The Compass - eNews from Baltimore Planning

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A monthly eNewsletter from the Baltimore City Department of Planning

April 2017

A Message from the Director…

This past month, Department of Planning staff participated in a full-day training on cultural competency, equity and inclusion. This was the first required training of this nature offered to Departmental staff, and it was organized by the Equity in Planning Committee (EIPC).

In this issue of The Compass, read more about the work of the EIPC over the past two years to integrate equity into our planning processes. Equitable and broad engagement was a cornerstone for our Sustainability Plan Update process, which is wrapping up this spring. Planning staff are also employing new outreach and engagement strategies with initiatives like the Green Network Plan and INSPIRE neighborhood plans around 21st Century Schools.

On April 18, we are welcoming community members to review our draft update to the Sustainability Plan at our Sustainability Town Hall. This plan is the product of many months of tireless work by volunteers, staff and community partners. See more details below, and invite a neighbor to join you in our continuing conversation!


Thomas J. Stosur, Director 


Sustainability Town Hall to be held on April 18


Housing Development Milestones

As of April 2017, 5,603 additional housing units are under construction in Baltimore City. For more information, visit our map.

Housing Milestones

Intern Claire Wayner leads student activism in Baltimore

Each year, the Office of Sustainability welcomes high school interns to support advocacy and organizing efforts.

Claire Wayner is an employee of the Baltimore Community Foundation working as an intern with the Office of Sustainability, and a junior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Claire leads the North Stony Run Green Team, a community stream clean up group. In recognition of this effort, Claire was awarded a Student of the Year scholarship award through the Chesapeake Bay Trust in 2016.

Claire has been with the Office of Sustainability for two years. She organized Baltimore Beyond Plastic, a coalition of students who advocate for the phase-out of single use plastic items, such as Styrofoam containers. Through Claire’s efforts, over 100 fellow students and educators lobbied legislators in Annapolis, and attended a rally in front of City Hall in Baltimore. Claire also testified at the State Senate and House hearings, and had individual meetings with City Council members. These efforts contributed to the adoption of City Council Resolution 17-0011R, which upholds a statewide prohibition of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam.

More information on this effort can be found on the Baltimore Beyond Plastics webpage:

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A Renewed Commitment to Advancing Equitable Planning in Baltimore

In March 2015, the Department of Planning held a training on structural racism in response to staff interest. This training came at a critical time, directly preceding the Uprising in April. The April 2015 events motivated Departmental planners to act, organizing an Equity in Planning Committee (EIPC), with staff from all Divisions participating.

The Equity in Planning Committee (EIPC) meets monthly to understand and work against the legacy and historical drivers of racism and inequity that have resulted in significant gaps in opportunity between black and white populations in Baltimore. Through lunchtime brown bag lunch discussions, staff presentations on the history of structural racism in Baltimore, and panel discussions featuring speakers from organizations such as the Baltimore Integration Partnership and Invested Impact, the Committee makes equity part of the day-to-day departmental conversation.

The EIPC is elevating equity as a priority for Departmental initiatives and programs. Through the development of the Equity Action Plan, the EIPC formulated recommendations that the Department of Planning can undertake to integrate equity more effectively into planning programs and policies. For example, the Equity Action Plan recommends integrating equity into the Capital Improvement Program process; developing a neighborhood Leadership Academy; and empowering residents to become involved in shaping the future of their neighborhoods. The EIPC aims for the Department of Planning to be a leader, at the forefront of integrating equity into our work among planning departments nationwide.

Drawing from resources developed by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, EIPC is proposing the application of an equity lens to policies and projects. This lens encourages planners to consider several questions:

  • What historic advantages or disadvantages have residents faced?
  • How can planning processes be more inclusive and accessible to residents who have been historically excluded from public decision-making processes?
  • How can resources be distributed in a way that accounts for historical disadvantages?
  • How can plans encourage policies to curb and counteract generational inequities?


Current planning processes underway grapple with these questions. For example, the Sustainability Plan Update process, from the start, focused on making the process inclusive. Rather than a relying on the traditional model of holding large public meetings lead by staff, the Office of Sustainability recruited and trained resident ambassadors to lead the public engagement process at the neighborhood level. These 125 ambassadors surveyed their friends and neighbors about issues that mattered most to them. The survey questions focused broadly on resident perceptions of their own neighborhood, and could be conducted in a living room or around a kitchen table. 

This network of Sustainability Ambassadors was divided up into teams, and each was assigned a Lead Ambassador and provided funding for team building – to purchase t-shirts or meals for their volunteers. The Ambassadors were encouraged to connect with their neighbors at public events, farmers markets, fairs and shopping areas. The purpose of this approach was to reach members of the community that were less likely to participate in the public planning process – those who did not have the time to attend evening public meetings. The vision for the process was captured in the #EveryStoryCounts social media campaign, which encouraged the public to share their sustainability stories through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

In March of 2017, the Department of Planning invited Skeo Solutions to conduct a mandatory staff-wide training on diversity, equity and inclusion. The goal of this training was to establish a strong foundation for a departmental culture that promotes inclusive and equitable planning.  

This year, Maryland’s Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainability is developing a case study on the Department of Planning’s efforts around social justice and equity. This study will highlight, in further depth, some of the work undertaken by the EIPC and the Sustainability Plan Update. Moving forward, the Department of Planning will pilot new approaches to working with Baltimore residents collaboratively. This will include moving meetings outside of traditional venues and into the community through pop-up neighborhood events. Anticipate seeing Planners outside of the office and on your block in the months to come!

Meet Your Community Planner: Marshella Wallace


Where are you originally from, and what brought you to Baltimore? 

Marshella:  I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on a tree-lined block on the West side of the City.  After completing graduate school, my first full-time planning position was with the City of Charleston, South Carolina.  In Charleston, I became very interested in integrating small area housing redevelopment strategies into the overall planning process for the neighborhoods. One evening, as I was watching television, I happened upon a documentary about the housing redevelopment story in Baltimore.  I was so intrigued that I decided at that moment to find a way to become a part of the work that was ongoing in Baltimore.

What are your responsibilities here at the Department of Planning? What projects are you most excited to work on in 2017?

Marshella: As a Community Planner, I am responsible for working with community organizations and businesses, in partnership with Department of Planning colleagues, sister agencies, elected officials,  and other stakeholders to advance the planning process for communities, effectively communicate development activities, participate in the development review process, and respond to requests for information – keeping the equity focus at the forefront of this work.

In fairness to the all of the great Eastern neighborhoods, I won’t select favorite projects– the wide-ranging and diverse Eastern District is enhanced by exciting projects throughout several neighborhoods.  I will say that those projects that provide connections to other neighborhoods are exciting prospects.

What recommendation from the Equity Committee’s Equity in Planning Action Plan do you most hope to see realized?

Marshella: I would like to see the development of a toolkit of strategies to accompany the housing market typology.  Housing is a basic need for all, and a neighborhood’s housing stock is one of its defining characteristics. The toolkit should provide communities with the resources and inspiration to move beyond perceived market barriers.