If you’ve driven down the road and all of a sudden see a cement mixing plant next to a residential community and wondered how that happens, then you’ve thought about urban planning.
Clark County is currently undergoing a revision to its master plan. The project is called Transform Clark County, and public input is a big part of the process.
County Commissioner Justin Jones is one of those spearheading the project.
“It’s the first time that the county has undergone this process in a broader scale since 1983," he told KNPR's State of Nevada, "So, it’s really an exciting opportunity for the entire community to get involved and really shape what the future of our community will look like.”
Jones said the process started in July with an outline of the preliminary framework for the new master plan and development code rewrite. The county identified six core values for the master plan during that first phase.
Now, it is moving into the second phase, which will fill in those values with details. The county has launched a survey that is open for the public to fill out through the end of October. And it has scheduled two virtual open houses to allow people to express their opinions.
"During the first phase, we identified those core values and those range from preserving unique communities, equitable access to service, healthy and sustainable environment, connected communities, etc," Jones said, "And so now, its that opportunity to dig into what the more specific policies will be.”
He expects the master plan to be completed late next year and the development code rewrite to be finished in 2022.
One of the major components of the master plan will be transportation.
Jasmine Vazin is the organizer for the Sierra Club's Clean Transportation for All campaign. She said transportation is integral to how cities are put together.
“How we get from point A to point B is going to be a big piece of this master plan. It is going to influence how much we use cars. How our air quality is affected and how we connect to each other,” she said.
The Sierra Club would like a multi-modal transportation system in Southern Nevada's future, making the city more walkable, bikeable and livable.
“So that we can all move away from relying on single-passenger vehicles and have a more sustainable outlook on how transportation is playing into our everyday lives,” Vazin said.
She said the development code rewrite is one of the most important parts of helping that vision come to life. Vazin said a well thought out code will put in place policies that encourage "transit-oriented development."
That means creating transportation hubs that allow for residential, commercial, entertainment and food and beverage areas in one place.
“Having everything in these hubs along transit stops so that we’re building our city up and not out. We can stop sprawl and we can densify where people are living throughout the Las Vegas valley,” Vazin said.
Beyond transportation, the Sierra Club would like for the county to take into account the impact policies will have on the climate.
“We’re really taking stock of what climate impacts mean for Nevada when we’re thinking about how our city is going to grow 50 years into the future,” she said.
The Sierra Club is also part of the recently formed Nevada Environmental Justice Coalition. Vazin said the coalition is made up of 11 nonprofit environmental and social justice groups, mostly based in Clark County, all focused on bringing environmental justice issues to all planning decisions both on the state and local level.
The group is particularly interested in being involved in the Transform Clark County effort.
“This is where we can make the most impact. We all have a say in how this process is going to be applied, and how our city is going to grow, at a much larger scale than, say, federal policy,” Vazin said.
During the first phase of the master plan process, the group reached out to its network of activists and advocates to get them to voice their opinion to the county.
Sunrise Vegas is also part of the coalition. The group is affiliated with the Sunrise Movement, which hub coordinator Dexter Lim said is focused on fighting for a liveable future.
The Sunrise Movement is linked to the Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution proposed by progressive lawmakers in Washington, D.C., that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decelerate climate change.
One of Sunrise Vegas' biggest concerns when it comes to the new master plan by the county is sprawl.
“One of the issues that we have with sprawl is that it overall serves as a detriment to all forms of justice within the community,” Lim said.
The group is opposed to a Clark County lands bill that is currently being formed separately from the master planning process. Lim said that federal bill, as it is currently envisioned, would allow for more sprawl by expanding the city limits and allowing more public land to be used for development.
“Frankly, I just don’t see why we bother sprawling out further when there is so much incorporated territory and communities that are suffering and that have been neglected that we could be investing in instead,” they said.
The county land bill, which deals with federal land, is connected to the county master plan because it would mean more land, more resources and more people that would need to be covered in the urban planning process, Lim said.
They don't believe there is a reason to move forward with the land bill when the Transform Clark County plan is not fully finished.
One of the biggest issues the county is facing when it comes to planning is affordable housing, which advocates say the county desperately needs.
Commissioner Jones agreed.
“We want to make sure that our community is somewhere where everybody has the opportunity to live over the next 30 years,” he said.
Jones said the county has already made strides toward achieving this goal. He said in his district in the southwest part of the valley the commission has approved several projects and intends to approve more.
As for the not-in-my-backyard attitude that often ends up squashing affordable housing projects, Jones said he hasn't run into much of that, especially when neighbors are educated about the projects.
Lim would like to see very specific language addressing past housing injustice in the county's master plan.
“In any new plan for housing justice, I would like to see language that directly addresses the historic redlining and unequal opportunities that have faced housing in Las Vegas for far too long,” they said.
Vazin believes if people really understand the impact planning has on their lives they will engage in the Transform Clak County process.
“Every single aspect of our lives, especially as millennials – those under 30 – is being impacted by urban planning decisions of the past," she said.
Justin Jones, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Jasmine Vazin, campaign organizer, Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All; Dexter Lim, hub coordinator, Sunrise Vegas