Urban planning has evolved from its early roots in physical planning and the good government movement to a broad, integrative profession concerned with the social and physical organization of society at geographic scales ranging from local neighborhood to global communities. Attempts to solve urban problems can be wasteful and harmful without a comprehensive understanding of the social, economic, and spatial relationships which shape the well-being of communities, cities, and regions.
The planning and financing of services, transportation, housing and amenities, the control of pollution and environmental degradation, and the management of energy resources have over the past 20 years come to be examined and challenged in terms of criteria of social justice--for the poor, minorities, and women. The evaluation and critical analysis of public policies and actions has become more central to planning, as the distribution of costs and benefits from public decisions significantly influence how well different groups in society fare.
As the scope of planning has broadened, it has also become more explicitly involved with questions of political choice. What qualities in society do we value most? What is fair? Whose interests are to be served first? Planners, as professionals, cannot claim the right to decide these questions for their society. But they have the responsibility to point out where these questions arise in the process of planning, to see that they are addressed, and to help people understand what is at issue and put forward their own proposals.
The UCLA Department of Urban Planning tries to represent, in its style and curriculum, this range, complexity, technical diversity, and ideological sensitivity of the work that planners do. Many courses are concerned with issues and skills that all professional planners are likely to share. Other courses are grouped broadly according to the different settings in which planners make their careers.