Setting Up a
Participatory Planning Process


This guide offers documentation of our experiences and methodology for adaptation by your organization to facilitate a participatory planning process in any community.

Internal Goal Setting:

It is important to set internal goals for your participatory planning process. The goals should not determine the final product, but should reflect the parameters for participation. Our goals for planning the rebuild of Rolland Curtis Gardens were:

  1. Use the planning process to develop community empowerment and participation.
  2. Produce a viable affordable housing development, but push the boundaries of viability by encouraging participants to think outside the box in the community visioning process and by finding creative solutions to traditional feasibility constraints like zoning, height restrictions, parking, etc..
  3. Set a good standard for design.
  4. Ensure broad engagement, including community members, neighborhood institutions, power brokers, by:
    • Prioritizing residents within 1⁄2 mile radius,
    • Defining additional roles for “outside” stakeholders.
  5. Use forward-thinking methods for conceiving ideas, sharing information, analyzing options, and making decisions.
  6. Pursue a multidisciplinary approach to create cross-dialogue and education by:
    • Including different expertise/points of view, such as an architect/developer, community organizer, and urban planner.
    • Addressing cultural clashes by introducing analysis of the dynamics with the support of organizers and facilitators.
  7. Evaluate at every stage.
  8. Produce a toolkit for future community driven TOD projects.

Sharing Organizational Principles with Participants

As part of our four-month planning workshop series, several of T.R.U.S.T. South LA’s members explained how the organization’s driving principles shaped and influenced the methodology used throughout the planning process. Through the incorporation of our organizational principles into the workshops, participants identified our intentions for the process and product, thus increasing our transparency. Presenting our organizational principles further aligned the values of new and longtime members with the principles that guide our organization. Creating a shared vision improves the cohesion of the organization and achieves multiple overarching goals of the participatory planning process.

Research on Best Practices (see 15: Annotated Bibliography in the Appendix)

Preparations included research on best practices for participation in planning and for Transit Oriented Developments that included affordable housing. The TOD best practices centered less on design elements, focusing instead on innovative development standards in transit corridors. For instance, due to our dedication to a multi-modal approach to development, the team knew that a request for the reduced parking would be made, allowing us to focus on creating increased open space, additional dwelling units, and other amenities that would otherwise not be possible. As a result, our best practices survey focused partially on how other developers addressed parking demands and feasibility in creative ways. We have built an annotated bibliography in the appendix of this guide that addresses parking, car sharing, community programming, and some site plan best practices in the field of transit oriented developments.

Staffing and Roles

Our team identified several key roles for your consideration as you begin. In the process, we had the following:

  • A project manager in charge of logistics and curriculum content;
  • An organizer and outreach worker, to engage community members in the process;
  • Architects and a development team working on translating workshop outcomes into a design and assessing feasibility;
  • Stakeholders - both community members and community/institutional powerbrokers- at each workshop;
  • A community organizer and community outreach team;
  • An interpreter at all workshops in addition to bi-lingual staff. All activities should be held in the language people are most comfortable speaking in and language translation should be provided whenever possible; 
  • Note takers at each session to capture both outcomes and process; 
  • Food, prepared by a member and leader who is a wonderful chef.

These roles can be merged or customized depending on your staff capacity. Most roles can be merged or customized depending on your staff capacity. ‘Stakeholders’ should remain independent from the ‘facilitation’ team to ensure that the final plan is derived from a community vision.