OAPA'S Planners Book Group gathers periodically to discuss books relevant to planners and planning practice. This reading list includes selections from the Group's prior meetings.

Janaury 2022

Using Drones in Planning Practice

"Using Drones in Planning Practice" provides planners with the knowledge they need to determine whether drones — or uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) — can enhance their planning practice and, if so, to take the first steps toward UAS implementation.

Drones offer tangible and intangible benefits for public- and private-sector planning organizations, expanding their capabilities for a wide range of activities that would be otherwise difficult, expensive, or impossible to carry out. This report offers the information planners need to integrate UAS into professional planning practice, including comprehensive discussions of technology and equipment, operational and administrative practices, and legal and regulatory considerations. As planners prepare to navigate the ever-increasing technological and societal changes of the 21st century, drones should be a tool in the planning toolbox that all practitioners know when and how to use.

July 2021

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America by Angie Schmitt

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that traffic deaths are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action. Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable.

April 2021

Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America’s Housing Crisis by Katherine Levine Einstein, David M. Glick, and Maxwell Palmer

Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, demand for housing has consistently outpaced supply in many US communities. The failure to construct sufficient housing - especially affordable housing - in desirable communities and neighborhoods comes with significant social, economic, and environmental costs. This book examines how local participatory land use institutions amplify the power of entrenched interests and privileged homeowners. The book draws on sweeping data to examine the dominance of land use politics by 'neighborhood defenders' - individuals who oppose new housing projects far more strongly than their broader communities and who are likely to be privileged on a variety of dimensions. Neighborhood defenders participate disproportionately and take advantage of land use regulations to restrict the construction of multifamily housing. The result is diminished housing stock and higher housing costs, with participatory institutions perversely reproducing inequality.

March 2021

From Mobility to Accessibility: Transforming Urban Transportation and Land-Use Planning by Jonathan Levine, Joe Grengs, and Louis A. Merlin

In From Mobility to Accessibility, Jonathan Levine, Joe Grengs, and Louis A. Merlin argue for an "accessibility shift" whereby transportation and land use planning would be based on people's ability to reach destinations, rather than on their ability to travel fast.

Existing models for planning and evaluating transportation, which have taken vehicle speeds as the most important measure, would make sense if movement were the purpose of transportation. But it is the ability to reach destinations, not movement per se, that people seek from their transportation systems. The book argues that the shift from mobility to accessibility would be transformative to the practice of both transportation and land-use planning but is impeded by many conceptual obstacles regarding the nature of accessibility and its potential for guiding development of the built environment. By redefining success in transportation, the book provides city planners, decision makers, and scholars a path to reforming the practice of transportation and land-use planning in modern cities and metropolitan areas.

October 2020

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives.

Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women. Built on hundreds of studies in the US, the UK, and around the world, and written with energy, wit, and sparkling intelligence, this is a groundbreaking, unforgettable exposé that will change the way you look at the world.

July 2020

The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them) by Lucy Jones

With population in hazardous regions growing and temperatures around the world rising, the impacts of natural disasters are greater than ever before. The Big Ones is more than just a work of history or science; it is a call to action. Natural hazards are inevitable; human catastrophes are not. With this energizing and exhaustively researched book, Dr. Jones offers a look at our past, readying us to face down the Big Ones in our future.

April 2020

Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation by Sonia Hirt

Why are American cities, suburbs, and towns so distinct? Compared to European cities, those in the United States are characterized by lower densities and greater distances; neat, geometric layouts; an abundance of green space; a greater level of social segregation reflected in space; and―perhaps most noticeably―a greater share of individual, single-family detached housing. In Zoned in the USA, Sonia A. Hirt argues that zoning laws are among the important but understudied reasons for the cross-continental differences.

Hirt shows that rather than being imported from Europe, U.S. municipal zoning law was in fact an institution that quickly developed its own, distinctly American profile. A distinct spatial culture of individualism―founded on an ideal of separate, single-family residences apart from the dirt and turmoil of industrial and agricultural production―has driven much of municipal regulation, defined land-use, and, ultimately, shaped American life. Hirt explores municipal zoning from a comparative and international perspective, drawing on archival resources and contemporary land-use laws from England, Germany, France, Australia, Russia, Canada, and Japan to challenge assumptions about American cities and the laws that guide them.

Book Cover: The Future of the Past
February 2020

The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism, and Historic Preservation by Steen W. Semes

A comprehensive and eloquent argument for “new traditional” architecture that preserves the style and character of historic buildings.

