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A Reprint of an October 1916 Article by

Dean George A. Damon 1

“HOW TO GET STARTED IN CITY PLANNING: THE PASADENA WAY” The October 1916 issue of “The City Plan” focused on helping cities understand how to approach city planning. Dean George A. Damon’s article describing Pasadena’s “My City” process is reproduced here with commentary added as revitalizing this approach is being explored a century later. THE BIRTH OF THE PROFESSION OF PLANNING Until the 1910s, the profession of City Planning was part of the general practice of architecture, engineering and building. In 1909, the first National Conference on City Planning was held. In a later publication of the proceedings, it was noted that“the conception of planning as a separate profession was not apparent in the 1909 meeting…it was clear that the delegates were not thinking about forming an organization that would treat city 1 planning as a new profession.” By 1916, however, a shift had occurred. Opening that year’s conference, Dean George A. Damon presented a paper called “How to Get Started in City Planning the Pasadena Way,” setting the tone for the conference theme of helping cities understand the value of planning by introducing the “My City” approach and discussing the value of public participation. Another 1916 article by planning pioneer Charles Mulford Robinson noted the first ten colleges to teach courses in City Planning, including Dean Damon’s Throop College, which changed its name to Caltech three years later. These courses, in turn, would yield the first planning professionals. The year 1916 also marks New York City’s Zoning Resolution, which pioneered the planned allocation of city blocks by usage. Today, the centennial Dean Damon’s article on “My City” presents an opportunity to consider the changes that have occurred in the first century of planning the modern city and the potential of revitalizing this bottom-up approach to meet the ongoing challenges of planning and developing cities in the 21st Century. See for details.


The Original Article An unreformatted copy of Dean Damon’s October 1916 article can be found at: APRIL 2017 DRAFT

GEORGE A. DAMON DEAN OF ENGINEERING Three years before Caltech changed its name from Throop College, Dean George A. Damon helped lead Pasadena’s City Beautiful Movement and the “My City” Exhibit of 1916.

“The Pasadena Way” This 1916 article may well be the first use of the phrase inscribed outside Pasadena’s Planning Department Building today, which describes a high degree of public involvement.

NOTES ON DEAN DAMON’S 1916 ARTICLE AND THE POTENTIAL OF REVITALIZING “MY CITY” TODAY A Binary Approach: The “City Planning Commission” Handles Final Decisions, while the City Beautiful’’s “My City” effort and “Planning Committee” gave gauge and gave voice to the “City Mind.” In 1916, what Dean Damon refers to as the City Beautiful Association’s “planning committee” could correspond to a revitalized “My City” Board that would serve as a public interest group using a “clearinghouse approach” to measure public sentiment. This approach would serve to compliment, not replace, the city’s outreach efforts.

A Constellation of Organizations The City Beautiful Association had representation from over fifty societies in Pasadena. Today, a revitalized “My City” organization would work to serve citizens, municipal efforts, organizations, enterprise, and local schools with the same non-partisan and impartial approach as a public library.



“Orders for a City” “MY CITY” BALLOTS Two ballots invited attendees to order their priorities. Inspired by Daniel Burham’s famous quote (p.29), one ballot focused on “Beautiful” and the other “Orderly.” Tabulation over the months indicated that the public’s priorities in the first month remained consistent over time.

Though the ballots are referred to in the “How to Get Started in City Planning the Pasadena Way” article, these sample ballots are reproduced here from the “Home-City Planning Exhibit” Article found at:


THE FOUR ADVANTAGES OF “MY CITY” Continuing the description in his October, 1916 article “How to Get Started in City Planning the Pasadena Way,” Dean Damon writes of four advantages to this bottom-up approach. The bold headlines below have been added in this reprinting of the original article to underscore the key points in considering the revitalization of this approach today.

1. “WE ARE DOING THE THINKING…THE COMMISSION DOES THE OFFICIAL ACTING.” The “subject to reversal” clause is key as the municipal process maintains supremacy, reflected in the “support, not supplant” principle. As in 1916, the fast paced, ever changing discourse of the commissions is not typically given to onging continual open inquiry and investigation into the topics explored by the Planning Movement in Pasadena. 2. “WE DO NOT QUARREL.” FINDING PROJECTS AND “THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY.”



As reflected in its Civility Principle, a “My City” process provides a forum and gives air to citizens to make impassioned arguments for all points of view without the rankle of quarreling. “My City” creates greater continuity in the planning process between the early visioning stages and the later logistical stages of planning.


“A STEPPING STONE IN CIVIC PROGRESS” Continuing his description, Dean Damon writes how Pasadena’s many local newspapers gave great coverage to the “My City” exhibit. Today, as newspapers continue to decline in readership, a revitalized “My City” process has the potential to provide the information needed to educate and reengage citizens who want to be more involved in planning their common future. A revitalized “My City” process would provide this link and “stepping stone” once again.

“WE HAVE A CITY ‘LIVING ROOM’ PREPARED” Today, Pasadena’s Civic Center has the wonderful quality of a public “living room” because of “My City” efforts of 1916.


How to Get Started in City Planning: the Pasadena Way  

The October 1916 issue of “The City Plan” focused on helping cities understand how to approach city planning. Dean George A. Damon’s article...

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