Planning in the Real World – Devin Crim

June 20, 2017

I've been working for Pima County Development Services for a little over a month now and the wealth of experience and knowledge I’ve gained in this short time is astounding. I learn something new every few hours and love walking into my office. Our department handles development projects throughout Pima County, such as new subdivisions being built, new businesses, cell towers, etc.  “Planning” in school and “planning” in the real world are two very different things and figuring out how to mesh my education with what actually happens in the real world has been challenging, but rewarding. For example the county has the authority to go into dilapidated neighborhoods and revitalize them, through business incentives and other measures. I have been given one project, and I’m trying to incorporate all of the lessons we’ve learned in class about accountability and participatory approaches to development. I've found that this is not always so easy in practice. Just last week we went into the area hoping to get into contact with a neighborhood organization or some sorts, just so we could get feedback on what the neighborhood wanted. No such group exists, and as a result we have nowhere to really start. Obviously the worst thing one can do in this situation is just go in and create these projects without community input, but it's difficult to find alternatives when there are not already community groups in place. This is one of the challenges of participatory community planning.

There is also a debate internally within our department as to what our role "should" be in this process. I approach Urban Planning from a bottom up perspective. I think neighborhoods should be run like little cities. And I think businesses that open shops in neighborhoods should have to hire the people that live in said neighborhoods in order to keep the wealth local. I want to create walkable neighborhoods, so people can walk or bike to work and shops.  I feel as if this is a relatively new perspective on development and one which is clearly yet to catch on in many places. In my opinion the county has a very top down approach to development, and this is where my only frustration comes from. If Walmart or Circle K builds a store they create jobs, but the income isn’t localized and eventually ends up in the same hands. Or even worse, a developer will come in and tear down poor housing and put in new housing that the poor people who used to live there can no longer afford. In that case poverty isn’t solved, it just moves, and in my opinion is bad planning. I’m hopeful that through continued learning and gaining more experience I will be able to specialize in community redevelopment, and be knowledge in all aspects of planning so that I can help make those ideal forms of bottom-up planning a reality. 

Devin Crim


Devin Crim
Master's in Development Practice
Class of 2018