are founded on the belief that education is a right, not a privilege. New tools and systems have already emerged to meet this expectation, and thousands of journals have enthusiastically embraced the change, but more work must be done. Careers hinge on publication in exclusive journals, and academia must grow to recognize the value of open access journals as a valid option.

Academia’s reputation as a stodgy industry steeped in traditional print publications is being tested. The BPJ is proud to step into the digital frontier in this moment of transformation. We are proud to make our work more accessible to our peers and colleagues.

Ruth Miller is a Masters student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her Bachelor of Science from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from MIT.


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Gowers, Timothy. 2012. “Elsevier — my part in its downfall.” Gowers’s Weblog: Mathematics Related Discussions, January 21.
Harper, Douglas. 2012. Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed May 31.
Hill, David J. 2012. “8,200+ Strong, Researchers Band Together to Force Science Journals to Open Access.” Singularity Hub, March 18.
Lewin, Tamar. 2012. “Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses.” New York Times, May 2.
Lin, Thomas. 2012. “Mathematicians Organize Boycott of a Publisher.” New York Times, February 13.
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Rose, Mark. 2003. “Nine-Tenths of the Law: The English Copyright Debates and the Rhetoric of the Public Domain.” Law and Contemporary Problems 66: 75–87.