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Planning Process Overview

The Neighborhood Planning Initiative provides a model for area planning that is intentional, equitable and measurable. The planning process, detailed below, will be guided by a multi-pronged outreach and communications strategy and follow a standard timeline of 18 to 24 months from kickoff to adoption. The content and scope for all plans will include some standard topics and will follow a standard process for the selection neighborhood-specific focus topics. The process will also focus on implementation, with all plans identifying metrics to track progress.

This approach will provide ample flexibility to allow plans to be customized to meet the needs of different neighborhoods, while at the same time providing consistency to ensure an efficient and equitable process across different plans. 

 

Steps in the Planning Process

VISUALIZE

The visualization phase involves studying the area’s existing conditions, using that information to identify issues for the plan to address and establishing a vision for what the area wants to become. Focus topics and focus areas are identified for later study and analysis.

6 to 8 months

The first step in the planning process is to gain an understanding of the area by learning about the community’s history, demographics, and built environment. This is done by talking to people who know the area first-hand, hearing about their experiences, and learning about the existing assets and the challenges facing the community. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as meeting with groups or organizations, holding listening sessions or office hours, and/or establishing a field office for a period of time within the community. Insights from talking to people are supplemented by data and map-based analysis conducted by the project team and by the community itself. Additional tasks in this step include establishing the project website as a resource for updates and project information, creating a customized public engagement plan, forming the plan’s steering committee, and holding the public kickoff meeting.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL TARGETED ONLINE
Public meetings Piggyback on other events Online equivalent
Steering committees Field office Website
Newsletters & infoblasts   Social media

A public kickoff meeting is the community engagement centerpiece of step 1. The kickoff meeting should be a highprofile event that grabs the attention of the community and fosters interest in participating in the planning process ahead. At the meeting, the public is asked to confirm the data and analysis conducted to-date and assist with identifying issues via a listening session or similar activity. After the meeting, input is summarized and organized into themes.

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Existing Conditions Report
  • Public Engagement Plan
  • Public Meeting: Project Kickoff
  • Summary of Identified Issues
  • Steering Committee Established

A plan’s vision statement describes the community’s aspirations for the future of the area. It describes desired change, and identifies existing characteristics or conditions that the community wants to preserve. Guiding principles establish a value system for the planning process by defining themes that are of particular importance to the area. The guiding principles also serve as a measuring stick for plan recommendations in that each recommendation or concept should contribute to achieving one or more of the guiding principles.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL TARGETED INNOVATIVE ONLINE
Public meetings Focus groups Pop-up events Online equivalent
Steering committees     Interactive tools
Newsletters & infoblasts     Website
      Social media

The public is engaged to create the vision statement and guiding principles using a combination of outreach techniques. The process starts by reviewing the Blueprint Denver vision elements and guiding principles and identifying any that are particularly important to the study area. Incorporating input from the steering committee and the public, these are then adapted and refined with additional detail specific to the planning area. The steering committee finalizes the guiding principles and vision statement in the form of a draft plan section.

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Public Meeting: Vision and Guiding Principles
  • Draft Plan Section: Vision Statement and Guiding Principles

Step 3 in the NPI planning process offers the community the opportunity to identify additional topics and focus areas for the plan. Focus topics can be added to the plan’s scope based on either merit (data analysis from step 1 clearly identifies the need to address a particular issue) or desire (public outreach from steps 1 and 2 clearly identifies the desire to address a particular topic, even if data analysis does not identify it). There is no predetermined limit to the number of focus topics which can be added to a plan, but each topic added should be widely acknowledged as among the most critical issues to address in the community. The intent is to allow plan content to be flexible enough to address what needs to be addressed, but at the same time limit the scope of topics to a manageable number. The resulting scope should be appropriately comprehensive, but at the same time focused primarily on addressing critical issues. Topics which are not added to the plan scope at this stage should be addressed primarily by other resources.

Concurrent with the selection of focus topics, the public will also assist with identifying focus areas. Focus areas are small areas that require special attention and plan guidance. Station areas, major corridors, and embedded neighborhood commercial districts are examples of smaller areas that may require this additional level of detail.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL TARGETED INNOVATIVE ONLINE
Public meetings Focus groups Celebrations & resource fairs Online equivalent
Steering committees     Interactive tools
Newsletters & infoblasts     Website
      Social media

The plan’s steering committee works to identify a preliminary list of focus topics and areas, which are then reviewed by the community at a public meeting. An online equivalent provides a venue for those absent from the public meeting to participate in the selection process. For the topics that fall outside of the plan scope, a resource fair helps connect people to agencies and service providers. This fair may be a standalone event, or could be combined with other public meetings or events.

 

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Public Meeting: Focus Topics and Areas
  • Resource Fair
  • Final List of Focus Topics and Areas

STRATEGIZE

The strategize phase is where a majority of the work is done in the planning process. In this phase, topics and areas are explored, recommendations are developed, and transformative projects emerge.

