There is no question that the role of city planning is crucial in a post-pandemic Cleveland. Refocusing our efforts to ensure that we emerge stronger than ever is a priority – and we must take this opportunity to rethink how we want Cleveland to feel, function, and thrive. The pandemic has shown a bright light on inequalities as never before. The events of the past 18 months present tremendous opportunities to fix past mistakes and injustices while planning for equity and inclusion.

The bipartisan Ohio Mayors Alliance is promoting a policy agenda around recovery, resiliency, and equity to help reframe city operations moving forward. The American Planning Association also has a focus on recovery and equity – and recommends matching robust federal pandemic recovery spending state and local expertise and innovation.

Current efforts by Cleveland’s Department of City Planning are focused on health, equity, and sustainability. These principles will continue in my administration and will be enhanced with an emphasis improving outcomes for every person in every neighborhood in the city of Cleveland.

City Planning Through an Equity Lens

Cleveland must recover from the pandemic stronger than before and be ready to meet the next challenges. There are both targeted actions and big-picture innovative planning initiatives that my administration will undertake – especially early on. Common threads my team will utilize through all these efforts will be their impact on public health and public safety, as follows:

  • Housing Security: Work across related departments to focus on housing development for all markets – with an emphasis on subsidized and mixed-use planning so that housing opportunities are equitable. For example:
    • Housing projects can be scaled and located on transportation routes and residents can access needed amenities for everyday life; and
    • Housing stability strategies through planning will be supported by ongoing efforts to prevent impoverished tenants from being evicted.
  • Broadband Infrastructure: “Broadband for all” has been a singular focus for me for years as I brought free Wi-Fi to Ward 13 in Old Brooklyn in 2010 using Block Grant funds. As we know, the pandemic revealed the need for a comprehensive broadband infrastructure that reaches every corner of the city. The challenges of work-from-home and learn-from-home became clear as institutions, businesses, and schools had to shut down in March 2020.
    • To address this challenge, my administration will work with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, DigitalC, telecommunications providers, and other investors to work as quickly as possible to finally finish these critical connections.
  • Transportation and Street Design: Transportation planning for Cleveland must improve post-pandemic – and equity must be built into any improvement and redesign projects. The potential for long-term teleworking may draw employees away from Central Business Districts and may cause disruptions to traffic and transportation routes and usage. My administration will continue and expand efforts around Complete Streets policy as well as support the Vision Zero effort to reduce injuries and deaths on our streets. Factors to be considered include the following:
    • Movement of goods into, within, and out of the city; coordinating data collection and analysis across transportation systems;
    • Reducing inefficiency in parking systems and payment; and
    • Limiting the impacts of climate change and reducing carbon emissions
  • Climate Change: The intersection between city planning and climate change is about people and quality of life. While changes at the federal level can be painfully slow, cities have a unique opportunity and authority to make meaningful changes that can impact zoning and land use, greenspace, housing, transportation, and even energy policy. My goals:
    • I want Cleveland to transition to a green community – truly become a green city on a blue lake;
    • Building out the tree canopy certainly is a good start, but I also want to expand vacant land into urban agriculture opportunities to co-exist with existing and new development;
    • Research shows that access to nature can improve mental and physical health and has the potential to reduce crime; and
    • I would like to see the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability transition to a research office – collecting and analyzing data and providing technical assistance to city planning and other departments which can then implement meaningful programming.
  • Form-based Zoning: Work with City Council and other leaders to enact a city-wide Form-based Zoning Code that can be phased in for new projects or in redesign of current spaces.
    • Form-based zoning is based on principles of urban form – or what happens outside the building (e.g., streets, building form and scale, open and green space) versus what happens inside the building or the uses (e.g., institutional, residential, commercial).
    • It provides a regulatory framework for walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods.
    • It can be used at different scales – citywide, neighborhood, district, or corridor – and in different contexts – urban or suburban, green fields or redevelopment areas.

These change alone can reshape how Cleveland feels and functions. Cleveland’s post-pandemic recovery will demand that we refocus efforts around these key areas – and thereby forge a new path through constant effort, innovation, and best practices