Regional Plans and Projects

We help regions and the communities within them improve their social well-being, economic growth, and environmental sustainability from the neighborhood to the community to the metropolitan region. Regional planning has evolved over the last six decades through a variety of initiatives, planning efforts, and other broad-based movements. Major forces, such as the emergence of single-function State infrastructure planning agencies and heightened awareness of growth impacts on the environment, helped raise serious concerns regarding growth-related challenges such as air quality, regional economic health, overcrowded schools, affordable housing, urbanization of prime agricultural land, and water shortages.

Unlike individual city and county planning projects and programs, regional planning deals with land use and housing, transportation and mobility, infrastructure, economic development, and resource conservation for multiple communities and stakeholders. Often neighboring communities share common characteristics and values and rely on the same resources for their success. However, they may also have conflicting and competing interests. Regional planning is based on the principle that, by working together, local communities can address regionwide environmental, social, and economic issues which may otherwise be left unattended or result in negative consequences. At the heart of this principle is the idea that through consensus building, trust, and an understanding of common goals, local communities, and the regions in which they are located can become stronger, more sustainable, and vibrant.

We use our extensive background and expertise in comprehensive planning, research and policy development, and public engagement to plan regions and the communities within them as they grow and change, develop economies, plan transportation and infrastructure systems, and use resources and open spaces. We work with communities, local officials, regional agencies, and other stakeholders to develop long- and short-term plans, strategies, programs, and tools that promote the sustainability and best use of a region’s lands, resources, and people. We help our clients address many regional issues, including:

  • growth and revitalization of urban, suburban, and rural communities;
  • efficiency and placement of land and resources for residential, commercial, and institutional purposes;
  • affordability and accessibility of housing;
  • stability and prosperity of businesses and jobs;
  • expansion and maintenance of efficient transportation systems;
  • provision and maintenance of infrastructure and services; and
  • preservation and sustainable use of natural resources, open spaces, and agricultural lands.

Recent Projects

Rural Counties Task Force Performance Monitoring Indicators Study

In coordination with Kittelson & Associates, we are assisting the California Rural Counties Task Force in conducting a study to identify metrics for rural and small urban regions for incorporation into the California Transportation Commission’s (CTC) 2016 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) guidelines. So far performance metrics for evaluating and monitoring regional transportation plans and projects have been oriented toward larger urban regions in the state. This study is intended to evaluate the metrics that have been developed for these urban regions for their applicability to rural and small urban regions, and then develop a list of appropriate performance metrics that achieve the monitoring objectives of the CTC/STIP guidelines and reflect the unique conditions of the state’s non-urban regions.

San Joaquin Valley Greenprint Phase II

On behalf of the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) Regional Policy Council, we are leading a multi-disciplinary team in developing policy and implementation tools for local governments to further resource management and protection. While the SJV Blueprint focused on urban growth in the Valley, the Greenprint looks at the Valley from a rural perspective, and is an intended to serve as an economic and environmental strategy for rural areas. Phase I of the Greenprint resulted in the development of an online mapping tool that organizes and presents resource-related data for agriculture, biodiversity, energy, and water. Phase II of the Greenprint is intended to result in a greater understanding of
the values of the Valley’s resources, an expanded resource management and protection toolkit, and a
better-defined balance between economic growth and resource sustainability.

As part of Phase II, we are working with technical experts to evaluate the Phase I maps and explore the resource management challenges implied by the Phase I data.  We will develop a program to select pilot projects that demonstrate use of the Greenprint mapping tools. We will also produce a resource management guide that translates the Greenprint into effective, relevant change in land use decisions, resource preservation and use, and economic development and vitality.  Throughout the process, we will also reach out to a broad range of stakeholders to raise awareness of the Greenprint and develop ideas for new resource management tools. We are joined in this effort by Applied Development Economics, Environmental Planning Partners, and Flint Strategies.

Strategic Growth Council: MPO Sustainable Community Strategy Self-Assessment

On behalf of the California Strategic Growth Council, we led a multi-disciplinary team in a comprehensive evaluation of the Regional Transportation Plan Sustainable Community Strategies (RTP/SCS) prepared by the state’s 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). Since the State Legislature passed the Sustainable Communities and Climate Projection Act (SB 375, 2008), several MPOs have prepared and adopted their first RTP/SCS, and several others are in process. Pursuant to SB 375, the state’s 18 MPOs must now more formally integrate land use, housing, and mobility within the regional transportation planning process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote resource conservation. As with any significant change or addition to a well-established process, the first round of SCS development has not been without its challenges. At the same time there have been successes and creative new methods developed to prepare land use and transportation scenarios, allocate regional housing needs, conduct travel modeling analysis, prepare visionary plans and policies, conduct public outreach, and analyze the RTP/SCS as part of an environmental impact report.

