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.

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.