City Planning (CP)


What is city planning? Some assert that it is “social control over the use of land,” Others have suggested that it is perhaps everything and therefore nothing. Whether or not one agrees, these almost polar views of the planning profession capture the allure and tensions inherent in an academic and professional field that is couched in a complex of socio-political, economic, and spatial processes and institutions.

The strength and appeal of city planning can also be its major weaknesses. The planner’s domain is the city and its region, which are at once concrete and abstract forms of social relationships of production and reproduction. In this context, how can any one profession or discipline stake a claim on the city—or over a physical and psychological space that is called “urban”? Why plan and for whom? What is it that gets planned and how does one actually plan in a dynamic environment composed of multiple actors, interests, elements, and finite resources? What are the broader social and economic implications of a practice that controls the use of land? What sets planners apart from other professions that also claim the city as their domain (e.g., architects or economists)? Do city planners simply provide a vision for the city or do we actually effect changes in our environment? If it is the latter, under what conditions do we get to accomplish what we set out to do?

The Master of City Planning (MCP) at Boston University’s Metropolitan College helps address these questions and, more importantly, prepares students for a wide variety of professional roles in planning for urban and regional development. City planners specialize in an array of complex sub-topics that include: land-use regulation; community and local economic development; infrastructure planning and budgeting; transportation planning; sustainable development; and urban design. The planning field is intensely political, dealing with core issues of resource distribution and the co-habitation of diverse communities. In this context, city planners are also called upon to be savvy mediators or advocates for an array of social, economic, and cultural issues. In addition, an acute sense of the public policy process is a hallmark trait of most city planners. The professional city planner frequently functions as a member of a multidisciplinary team and may be involved in such tasks as the analysis of policy alternatives, formulation of public investment programs, forecasting and monitoring urban and regional systems performance, development of joint programs among various public and private sector institutions, and plan design and implementation.