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JIIS Bulletin - January 2011
Weaving physical elements into social planning
Urban planning is based on the triad of economics, environment and society – not necessarily in that order. In the race to develop towns and cities it sometimes leans disproportionately on the physical aspects, neglecting other facets that might better serve the population for whom the planning is intended. The end product of physical planning is construction, development of land areas and edifices in the city; preservation, too, is a component of good physical planning to ensure that tomorrow's generations will continue to benefit from today's decisions.  

Jerusalem, Israel's largest city, constitutes a rainbow of religious, ethno-cultural and socioeconomic communities.  This, by definition, necessitates a broad spectrum of social services that need to be supplied by the municipality in the areas of welfare, education, culture, public health, immigrant absorption and, of course, employment. 

Such services require lands and physical structures. Yet there is a scarcity of buildings from which to provide them. Nor is there a ready plan to address this issue – not for today and not for the future. Dr. Maya Choshen, JIIS senior researcher in the Jerusalem research cluster, notes that the problem is most pronounced in the realm of welfare and social services, "which is not even included in the Planning and Building Law under the umbrella of land allocations for public purposes." Consequently, many of the city's welfare activities – often aimed at the population sector in most dire financial straits – takes place in buildings that are not appropriate for their aim and may be physically far from the target group they are meant to serve. 

Choshen is working on a master plan, commissioned by City Hall, to rectify this situation. She is trying to bring the concept of physical planning to social service planning. "We are not talking about community involvement, but rather focusing on the range of social services the city provides, taking into account the varying (and sometimes fluctuating) needs of the different population groups that use those services," she explains. The plan is being designed so as "to serve as a tool for policy and decision makers and professionals to bring order and logic into the allocation of land and resources to build a network of services that will well serve the city and its residents in the future." Together with colleagues Israel Kimhi, Michal Korach and Yair Assaf-Shapira, she is in the process of defining and mapping the physical needs of the community services institutions in Jerusalem that are under the auspices of the City's Community Services Authority. "Together we are cooperating to develop solutions that take into account the range of population groups that utilize these services today; at the same time, we are evaluating future urban and demographic trends. The master plan will thus include recommendations that will meet the needs of the city's future diverse populations. Tomorrow's generations should benefit from today's planning."
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