8 to 11 months
 

Step 4 is the iterative process of learning more about the issues that the plan is tasked with addressing, and generating ideas about possible solutions and associated implementation strategies. This requires systematically working through the list of topics over a period of months, exploring each using a combination of research (such as case studies and best practices), analysis, and public input. As knowledge expands, the project team develops initial concepts and a preliminary implementation strategy for each topic and focus area. Some ideas rise to the top as particularly important for achieving the plan’s vision and are identified as draft transformative projects. As ideas take shape, a preliminary implementation strategy helps to establish the relative complexity of each concept. All of this work tees up the next step of the planning process, where options, alternatives, and recommendations are developed with the larger community.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL TARGETED ONLINE
Public meetings Focus groups Online equivalent
Steering committees   Interactive tools
Newsletters & infoblasts   Website
    Social media

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Case Studies & Best Practices
  • Initial Concepts for Each Topic and Area
  • Draft Transformative Projects
  • Preliminary Implementation Strategy

Step 5 of the NPI planning process is about using the research and concepts from step 4 to develop and then refine draft recommendations, options, and alternatives. Where the course of action seems clear, this material can take the form of draft plan recommendations. Where the course of action is unclear, or where there is more than one path forward, different options or alternatives may be developed. Recommendations and alternatives emerging out of step 5 should be accompanied by an associated implementation strategy to help ensure that draft content is both feasible and implementable. Draft plan language is created as decisions are made to gauge progress and to reduce the amount of drafting required in step 6. 

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL INNOVATIVE ONLINE
Public meetings Charrettes Online equivalent
Steering committees   Website
Newsletters & infoblasts   Social Media

Following the initial drafting process, a public meeting is held to review the draft options and recommendations and collect additional input. An online equivalent is available for those unable to attend the public meeting. Social media is used to garner interest in draft concepts and to encourage participation in the refinement process. The project team then works with the steering committee to identify preferred alternatives and revise/refine recommendations, as necessary. 

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Draft Options, Alternatives, and Recommendations for Public Review
  • Public Meeting: Options and Alternatives
  • Refined Recommendations and Preferred Alternatives (to be used in the draft plan document)
  • Refined Implementation Strategy

REALIZE

The realize phase is where ideas are formalized and documented in a draft plan. The draft is vetted with the public, revised accordingly, and eventually adopted by City Council. After adoption, the plan implementation process begins.

4 to 5 months

Step 6 is the task of assembling all of the draft materials that have been produced and writing new material, as needed, to create a complete plan draft. That draft is reviewed by the public as described below, and subsequently refined to create a near-final draft for use in the adoption process.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL TARGETED ONLINE
Public meetings Review drafts Online equivalent
Steering committees   Interactive tools
Newsletters & infoblasts   Website
    Social media

Public engagement at this stage of the process is focused on collecting input on the draft plan. The draft plan is reviewed and refined by the steering committee before being reviewed by the public at an open house meeting. At this time, the draft is also posted online and distributed through communications channels throughout the community for a period of several weeks as part of a public review and comment process. After the public comment window closes, the planning team works with the steering committee to refine the draft and incorporate public input.

 

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Rough Draft of Plan
  • Public Meeting: Open House to Review Draft Plan
  • Refined Draft of Plan (for use in the adoption process)

Step 7 takes the draft plan through the city’s adoption process. The draft may continue to change as the plan advances through this process and Planning Board and City Council conduct their review and provide additional input and guidance. In conducting their review, Planning Board and City Council evaluate the draft plan based on three criteria: consistency with the Denver Comprehensive Plan, inclusive public process, and long-term view.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL ONLINE
Steering committees Website
Newsletters & infoblasts Social media

Denver’s plan adoption process incorporates public input using a series of public meetings and public hearings. This process consists of at least four meetings, with additional meetings added by Planning Board or City Council, if needed. These meetings include: Planning Board information item, Planning Board public hearing, Council Committee review, and City Council courtesy public hearing. 

 

TASKS AND DELIVERABLES

  • Ordinance
  • Staff Report
  • Adopted Plan

Plan implementation begins after the plan has been adopted, and continues indefinitely until the plan vision has been achieved, or until such time that a new plan for the area is undertaken and adopted. The task of implementing the plan is made easier by following the strategy that is outlined in the implementation chapter of the plan. This chapter identifies the relative priority and timeframe for all of the recommendations in the plan (typically short, medium, and long-term implementation). It also identifies recommendations by type, typically using the following categories: partnerships, funding and infrastructure, and regulatory.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

TRADITIONAL INNOVATIVE ONLINE
Public meetings Demonstration projects Website

After plan adoption, public engagement is conducted on an as-needed basis in association with specific implementation activities. For example, an infrastructure project recommended by the plan would likely have its own public outreach component. Additionally, to the extent possible, NPI area plans identify metrics to track progress toward achieving plan goals. Following plan adoption, the public is able to use these metrics to stay apprised of plan implementation. 

 

PARTNERSHIPS

Partnerships represent the most diverse approach to implementation and can take on many forms. The City will rely on other public, non-profit and private partners to help implement these plan recommendations. 

 

REGULATORY

These strategies result in changes to city codes, regulations, and processes to affect desired outcomes. Common examples include map or text changes to the Denver Zoning Code.

 

FUNDING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Many recommendations will require funding for new infrastructure, programs, or project design. A variety of public and private sources of funding and financing will be required to implement plan recommendations.