Date of Award
Master of Community Planning
Howard H. Foster, Jr.
The progressive period in American history was characterized by the search for order and efficiency. Emphasis was placed on the development of professional personnel with whom the new process was entrusted. Coalitions of the new professionals developed comprehensive frameworks for society. City planning was one facet of the progressive approach to societal reform. Thus an examination of the progressive heritage of city planning is necessary for a general understanding of the rationale and basis for modern planning techniques. It was in the progressive period that zoning was initiated and planning commissions were formed. The professionalization of the field culminated in the establishment of the American City Planning Institute (predecessor to the American Institute of Planners.)
In order to understand the present implications of city planning, we have to place our actions and theories in an historical context. It is helpful for planners to realize why and how zoning emerged as a major tool for planning and why social planning has come to be a distinct discipline within the profession. For, it is also important to recall the political and social atmosphere that encouraged a comprehensive approach to planning, as well as the substantive issues which promoted the process.
The "new" city planners were prompted by an inability of the old order to coordinate growth and development in the cities. Reformers were frustrated by the lack of a recognizable order in the cities, but although influenced by a varying array of political and social beliefs, all of the urban professionals relied on documented procedures and standards for the solutions to urban problems.
Of particular interest to the authors is the historical legitimacy of social planning, or what has recently been labeled as such in an effort to distinguish the traditional or physical oriented planning from a more people-centered approach. As will be further explored in the following chapters, it is issues such as housing and jobs for the poor which prompted the discussions and debates at the planning meetings. In turn, the "new" planning produced numerous standards and regulations for solving urban problems.
"The failure of city planners to serve the poor, although it upset some practitioners, resulted in no serious decline in the profession's source of support; but the failure to serve adequately the rich and powerful carried with it the threat of premature extinction.” Through a commitment to efficiency and scientific management, planning as a discipline offered a rational approach to suburban and urban development. Specific social issues, originally in the forefront of activity, lost their urgency and were submerged into the drafting of city plans and zoning ordinances until the 1960s. Only periodic resurgences of social and economic issues such as job support programs and public housing reawakened planners to the comprehensive framework first proposed in 1909.
In order to further pursue the historical impetus for the city planning movement, the authors examined the literature and conference reports published between 1909 and 1925. Initial investigation revealed the predominance of Benjamin C. Marsh and Lawrence Veiller. With additional research, the polarity of opinions between the two men became evident and because of their diversity and influence on planning, we have focused our analysis of the historical period on their viewpoints and activities.
Marsh and Veiller were both active in the emerging planning profession, attended the national meetings and were well known and articulate reformers of the progressive period. And although most planners and reformers did not propose as extreme solutions to the urban problems as did Marsh and Veiller, the conflict of views between them and the way in which that conflict was resolved significantly influenced the direction of planning thought for many years to come. By viewing the emerging planning profession through the words and theories of these two men, we feel the historical implications of planning will be adequately served.
Dunn, James F. and Golding, Priscilla A., "THE PROGRESSIVE ORIGINS OF MODERN CITY PLANNING" (1978). Open Access Master's Theses. Paper 379.