Images courtesy of County of Los Angeles & Paolo Gamba

Advice for Future Planners: CRP Alumnus Richard Bruckner Reflects on Forty Years in the Field

After 40 years in the planning and community development profession, LA County Planning Director Richard Bruckner (MCRP ‘77) retired in the summer of 2017. His career spans work in multiple jurisdictions in California in areas of redevelopment, community development and city planning/urban design. After serving for ten years as the director of the Pasadena Planning and Development Department, where transit-oriented development is a model around the world, Bruckner became the director of planning for the county of Los Angeles in 2010.

We reached out to Richard Bruckner for his thoughts on how the planning profession has changed over his career and what advice he would give to students entering practice. 

Can you comment on what you perceive to be the greatest changes in the field of planning since you began practicing?

There have been several important changes that I would characterize as evolution in the planning field.  Three in particular I would highlight; the increased level of sophistication and engagement of the public, the leaps forward in the access to information and the ability to manipulate the information [the great advances in GIS for instance] and the reinvestment in the inner city and revitalization of the inner suburbs of our larger cities. This change is having a positive influence in how we look at transportation and urban design, both of which become more important and complex.

How have changes in local leadership affected how you have performed your job over time?

Yes, the recent movement to electing local officials on a geographic basis versus at large representation at the local government level has made a difference. The movement is intended to provide a local government elected body that is more reflective of the local population than an at-large body. That is a good and important goal, however it can also lead to parochial thinking and balancing the future of a neighborhood's interests with that of the needs of the entire city is what good planners do. This comes to the planner’s desk in many forms; the placement of affordable housing, apartments, and transportation issues.

What advice would you give to a recently graduated student who intends to pursue planning in the public sector?

In evaluating where to work it is more important who you work for and their commitment to the planning field than what you may be initially hired to do. Build a network. In many instances you can help shape your job and responsibilities, don't be shy. Volunteer for committee work.

If you have hired recent students, what qualities in an entry-level candidate are most appealing to you?

Basic knowledge of planning principles, tech savvy, hardworking, and dedication to the profession.


Images courtesy of County of Los Angeles & Paolo Gamba