Andrea Gaffney’s 2017 ULI Fall Meeting Blog

 In All News, Program Reflections

A week after the Fall Meeting I found myself circling the skies above the City of Quartz again. As I replayed the meeting week, I’m reminded of a couple key takeaways:

1. Public-private partnerships need to support building equitable, and beautiful cities for everyone. There were many sessions at the Fall Meeting that reinforced and demonstrated ways in which we are all working towards these goals, and how we can take them further. Here are three, which resonate with issues I deal with in my work and life:

  • A Serious Conversation about Homelessness – Seattle is employing empathy and curiosity to address a marginalized community in their city. Their actions and messaging are making positive impacts on a very difficult issue.
  • Capitalizing on Resilience: A Public/Private Sector Dialogue – The shift from the concept of sustainability to resilience has allowed cities to better address the intertwined issues of environmental and social justice. This shift also provides greater leverage for development to build value for communities.
  • LA 2028 and the Evolution of the Olympic Games Vision for Cities – The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles built a physical and social legacy for the City. Lessons learned from recent Games about the growing gap between aspiration and implementation, prompted a different approach for the 2028 games, which recalls the cultural legacy of the ’84 Games and leverages already-funded regional transportation projects. Facilitating the creation of multivalent infrastructure is doing more with less; this is a challenge with which I believe many can identify.

2. If you’re trying to bring people along with your ideas, you need to acknowledge where everyone stands, and apply a variety of methods to arrive at a common ground. You might not end up where you thought you were going but you will learn something valuable along the way. Establishing individual and common goals will help guide a development process and keep it on track. These are the fundamentals of negotiation. They are straightforward in theory but often difficult to apply in practice. I am continuously reminded of the value of the consensus-building process and grateful to the Rose Center for hosting the Urban Plan for Public Officials workshop.

On Monday the first day of the Fall Meeting, while others were touring projects in the area, I had the pleasure of spending the day with other public officials running through a hypothetical redevelopment scenario for the (imaginary) City of Yorktown’s Elmwood District. Five different teams worked for several hours to formulate development proposals that met a myriad of prescribed goals, each with a unique vision. Each team presented a variation on the development framework, and it was fascinating to see how teams compiled from different regions of North America put together their proposals. I think each proposal brought forward some key issues that the public officials on that team grapple with in their own community. In some cases big box retail brought more opportunity, whereas in other proposals providing a walkable, complete neighborhood was prioritized. Ultimately, the group who successfully conveyed their idea with a consistent message presented the most desirable project. To me, this reinforced the value of the consensus-building process to help us work towards common goals, with consistent communication.

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