As part of this project we met with the state’s 18 MPOs and facilitated a self-assessment of their RTP/SCS processes; documented and evaluated the first round of SCSs; and recommended approaches and strategies to help MPOs improve their collaboration, lower costs, track implementation progress, and improve State support. A key part of this project included working with the state’s 18 MPOs to come to a common understanding of what was learned during the first round of RTP/SCSs; what worked and what needs to be improved; and how the RTP/SCS, RHNA, EIR processes should proceed during subsequent RTP/SCS cycles. The results of this process were summarized in a report that highlights lessons learned and best practices from the first round of RTP/SCSs, suggests solutions to identified issues and challenges, and recommends strategies to improve future RTP/SCS process and outcome. We were joined in this effort by Kittelson & Associates and Rincon Consultants.

StanCOG Sustainable Communities Strategy and Regional Housing Needs Allocation

In collaboration with Kittelson Associates, we assisted the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) in preparing the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy and Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Pursuant to SB 375, StanCOG’s RTP was required to include policy, action, financial, and environmental elements. For the first time, the updated RTP/SCS included a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) component and that was coordinated with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). Mintier Harnish’s role in this project was to prepare an SCS that demonstrated how StanCOG would meet its GHG reduction targets through integrated land use, housing, and transportation planning. This entailed the development of alternative RTP growth/land use scenarios (i.e., SCS scenarios) in coordination with and relative to the typical RTP infrastructure based funding allocations scenarios and RHNA allocation process. The land use scenarios were be developed using the land use allocation software tool Envision Tomorrow. Mintier Harnish also concurrently prepared the RHNA methodology and facilitated the allocation process.

TCAG Regional Housing Needs Assessment

We worked with the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) to prepare the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for the 2014-2023 planning period. The RHNA is a required statewide process to address housing issues related to future growth. The RHNA is the plan that assigns to each jurisdiction within Tulare County its “fair share” of unmet housing needs as well as future projected housing needs by income group.  TCAG was also in the process of preparing the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The 2014 RTP , for the first time, included an Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) component which was coordinated with the RHNA, as required by SB 375. We worked with TCAG staff and the cities and county within Tulare County to develop the RHNA consistent with the RTP/SCS.

SJCOG Sustainable Communities Strategy

In collaboration with Kittelson Associates, we assisted the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) in preparing the 2014 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainable Communities Strategy.  Mintier Harnish’s role in this project was to work with SJCOG staff to prepare SCS alternatives, evaluate the SCS alternatives using RTP performance measures, and develop a preferred SCS. This entailed the development of alternative RTP growth/land use scenarios in coordination with and relative to the typical RTP infrastructure based funding allocations scenarios and RHNA allocation process. The land use scenarios were developed using the land use allocation software tool Envision Tomorrow.

Mid-Valley Vision: Multimodal Corridor Alternatives Report

We led a multi-disciplinary consulting team in preparation of the Mid-Valley Vision: Multimodal Corridor Alternatives Report for the South San Joaquin Valley. This ambitious, collaborative effort resulted in an implementation plan for a regional, multi-modal transportation network among Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare Counties and their 30 cities. It represents a long-term approach to regional land use and transportation planning, resource management, and economic development aimed at creating a multi-modal, multi-city, multi-county, transit oriented-transportation network. It is intended to strengthen inter-jurisdictional relationships between and among partner agencies and provides model land use policies and zoning changes that support and facilitate a multimodal transportation system.

Key objectives of the project included preserving long-term multi-modal transportation corridors; creating compact, transit-oriented communities that preserve farmland and open space; and implementing adopted regional plans, sustainability initiatives, and significant transportation projects (e.g., San Joaquin Valley Blueprint, Smart Valley Places, Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, High Speed Rail system). The results of the Multimodal Corridor Report provide inputs into Caltrans system planning, the general plan and zoning ordinance updates of partner jurisdictions, and the sustainable communities strategies (i.e., SB 375) of regional planning agencies.

San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Roadmap

We managed a consulting team for the Regional Policy Council to produce an implementation program for the adopted San Joaquin Valley Blueprint. The project, known as the Blueprint Roadmap, equips Valley communities, planning staff, and elected officials with tools and strategies for Blueprint implementation that are within the capabilities of cities and counties, cost-effective, and fiscally responsible. As part of the Roadmap project we prepared the following reports: the SJV Blueprint Planning Process Summary; the SJV Blueprint Guidance Framework; and the Institutional Arrangements Whitepaper.

