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Our Agency Equity Lens

Since 2015, the Department of Planning's Equity in Planning Committee (EiPC) has worked on a series of projects to advance racial equity in our work.

In 2017, the Committee developed an Equity Action Plan. The Equity Action Plan urges the Department of Planning to use an equity lens when developing the Comprehensive Plan. The Department of Planning has adopted the use of a four-part equity lens, from the Urban Sustainability Directors network.

  1. Structural Equity: What historic advantages or disadvantages have affected residents in the given community?

  2. Procedural Equity: How are residents who have been historically excluded from planning processes being authentically included in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the proposed policy or project?

  3. Distributional Equity: Does the distribution of civic resources and investment explicitly account for potential racially disparate outcomes?

  4. Transgenerational Equity: Does the policy or project result in unfair burdens on future generations?

"Our Baltimore" Approach 

Expanded Engagement 

  • During our first phase of engagement, we hosted four open house events. We took care to make these events more welcoming to all. Instead of a traditional presentation, the events took shape as an open house. Attendees could stay as little or as long as they wanted, and at each station, they could have one-on-one conversations with staff and even the director. In order to shift the traditional power dynamics in the room, there was no formal presentation; the focus was on offering a space to build connections and conversation between staff and community. 

  • We worked closely with a team of 19 Community Engagement Leadership Team (CELT) partner organizations. Each of the team members received up to a $7500 grant to design and implement an engagement strategy and to support the engagement efforts for this project. 

  • During the first phase of engagement, the CELT team amplified the voices of youth, low income seniors, young men, black business owners and others that the City needs to hear from during the Our Baltimore planning process. Over 50% of our first year funding was directed towards transforming our engagement into a community-oriented process through investment into these groups. 

  • Based on feedback from our Advisory Council, we hosted 9 geographic-based meetings during the second phase of engagement. We wanted to make it easier for residents to attend based on proximity. Focus groups were also planned - for communities that are less likely to attend the geographic sessions. Additionally, two centralized community conferences were held, one in person and one virtual, in December 2022 and January 2023, respectively

Leading with History 

  • Baltimore’s Department of Planning developed a historic overview of land use specific policies that contributed to disparities seen today in 2015-2017. This presentation was used as a self-education tool for staff, and was shared with the public through conferences and our Planning Academy programming. 

  • The Comprehensive Plan will adapt this presentation by including a chapter focused on the history of land use policy, starting with the 1910 segregation ordinance, and weaving a connection between policy and current disparities. 

Analyzing Recommendations 

  • For each priority policy topic, the public and planners developed a menu of potential recommendations. These recommendations will be refined and prioritized to determine what is included in the plan. Equity must be prioritized in this process. 

  • An equity analysis tool will be developed and finetuned in collaboration with community to ensure equity remains at the forefront of the prioritization process, so that the recommendations selected for this plan are those that advance racial equity. 

Developing Accountability team 

  • During public engagement and as early as the pre-planning process, we heard that accountability was a major concern for the public. Residents expressed reservations and skepticism that their input would be integrated into this planning process; many expressed "planning fatigue".

  • An accountability team will work to define accountability and develop measures to track progress related to accountability. We are proposing that this team includes Advisory Council members, Community Engagement team members and City staff (potentially equity coordinators from sister agencies).

Trauma Informed planning 

  • Applying principles of trauma informed care to planning and public engagement work is a new concept for the Department of Planning. We propose exploring what this could look like as it relates to plan development and implementation. 

  • We propose integrating principles of trauma informed neighborhoods into the recommendations developed for this plan overall. 

An equitable Baltimore addresses the needs and aspirations of its diverse population and meaningfully engages residents through inclusive and collaborative processes to expand access to power and resources. (Department of Planning, Equity Committee)

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