APA California CPAT Program

California Chapter of the American Planning Association has launched a program to provide volunteer professional planning assistance to financially constrained municipalities and community groups throughout California and Baja California.  By pairing expert planning professionals from throughout the State with residents and other stakeholders from communities with limited resources, the Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) program seeks to foster community education, engagement, and empowerment.

The CPAT program was established by the California Chapter to benefit the municipalities and community organizations it serves, and to provide a venue for creative community service for its members.  Participation may qualify for AICP credit.  Each team is selected for the specific expertise needed to address the local community’s planning problem.  The team members engage the community representatives in a short but intensive planning process which can develop a vision for the community’s future, a strategy for achieving specific planning goals, a conceptual site plan for a developing area, a transportation plan or parking program, an economic development strategy, or a collaborative planning process for resolving on-going local planning issues.

Here’s how the program works.  If you are a member of the American Planning Association (APA) who wishes to volunteer your services, click here to complete the Community Planning Assistance Team Volunteer Form.  If you represent a municipality or community organization which needs pro bono professional planning assistance, click here to complete and file a Community Request for Assistance Form.

Every request for assistance is carefully reviewed by a committee of distinguished planners from the Planner Emeritus Network of the California Chapter of APA.  The evaluation considers community need, potential positive impact, and community readiness in terms of local leadership and community support.  Meritorious proposals are recommended to the California Chapter Board of Directors for approval.

A Memorandum of Understanding is then executed between the community and the Chapter Board of Directors, clarifying the responsibilities and expectations of the community and of APA.  The community agrees to reimburse team members for their out-of-pocket expenses for transportation, food, and overnight accommodations (when necessary), and to provide facilities and materials necessary to undertake the project.

The Chapter’s CPAT Coordinator selects a team leader whose expertise best meets the needs of the specific project.  The team leader and CPAT Coordinator assemble a multidisciplinary team of four or five volunteer professional planners and work with community leaders to establish a schedule for the planning process.  The length of the process ranges from one day to several days, depending upon the nature of the issues and the budget parameters.  The planning process includes significant involvement of local stakeholders and broad community outreach.  The product is forwarded to the community in electronic form and published on the California Chapter APA website.

The California Chapter CPAT program is based upon a similar program which has been operated nationally by APA since 1995.  Three other chapters (Illinois, Washington and New Jersey) currently offer pro bono planning assistance services to local communities in need.

For more information on the CPAT program of California Chapter, please contact Robert Paternoster, FAICP, at [email protected] or (562) 400-3825.