The Blueprint Planning Process Summary provides an overview of the first four years of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint (2005-2009), including the key players and participants, and the results of the Valleywide planning effort. The Guidance Framework outlines 12 strategies and related actions to create a structure, process, and set of actions for carrying out the Blueprint and for translating Blueprint principles into local policy and actions. It identifies the roles and responsibilities of various public and non-profit organizations; financial and personnel resources for implementation of the Blueprint; and communication methods and tools to build support for Blueprint implementation. Finally, the Institutional Arrangements Whitepaper highlights nine case studies of regional institutional arrangements from California and the nation, describes the relationship of institutional arrangements to implementation of the Valley Blueprint, and outlines three institutional arrangement options for the Valley.

As part of the Roadmap project, we worked closely with directors and staff from the eight Valley Regional Planning Agencies (i.e., COGs/MPOs), the Valley Planners Workgroup, and the Regional Policy Council. We also coordinated extensively with Blueprint partners participating in and conducting dozens of meetings and interviews with representatives from over 60 local, regional, State, and Federal agencies and organizations.

San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planners Toolkit

In collaboration with Mogavero Notestine Associates, we led the development, design, and preparation of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planners Toolkit. The Toolkit is an educational guide and reference source for communities who want to translate the SJV Blueprint Smart Growth Principles into action. As part of the Planners Toolkit, we worked closely with directors and staff from the eight Valley Regional Planning Agencies (i.e., COGs/MPOs), the Valley Planners Workgroup, and the Regional Policy Council. We developed the Toolkit with the idea that a multitude of smart growth resources already exist. Many organizations throughout California and the country have developed smart growth initiatives, strategies, plans, and ordinances. Instead of reinventing these resources, we gathered the best and most appropriate strategies, plans, policies, and ordinances that have been successfully used in other communities for use in the San Joaquin Valley.

In 2011 the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planners Toolkit won the Best Practices Award from both the Central and Sacramento Valley sections of the American Planning Association. The Toolkit was identified as a “fabulous resource sensitive to the economic realities facing jurisdictions today.” The awards committee was particularly impressed that the Toolkit was developed through an eight county collaborative effort that engaged the community planners in the San Joaquin Valley. We designed the Toolkit, a dynamic online resource, so that existing tools can be refined and new tools added on a regular basis to allow the Toolkit to evolve and expand over time. While intended for local planning staff, the Toolkit is designed to also be accessed by community members and decision-makers. The Toolkit uses the ideas, experiences, and input of its users. Through its interactive interface, the Toolkit asks that its users participate in the Toolkit by rating the usefulness of existing tools and contributing new content. Each tool includes a place for users to critique and suggest modifications to existing tools and recommend new case studies, templates, and other resources. The Toolkit also includes a place to request development of new tools and to submit applicable content.

Click here to view the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planners Toolkit

Sustainable Paradise: a vision for the future of the San Diego/Tijuana Metropolitan region

In collaboration with Citizens for Century 3 (C3), we designed, formatted, and prepared Sustainable Paradise: a vision for the future of the San Diego/Tijuana Metropolitan region. Sustainable Paradise is based on John Nolen‘s 1908 Comprehensive Plan for San Diego and “Temporary Paradise?,” a 1974 publication by Kevin Lynch and Donald Appleyard, which looked at the unique qualities of the San Diego/Tijuana Metropolitan region and how it might be sustained. Sustainable Paradise builds upon a 1998 C3 assessment of the San Diego /Tijuana region‘s progress in achieving the vision articulated in “Temporary Paradise?” known as “Toward Permanent Paradise.”

Sustainable Paradise recognizes that new issues have emerged in the region, including: climate change and the effects of natural disasters; conflicts over dwindling resources; new technologies that change how we live; globally linked economies; and an aging society. Sustainable Paradise provides a vision for a functionally integrated international metropolis that preserves its natural and historic assets; displays its unique cultural identity through the design of distinct cities and neighborhoods; provides attractive transportation alternatives to cars; designs streets that are fun and safe to walk and bike; values architecture, art, and the environment; and provides affordable access to world class education and health care systems. It organizes these topics into a series of strategies and actions that can be used to advocate for a more sustainable future in the San Diego/Tijuana Metropolitan region.

Click here to download Sustainable Paradise

Regional Planning and Climate Change: Understanding SB 375

The passage of SB 375 focused new attention on regional planning in California. Many State, regional, and local officials were left to ask how land use, transportation, and housing planning would be affected by this new law. To answer some of these questions and clarify what SB 375 does and doesn’t do, Mintier Harnish prepared a brief, but concise brochure. The brochure summarizes this complex piece of legislation (and clean-up legislation SB 575) and explains who will implement it and how it is likely to change the transportation, housing, and land use planning process. It dispels some common myths about SB 375 and tries to clarify its implications.

We have used this brochure successfully to assist our clients and dozens of other regional and local officials and planners gain a better understanding of this complex law and how it will likely affect planning processes in California. We hope you will find it useful as well.

Click here to download the brochure