Equity Agenda for Planning

Equity Agenda for Planning

Montgomery Planning is developing an Equity Agenda for Planning to systemically dismantle the institutional racism that exists in our work and prevent it in the future. Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning is ongoing and will require constant attention to the influence of institutional racism on all planning and zoning processes. We’ve begun working on this through some recent master plans and studies and through Thrive Montgomery 2050, the update to the county’s General Plan. 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.

We are 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.”

Summary

Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future. While it will take time to fully develop a new methodology for equity in the planning process, we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Efforts to date include

  • Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning. The Planning Board approved Equity in Master Planning Framework, and staff is working on action items.
  • Equity Focus Area Analysis. Montgomery Planning staff analyzed the Equity Focus Areas of the county and developed a tool that will guide planning efforts.
  • Prioritizing equity in Thrive Montgomery 2050. Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050.
  • Focusing on equity in upcoming plans. Equity is a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus.
  • Viewing management and operations through an equity lens. Our efforts are not limited to the master planning process. Management and operational functions like communications and human resources are developing approaches, tools, plans, and training to ensure that we look at everything through an equity lens. 

Context for Change

  • Montgomery Planning recognizes and acknowledges the role that our plans and policies have played in creating and perpetuating racial inequity in Montgomery County. We have a long history of land use decisions that created exclusionary neighborhoods and formed barriers to resources and opportunities for people of color and other disadvantaged persons.
  • We are committed to transforming the way we work as we seek to address, mitigate, and eliminate inequities from the past and develop planning solutions to create equitable communities in the future.
  • Historically, equity has not been part of planning in America. Change is long overdue. Encouragingly, a positive shift toward equity in the planning profession is happening in Montgomery County, across the DC region, and nationally. Montgomery Planning embraces this shift as part of our responsibility to develop plans, policies, and regulations that benefit all community members and reduce or eliminate inequity. Our goal is to apply a holistic equity lens to planning practices to address existing inequities and prevent the creation of new inequities.
  • We are working with Montgomery County to implement the Racial Equity & Social Justice Act to advance “fair and just opportunities and outcomes for all people.” The Planning Board is required to address the law’s tenets regarding the approval of master plans, so equitable engagement must be part of the planning process from the start. Beginning in September 2021, the law also requires that the county, in consultation with Montgomery Planning, produce racial equity and social justice impact statements for any new zoning text amendments (ZTAs).

Montgomery Planning’s Commitment + Actions

  • Montgomery Planning is committed to confronting the legacy of racism and its ongoing effects, particularly in community development, and advancing racial equity in all aspects of our work. We will apply 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.” (APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide)
  • Montgomery Planning is developing an Equity Agenda for Planning to systematically dismantle the institutional racism in our work and prevent it in the future. Developing an Equity Agenda for Planning is ongoing and will require constant attention to institutional racism’s influence on all planning and zoning processes.It will take some time to fully develop a new methodology and approach for equity in the planning process, but we cannot delay applying an equity lens to our work. Applying an equity lens involves a broad spectrum of issues, outreach and engagement, data analysis, solution identification, stakeholder partnerships, zoning, and design.
    • The Planning Board approved an Equity in Master Planning Framework developed by Montgomery Planning staff for incorporating racial equity and social justice when preparing master or functional plans. Equity in Master Planning Framework action plan items include
      • 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 will guide planners to inform decision-making throughout the master planning process and support iterative learning and process improvement throughout the community engagement, development, and implementation of the planning process.
      • Develop an Equity Opportunity Index. This project will build on the equity work in the General Plan update (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 index will examine factors contributing to an equitable county such as socio-economic conditions, access to transportation, and social determinants for healthy communities. We will also establish methods for benchmarking equity and measuring outcomes in local and countywide plans and policies through the Equity Opportunity Index.
      • Develop Equity Focus Areas. Develop a model to identify Equity Focus Areas to analyze racial equity and social justice issues such as access to opportunity and resources.
      • Complete a racial equity and social justice timeline. Montgomery Planning will curate a historical timeline to document significant racial equity and social justice events in Montgomery County, highlighting the impacts of previous planning efforts to learn from the past.
      • Continue to facilitate staff equity training. All staff must complete racial equity training on developing master plans with an equity lens.
      • Use data to track and further progress. Continue to use research and data to inform plan processes and track progress on equitable outreach, engagement, and plan outcomes.
      • Develop community outreach and engagement strategies addressing racial equity and social justice. Plan for equitable outreach and engagement from the beginning and throughout the master planning process.
      • Equity Peer Review Group. A group of staff who stay actively abreast of equity best practices will provide feedback on staff recommendations, planning policies, and community engagement strategies.
    • Community Equity is one of the three priority areas of our county General Plan update, Thrive Montgomery 2050. Equity is also a central focus of the Silver Spring Downtown and Adjacent Communities Plan, the first master plan to launch since Montgomery County’s Racial Equity & Social Justice Act passed. All upcoming plans and studies will have an equity focus. Through these projects — and with the community’s help — we will learn and begin to advance our efforts to create a Montgomery County where all people can thrive.
    • Montgomery Planning’s commitment to creating equitable communities is not limited to the development of new master plans. We are developing a department-wide Equitable Communications Approach and subsequent Equitable Communications Plan to guide all community outreach and engagement activities. Montgomery Planning is also applying an equity focus to our operations, including staff recruitment, hiring, and training to ensure that all Montgomery Planning staff (planners and non-planners) understand and practice racial equity and social justice in all aspects of their work.
Last Updated: February 11, 2021