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Urban Studies Research
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 687834, 12 pages
Research Article

Use of the Planning Outreach Liaison Model in the Neighborhood Planning Process: A Case Study in Seattle's Rainier Valley Neighborhood

1Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, 7910 Swartz Avenue, Sebastopol, CA 95472, USA
2School of Education and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, 485 Lasuen Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
3Sharon Ryan Communications, 29 President Avenue, Providence, RI 02906, USA

Received 6 May 2011; Revised 31 August 2011; Accepted 22 September 2011

Academic Editor: Michelle Thompson-Fawcett

Copyright © 2011 Molly Oshun et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Our study examines a nontraditional engagement process employed by the City of Seattle during neighborhood plan updates. Adapting the trusted advocates model from the public health field, the city hired planning outreach liaisons (POLs) from 13 diverse community groups to solicit input from traditionally underrepresented residents. To explore the efficacy of this approach, we collected data through interviews with residents, neighborhood leaders, community development firm employees, university researchers, and municipal staff; a review of planning documents; observation at planning meetings. We found that the POLs effectively engaged underrepresented groups—including more than 1,200 stakeholders—particularly those characterized as self-organized, centralized or having strong social networks and were important in the advancement of democratic principles. Greater transparency by the city about process goals and constraints, along with strategies to address power issues, may have facilitated better communication and relationship building among the city, newly enfranchised residents, and the “usual suspects.”