With contemporary design being redefined by architects and urbanists who are recovering the historic language associated with traditional architecture and the city, how might preservation change its focus or update its mission? Steven W. Semes, winner of the 2010 Clem Labine Award, makes a persuasive case that context matters and that new buildings and additions to old buildings should be harmonious with their neighbors. The Future of the Past was named one of Planetizen’s most noteworthy books of 2010 and one of The Atlantic Cities’ “10 Most Compelling Historic Preservation Reads.”


Book Cover: Parking and the City
October 2019

Parking and the City by Donald Shoup

This book was discussed at the Oregon APA Annual Planning Conference in Eugene, OR. From the conference brochure: “Donald Shoup brilliantly overcame the challenge of writing about parking without being boring in his iconoclastic 800-page book The High Cost of Free Parking. Easy to read and often entertaining, the book showed that city parking policies subsidize cars, encourage sprawl, degrade urban design, prohibit walkability, damage the economy, raise housing costs, and penalize people who cannot afford or choose not to own a car.


OAPA Book Club Palaces for the People
July 2019

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg

In Palaces for the People, an eminent sociologist and bestselling author offers an inspiring blueprint for rebuilding our fractured society. Eric Klinenberg suggests that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”: When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

Richly reported, elegantly written, and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People urges us to acknowledge the crucial role these spaces play in civic life. Our social infrastructure could be the key to bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides—and safeguarding democracy.


Book Cover: The Color of Law
April 2019

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.


Book Cover: The High Cost of Free Parking
January 2019

The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup

In this no-holds-barred treatise, Donald Shoup argues that free parking has contributed to auto dependence, rapid urban sprawl, extravagant energy use, and a host of other problems. Planners mandate free parking to alleviate congestion but end up distorting transportation choices, debasing urban design, damaging the economy, and degrading the environment. Ubiquitous free parking helps explain why our cities sprawl on a scale fit more for cars than for people, and why American motor vehicles now consume one-eighth of the world’s total oil production. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking – namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary. Join the swelling ranks of Shoupistas by picking up this book today. You’ll never look at a parking spot the same way again.


Book Cover: A Better Way to Zone
October 2018

A Better Way to Zone: Ten Principles to Create More Livable Cities by Donald L. Elliott

This book was discussed at the Oregon APA Annual Planning Conference in Bend, OR. From the conference brochure: “Read the book and bring your city’s zoning code to the session so that specific changes can be proposed and discussed. This session will be a deep dive into the topic of zoning and is intended to result in real ideas and solutions for improving local zoning codes.”


Book Cover: Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change
August 2018

Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change by Peter Calthorpe

“Cities are green” is becoming a common refrain. But Calthorpe argues that a more comprehensive understanding of urbanism at the regional scale provides a better platform to address climate change. In this groundbreaking new work, he shows how such regionally scaled urbanism can be combined with green technology to achieve not only needed reductions in carbon emissions but other critical economies and lifestyle benefits. Rather than just providing another checklist of new energy sources or one dimensional land use alternatives, he combines them into comprehensive national growth scenarios for 2050 and documents their potential impacts. In so doing he powerfully demonstrates that it will take an integrated approach of land use transformation, policy changes, and innovative technology to transition to a low carbon economy. The book . . . is a call to action and a road map for moving forward.


Book Cover: Walkable City
January 2018

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. Making downtown into a walkable, viable community is the essential fix for the typical American city; it is eminently achievable and its benefits are manifold. Walkable City—bursting with sharp observations and key insights into how urban change happens—lays out a practical, necessary, and inspiring vision for how to make American cities great again.


Book Cover: Planning Paradise
April 2018

Planning Paradise: Politics and Visioning of Land Use in Oregon by Peter Walker & Patrick Hurley

This is the first book to tell the story of Oregon’s unique land-use planning system from its rise in the early 1970s to its near-death experience in the first decade of the 2000s. Using participant observation and extensive original interviews with key figures on both sides of the state’s land use wars past and present, this book examines the question of how and why a planning system that was once the nation’s most visible and successful example of a comprehensive regulatory approach to preventing runaway sprawl nearly collapsed.

Planning Paradise is tough love for Oregon planning. While admiring much of what the state’s planning system has accomplished, Walker and Hurley believe that scholars, professionals, activists, and citizens engaged in the battle against sprawl would be well advised to think long and deeply about the lessons that the recent struggles of one of America’s most celebrated planning systems may hold for the future of land-use planning in Oregon and beyond.


For More Information

Contact Laura Buhl, AICP, for more information on the OAPA Planners Book Group.