Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

Director’s note: Is work part of your identity?

By Florentina Craciun, February 18, 2021

February 3rd marked my one-year anniversary as a Senior Environmental Planner with the City of San Francisco. While the anniversary came and went, I paused to reflect on my unusual first year as a professional. The past year of working from home made me wonder: are we even urban planners if we are not working in or interacting with our cities? Can the work of urban planning sustain a work-from-home culture?

Until recently, when I introduced myself and people asked me what I do, I’d proudly say “urban planner” or “environmental planner.” Part of that identity came from being surrounded by other city makers, interacting with the public and applicants in person, spinning ideas with co-workers, and coming up with new ways to look at old concepts. I loved my San Francisco commute. I loved interacting with co-workers. How proud I felt when I walked into the Planning Department knowing that I was helping to build the City.

I was lucky to have previously known some of my new co-workers from American Planning Association events, and I met others in the short month and a half I was in the office. Besides learning new systems, “office culture,” and meeting my new co-workers remotely, I was also relearning how to define my professional self.

I have been asking myself if I am still the same urban planner when I am not in the office surrounded by city makers and shakers.

Yes, I had (and have) projects and meetings with applicants and colleagues. But they are all online. I miss my morning walks in San Francisco and my morning commute looking over the city and thinking to myself, “I live in a postcard, and I help shape it.” However, I also love being able to go on lunchtime walks from my home, getting to my desk in a few minutes, having my dog by my feet under the desk, and never dealing with someone else’s dirty dishes in the sink or their science experiment in the fridge.

What will the future hold?

How are we going to make space for that work-from-home flexibility while still serving our communities? What is the next “new urbanism,” and to what extent will the pandemic shape it?

I recently read this advice about work and being:

  1. “Whatever the work is do it well — not for the boss but for yourself.
  2. “You make the job; it doesn’t make you.
  3. “Your real life is with us, your family.
  4. “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.”

—From Toni Morrison, “The work you do, the person you are,” The New Yorker, May 29, 2017.

How does this apply to you?

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