Montgomery Planning Presents Equity in Master Planning Framework to Planning Board

June 26, 2020

thrive week
Framework includes thoughtful and data-driven approach to advance equity in the master planning process to meet Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Bill requirements

SILVER SPRING, MD – On Thursday, June 25, the Montgomery County Planning Department, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, presented its Equity in Master Planning Framework to the Montgomery County Planning Board. This framework, which the department launched in 2018, consists of creating internal policies and trainings for staff to develop an approach and guidelines for considering racial equity and social justice goals in the master planning process. The briefing also addressed an action plan for how to meet the requirements of Montgomery County’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, 27-19, which directs the “Planning Board to consider racial equity and social justice impact when preparing a Master Plan.”

View the June 25 Planning Board staff report on the Equity in Master Planning Framework
View the June 25 Planning Board presentation on the Equity in Master Planning Framework
View the Montgomery Planning Equity in Planning Agenda webpage

“We have done a great deal of work on the equity framework — and we have already applied some of the ideas in this framework in previous plans — but I also acknowledge that much more needs to be done,” said Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. “A wide variety of formal and informal practices in real estate, banking, government and the planning profession have contributed to unequal outcomes in our society, and we have a responsibility to try to correct past inequities and dismantle existing barriers to racial, social and economic justice.”

Planning Director Gwen Wright added, “The briefing was about how our master planning process can include racial equity and social justice considerations but this is part of a larger effort for the department. Over the last two years, Montgomery Planning has been developing an Equity Agenda for Planning to systemically dismantle the institutional racism that exists in our work and prevent it in the future. This is ongoing and will require constant attention to the influence of institutional racism on all planning and zoning processes.”

Montgomery Planning’s master plan process includes opportunities to work directly with community members to collaborate and create a vision for a geographic plan area, ultimately leading to land use recommendations. The Planning Board briefing on the Equity in Master Planning Framework addressed how this can be a thoughtful and data-driven approach to improve this process with racial equity and social justice considerations drawing on the guidance from the American Planning Association, Montgomery County’s Equity Matters work and The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE).

A few of the Equity in Master Planning Framework action items presented to the Board include:

  1. View all aspects of the planning effort through an equity lens. An equity lens is a tool used to improve planning, decision-making, and resource allocation leading to more racially equitable policies and programs. This tool is intended to be a guide for planners to inform decision-making throughout the master planning process, and a facilitation tool to support iterative learning and process improvement throughout the community engagement, development and implementation of the planning process.
  2. Develop an Equity Opportunity Index. This project would build on the equity work in the update to the General Plan (Thrive Montgomery 2050) to determine how to bring racial equity and social justice considerations into the master planning process and develop methods to facilitate these considerations. The analytical methods and tools will examine factors contributing to an equitable county such as the socio-economic conditions, access to transportation, and social determinants for healthy communities. Methods will be established for benchmarking equity and measuring outcomes in local plans and countywide. Analysis of how growth strategies, development and transportation projects may affect marginalized populations will be explored.
  3. Develop Community Equity Emphasis Areas (CEEA). Develop a model to identify Community Equity Emphasis Areas for analysis of racial equity and social justice issues. The approach confines the scope to income, race and ethnicity, and limited English-language skills to define a CEEA. The map of Community Equity Emphasis Areas and the accompanying demographic characteristics will be available for master plan analysis of local issues. This tool will assist with analysis of CEEA access to opportunity and resources, for example employment, transportation, education, government services and other social determinants of healthy communities.
  4. Complete a Racial Equity and Social Justice Timeline. A historical timeline will be created documenting important events pertaining to racial equity and social justice for Montgomery County. This historic timeline will highlight the impacts of previous planning efforts to learn from the past and prevent repeating mistakes in the future.
  5. Continue to Facilitate Staff Equity Trainings. All staff must complete racial equity training on developing master plans with an equity lens. These trainings, coordinated by Human Resources, will focus on giving planners the education and tools they need to thoughtfully participate in public engagement efforts with the community.

About the Equity Agenda for Planning

Montgomery Planning is committed to confronting the legacy of racism and its ongoing effects and addressing issues of racial equity in all aspects of our work. This includes applying an “equity lens” to our plans, policies and practices. As the American Planning Association states, “Planning for Equity means applying an equity lens—for just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper and reach their full potential—to everything planners do. From the way planners work with community members creating a shared vision for their neighborhoods to advocating for policies that connect people to opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels, planning for equity is planning for all.” Montgomery Planning is committed to looking at everything with an equity lens, including ensuring that all staff understand and practice racial equity and social justice in their hiring practices and their work.