It’s Sunday night, 9:00 p.m., and a small fire starts in a barn…
Due to human error, drought, everything made of wood including streets and sidewalks – the fire spreads.
Officials hope that the fire will stop at the river, but there are timber yards along the river and so the fire jumps… Flames reach a train car filled with kerosene, further fueling the fire… A piece of burning timber lands on the roof of the waterworks building. And when the building goes down, the water mains go dry.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 burned almost 2,100 acres of the city, killing an estimated 300 people and leaving 100,000 homeless. From what started as a small fire, it caused more than $4 billion in property damage (in 2016 dollars).
And yet, just 20 years later, Chicago had grown from 300,000 people to 1 million. In 1893, Chicago hosted the World’s Exposition and proudly showed the world how it had come back, and how much progress and growth they had achieved.
Building on that success, some business leaders got together and commissioned a plan for the city’s development. While the city grew quickly, these leaders saw the downsides of that rapid growth and industrialization. Their plan called for new infrastructure, new parks – things that would make a city more orderly and more beautiful.
In a few short years the plan was complete, but what next? It’s now 1906 and Chicago did not have the authority to implement zoning…
So, these business leaders went to the people.
They needed public support to vote this plan into action. They started an extensive marketing and publicity campaign so folks can learn about the plan and see its benefits. And the folks came out for the vote. They wanted to see their city continue to improve. Most of these folks were not involved in the writing of the plan, but they voted and ultimately their votes influenced which recommendations were carried out.
And so goes the beginnings of public participation in planning.
State law and County regulations require us to notify the public when we’re proposing new policies or laws that may affect people… But for planning, our obligation goes beyond required notification. According to the American Planning Association, “planning is successful when it is inclusive and reflects the comprehensive values of the entire community.”
We know that your communities are unique and special places, and it’s important for your rural character to be preserved and enhanced… And CSDs are a way to tailor the rules that regulate property to meet the needs of your community. But we certainly cannot do this work alone.
Please help us by being involved, and providing your comments and feedback along the way. Learn more on our How To Be Involved website page or you can reach us at AVCSDs@planning.lacounty.gov with any comments or suggestions you may have!
(Adapted from a June 28, 2018 presentation to the Association of Rural Town Councils)