Glossary and Acronyms
Subcommittees of the Steering Committee led by a topic expert. For City-led planning processes, this expert will be public agency staff or partner non-profit. For RCO-led processes, public agency staff are members of these teams. These teams work from the vision, goals, data, and identified resources to develop policies, projects, and programs that will make the vision a reality. The lead for each Action Team reports back on the activities of the team to the Steering Committee.
A type of bar chart that illustrates a project schedule. Often this includes specifying when one activity is dependent on another, important milestones in the process, and resources needed for each activity.
Long-term outcome of the plan that will be achieved by implementing programs, policies, and projects. They should be aspirational and express the neighborhood’s collective desires and values for each chapter of the plan. Goals should not convey specific quantitative outcomes.
Can mean specific City of Pittsburgh designated places that coincide with census tracks or larger areas with a spatially or community-defined geography. This guide uses the latter sense of the world when discussing the geography of the plan area.
Commitments by organizations to work together to advance an outcome.
A preferred direction to achieve a goal. They are specific enough to help determine whether a proposed project or program would advance the values expressed in the goals.
A set of activities that seek to realize a particular longterm aim. A program may be one component of a project, but generally, programs are longer, more complex undertakings.
Discrete action(s) that can be undertaken and completed by a list of implementation partners.
A large group of stakeholders covering a broad range of topics who will oversee the planning process, make up the Action Team members, and help implement the plan when adopted.
Technical Advisory Group
Teams of experts and stakeholders who conduct focused work on a technically complex topic. They should report back to an Action Team and to the Steering Committee on a regular basis and their findings should become both content within the relevant plan chapter as well as reports or other materials included in the appendices of the plan.
Projects that have the potential to have large-scale impacts in an area. An example includes development of a transit station.
Deliverables Guidance and Templates
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is designed to clarify expectations and the working relationships between key parties involved in the preparation of neighborhood plan. It aims to put working relationships on the best possible footing at the start and throughout the process. A MOU is both a practical and an aspirational document that sets out how key parties will work together where all parties makes a commitment to prepare a neighborhood plan.
A MOU does not attempt to influence the future content of a neighborhood plan, but recognizes plan conformity with higher level plans and previous efforts, the crucial support role(s) of each party and the importance of neighborhood planning, the value of working well together, especially in terms of timing, and an understanding of the planning process.
A Memorandum of Understanding is an optional written agreement between two or more parties focusing on the principles and expectations for working together. As a statement of intent it can provide a useful reference point to help avoid potential confusion or tension between different parties as well as fostering positive and ongoing working relationships where they exist.
In short a MOU can:
- Establish clearly the roles and responsibilities of all partner organizations.
- Foster high standards of integrity, honesty, mutual respect and desire in ‘win-win’ solutions.
- Be a tool for creating open and constructive communication channels, particularly between partner organizations.
- Be the first test of how the parties will work together.
- Help set an outline timeframe including a description of what is going to occur and in what timeframe.
- Ensure the best possible information and ideas flow between parties.
- Provide a benchmark for providing reasonable warning about potential changes in plans or proposals, or process.
- Explain the relationship between a neighborhood plan and any development proposals within or adjacent to the neighborhood area and how parties will work together on these parallel activities.
Examples and Additional Resources:
Pittsburgh’s Public Engagement Guide outlines a framework for how the City should conduct engagement efforts throughout planning processes and establishes guidelines for improving the approach to engagement more broadly. The guide was developed through a collaboration of residents, community organizations and City Planning. It is designed to help increase engagement with the planning process.
Public Engagement Guide: https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/redtail/images/7843_Public_Engagement_Guide.pdf
Public Engagement Toolkit: https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/redtail/images/7844_Public_Engagement_Toolkit.pdf
It may be necessary hire a consultant for data, design, focused engagement, and/or special analysis to aid the planning process. If so, a Request for Proposal (RFP) will need to be written. A RFP is a document that announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete it. The following are sections of a RFP:
Background or Introduction
In the preliminary paragraph of the RFP, explain useful background information about the organization(s), the location and characteristics of the neighborhood, previous studies and plans, and the planning process.
