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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Neighborhood, City, or Region: Deconstructing Scale in Planning Frames


Plans usually try to address problems at a certain scale— neighborhood, city, region, or beyond. The field of planning has not engaged in geography’s extensive debates on scale, perhaps since the relevance to planning has not been apparent. I argue planning should attend to scale, based on the literature that describes frames. Frames powerfully direct attention to some problems and solutions, while overlooking others. I illustrate how scale can be part of planning problem definition and solutions with qualitative analysis of a regional transportation plan from the San Francisco Bay Area. The plan contains two distinct, scaled frames: one addresses mobility and economic vitality at the regional scale and the other concerns itself with accessibility from a neighborhood perspective. I call for critical reflection on the use of scale to help the field of planning see problems and possibilities in new ways.

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