Project Goals and Scope of Service
To best prompt responses for the RFP, a detailed outline of the project that needs completion and the expectations will be included in this section. This section can be as specific as possible, stating individual tasks and criteria involved.
Additionally, information on how the candidate will be determined could be useful.
Anticipated Selection Schedule
This section gives explicit timeline information to give the potential vendors the opportunity to ensure they can meet the deadlines. It also provides a window of time for vendors to ask questions in regards to the project.
Time and Place of Submission of Proposals
Similar to the previous section, this gives those responding to the RFP the information of how and where to submit themselves for consideration.
Elements of Proposal
To receive submissions that best align with the expectations, a clear and direct list of what to include will help streamline applicants. To convey these expectations, a checklist of elements of what is anticipated is helpful.
Brainstorming with the team to proposed a mandatory list of how to measure candidates. This list can include samples of past work, successful records of other companies, expertise and technical skills necessary, and appropriate cost to complete the service.
If there are any potential issues that could prevent an applicant from completing the request, it should be outlined in this section. A roadblock can include not having access to a limited resource or not having a certain program. This will eliminate unqualified applicants.
It is necessary to include the compensation rate for the service that needs completion.
A planning process project schedule, also called a gantt chart, is a visual representation of a project’s timeline. This timeline breaks the project into tasks, or activities, that will be paired with a duration of time.
The tasks will be displayed on the left hand side of the chart, with an adjacent column that displays the average duration of time to be spent on the task.
Each task is visualized with a bar to demonstrate what task, or activity, needs to be completed before moving to the next one. The bars can be color coordinated to display what tasks are on a tight deadline versus tasks that can be flexible.
Gantt Charts can be produced on Excel or with a project management program.
For more information on developing a Planning Process Project Schedule in Excel, please visit:
For each Neighborhood plan, a clear identity and name should be integrated into all documents used throughout the process. This could include a title, a slogan, and/or a logo.
To develop a title and identity for the proposed plan, it should relate to the project while also being memorable. Well remembered titles include elements of alliteration, rhyming, and thoughtful word choice. The title should remain short and concise.
If appropriate, a slogan or motto will help market the plan to the community. The slogan or motto should be a catch-phrase that, most likely, rhymes. For advertising, the slogan or motto can be placed underneath the title on websites, blogs, and other headings.
The logo attached to the title can be used a marketing tool for social media, websites, and official documents.
When creating a logo for the plan, it is best that it is not distracting to readers and viewers and embodies the plan’s mission and value.
These two logos above demonstrate appropriate and effective logos for neighborhood plans. Each logo identifies the location as well as a sufficient image noting what the plan is relating to. These concepts can be easily recognized and replicated on documents that mention the plan.
The Existing Conditions Report is one of the first steps in the planning process. It provides the background and baseline data necessary to help understand the neighborhood’s current conditions that will assist with the development of the plan. This document summarizes current conditions and characteristics related to the neighborhood’s history, demographics and market analysis, existing land use, transportation and mobility, housing, parks, trails and open space, recreation and cultural heritage, community facilities and services, and environment and health. It will help develop the plan’s vision, goals, as well as identify issues that should be addressed.
Existing Conditions Reports provide a common set of tools, baselines, and data for discussion during the neighborhood plan process, based on a variety of sources including the Census, market transactions, City and County data sources, site surveys, and analysis. Community members and participants will bring their own experiences, needs, history, and deeper understanding of many topics that data cannot fully address.
Often, pictures and Community Asset Maps are included in Existing Conditions Reports. These images and maps will reinforce the data collected and analysis reported on the current condition of the neighborhood. The Community Asset Maps will digitize the points of assets that the community residents find to exemplify these topics, or find to be lacking in their community.
A strong example of an existing conditions report can be seen here:
This Figure, computed on GIS, demonstrates one version of what a Community Asset Map can look like. Each asset is categorized and color coded to help the viewer analyze what the community finds to be of value.
This map does not have to be digitally created to give the viewer an accurate account of the Community Asset. There is the option to do a hand drawn map, though does not provide the same accuracy.
More information on developing the Community Asset Map can be found at:
Action Teams are comprised of residents, stakeholders, property owners, agencies, and professionals that focus to make a holistic effort with hands on engagement. These Action Teams will systematically work through a list of topics over a period of months, exploring each using a combination of research, analysis, and public input. At the first meeting for the Action Team, workbooks will be created that provide data, case studies, and best practices related to the topic area.
For a workbook to be successful, the following elements should be included:
- Agreed upon Plan Vision and Goals
- Action Team Process
- Team Goals and Tasks
- Data, case studies, and best practices for each topic within that Action Team chapter
As knowledge expands, the Action Teams develop initial concepts and a preliminary implementation strategy (partnerships, programs, policies, and projects) for each topic area. Some ideas rise to the top as particularly important for achieving the plan’s vision and are identified as draft transformation projects. Action Teams should present a first draft of their strategies back to the larger Steering Committee and get input and approval before moving into the next stage.
For a general overview of a basic workbook, view here:
Every 2 years, the Department of City Planning will measure outcomes related to the plan goals, policies, and strategies of the neighborhood plan. This implementation matrix summarizes the plan policies, programs, projects, and partnerships and tracks the status of each by timeframe and lead entity. Planning staff will use this matrix, in combination with data and maps, to report the progress and overall implementation of the plan to Planning Commission.
MCNP Implentation Matrix ( https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/redtail/images/8156_Implementation.pdf )
A public notice is to inform residents, and interested citizens, of government or government-related activities that would might cause citizen action. Usually circulated through newspapers and digital media, public notices display important information about government activities that must be accessible in order for the people to make well-informed decisions. Providing a public notice allows for an opportunity for the public to influence governing bodies and allows the public to be an active participant in a democratic society.
To create and publish a public notice, there are three characteristics: the notice must be able to be archived, the publication must be accessible, and the publication must be able to be verified.
For more information on public notices, please visit:
A Staff Report provides concise, easy to understand information to all interested parties, including the decision-makers.
Elements of a Staff Report
- Introductory Information that notes the application number and applicant name
- Project description that notes the project location, planning process, engagement process, and what approval is being requested of the decision-maker.
- Draft plan review process, public comments to date, and letters of support
- Staff Recommendation or Decisions, with Conditions of Approval, if
An example of a Staff Report can be found here:
Once the proposed plan is approved and underway, every other year a progress report will need to be produced. This biennial audit, or progress report, will demonstrate the execution of the proposed plan and how it is affecting the neighborhood.
The report will reflect on data that had been collected for the Existing Conditions Report, and subsequently thereafter. By using data tables and charts to compare how the neighborhood has changed from the plan, this report will give insight to the quantitative changes. The new data will also show if the plan is working to accomplish any policies that the City of Pittsburgh is working towards. For instance, if a proposed planned is simultaneously accomplishing an environmental policy, the report should quantitatively reflect those accomplishments.
Beyond the quantitative changes made, the report will include feedback from residents to demonstrate their feelings of the impact of the plan where possible. This can be conducted through interviews and surveys to best gather a large population. This aspect to the report should accurately reflect the resident’s feelings of the changes being made and the overall impact it has caused.
An example of a Biennial Audit/ Report/ Progress Report can be found here:
A one-page project summary is a brief report highlighting important items of a project. Readers should get the essence of the project status without the need to get into the fine details. One-page project summaries are utilized as a communication tool to various internal and external stakeholders of a project and as a reporting tool. As a general rule, it is important to consider the target audience and the context of the information provided. Define planning terminology and acronyms, and always consider how to most clearly convey the information. Often, they contain the following:
- Project description
- Images / best practices
- Community implementer(s) / stakeholders / key parties affected
An addendum is an attachment to an adopted plan that modifies the original plan’s vision and/or goals. The function of an addendum is to modify, clarify, or nullify a portion of the adopted plan. This process is complex and takes time. Engagement and public draft reviews will occur according to the planning process outlined in this document.