Regions Aroused | Regional Planning Foundation

Although the setting for the book Regions Aroused is in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Region, the Regional Planning Foundation’s main focus is bringing the importance of regional planning to life all over the United States and selected areas such as Irvine & Long Beach CA and San Antonio & Corpus Christi TX from our bases of operation in Seal Beach CA and San Antonio TX. We invite you to learn more about Regions Aroused, a novel/case study by Frank W. Osgood, AICP by reading the information below.

Regions Aroused

Regions Aroused, a novel/case study by Frank W. Osgood, focuses on practical solutions to congestion, inadequate housing, poor education, and mounting health and environmental problems in Los Angeles. The author based this fictionalized account on his own behind-the-scenes participation in political struggles among the region’s leaders.

Filled with passion for making the region more livable, the story plays out from the state legislature to citizen forums in individual cities, neighborhoods, and subregions. It grippingly portrays the forces of political intrigue, romance, betrayal, honor, and integrity that infuse public actions. In the regional planning process recounted, the main characters rise above their political, professional, and personal tribulations to create a better Regions Aroused.

Republished version of Regions Aroused focuses on why region has difficulty in being aroused and 12 major issues which must be resolved in synergy to make the 100-plus U.S. Regions aroused. The last chapter, (Chapter 23) stresses getting Regional Citizens involved in making needed changes happen and how this should occur.

The book must be completely read to understand the Regional Planning process elements which, when collectively used, will make Regional Planning WORK! These elements haven’t been used together in our regions. Their synergistic impact is desperately needed.

The book: Regions Aroused is available from the Regional Planning Foundation, Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback. It is also available as an eBook through the Regional Planning Foundation, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and other websites in Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony eFormats. Follow these links:




About the Author, FRANK OSGOOD

Frank W. Osgood’s background includes planning degrees from Michigan State University and Georgia Institute of Technology. He taught city and regional planning for over five years at Iowa State University and held key public sector jobs in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Lansing, Michigan; and Mobile, Alabama. As a regional planning and economic development consultant with Hammer and Company, Robert Gladstone Associates and his own firm, among others, he practiced out of offices in Washington, DC, Atlanta, Tulsa, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, California. With involvement in urban development studies throughout the Los Angeles region, he went on to chair the Southern California Association of Governments Regional Advisory Council (which advised the SCAG Regional Council’s public officials through knowledgeable non-profit organization representatives) prior to writing REGIONS AROUSED.

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Blog by the author, Frank Osgood

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Book Review Bruce McDowell

What Makes Regional Planning Tick?

In his new book, Regions Aroused, (Pittsburgh, PA: RoseDog Books, 2003, 303 pp, $26), Frank Osgood explains, in words the average citizen can understand, how the 2001 update of the Los Angeles Regional Plan was put together. Osgood is a life-long professional planner and 48-year member of APA. After teaching and practicing local, state, and regional planning nationwide for many years, he ended up as a planning consultant covering Los Angeles in the 1980s, and living there since the early 1990s. Being in the private sector, Osgood observed LA’s regional planning process from a distance at first, and then got involved as a citizen. He rose through the ranks of the Southern California Association of Governments’ Regional Advisory Council to become it’s vice chair and then chair during the time the plan was being revised. So this is a professional account of the planning process by an insider.

Osgood has taken his voluminous notes from hundreds of meetings, combined them with source documents and painstaking research, and produced a very readable narrative that transports the reader through all the stages of the planning process from October 1999 to September 2001. He especially wants to reach regional citizens and community-based leaders, because he is convinced that without them the public agencies have an almost impossible job. The region is incomprehensibly complex, governmentally and otherwise, and its planning is subject to decision-making gridlock that can be broken only by strong citizen pressure on regional bodies to get their act together.

So Osgood decided to tell the story, rather than write a report. He develops several key characters, follows them through the planning process, shows how their roles—as state legislator, regional council chairperson, prominent newspaper reporter, citizen activist, lobbyist, businessman, and so on—interact, and how their private and public lives interact. This is the dynamic that produces a plan in real life—not some ideal set of planning principles. It’s messy, but so is life.

Of course, Osgood’s characters and some of the story-telling events are fictionalized to protect the privacy of the real participants and create human interest—but the overall story is real. The result is a comprehensive retelling of the regional planning drama that produced the 2001 Regional Plan. It’s a story that anyone can understand—and enjoy.

Who should read this book? Anyone interested in regional planning—anywhere in the U.S. And, hopefully, a lot of people who don’t yet know they are interested in regional planning. That’s really the point! Osgood intends to reach out and create a whole new generation of regional citizens—and get them aroused enough to get involved and to demand better, quicker, and more citizen-friendly regional decisions and regional action.

Planners, potential regional citizens, and others in California might have a special interest, because this is a current case study of the state’s largest metropolitan region. And it has state-specific lessons to teach. But, it would also be a wonderful text in an advanced university planning seminar anywhere in the country—perhaps called something like “What They Never Taught You in Planning School.”

The book is full of the frustrations, delays, and lack of action so commonly experienced in today’s regional planning processes everywhere in the nation. Osgood hopes his book will be an antidote—and so do I.

Dr. Bruce D. McDowell, FAICP

Book Review Wendell Davis

By Wendell Davis, AICP, October 2006
When I first heard about Frank Osgood’s book Regions Aroused, I wasn’t sure just what to think. Serious planning issues treated in a fiction novel? But then why not? Let’s have some entertainment in planning. The book covers regional planning issues that you would expect from a text book, but is structured more like a case study with dialog of real “fictional” people. Now I’ve read a lot of mystery novels and some have even been the “page turner” kind that you couldn’t put down. These mysteries are by experienced writers that might have written dozens of books and know how to capture your imagination. However, most novels do not have an objective – basically nothing to say.

Regions Aroused is not that type of book. It offers something that few fiction novels offer. Not only is it a call to action, there are many lessons to be learned here. And while it isn’t a page turner, I found myself really looking forward to the next chapter, and the next, to learn more about the process and the backroom politics. This book is placed in a real setting, the Los Angeles region known as the Southern California Council of Governments, but you all know as “SCAG.” It is based on a couple of years experience out of the author’s life, and he took really good notes. He does a good job of setting up and building his characters, so you know who you are reading about. He takes the reader through the regional planning process in a much more interesting way than your typical text book or journal article. Looking at the table of contents it resembles a text book and a course outline. That’s good because you have a framework for the entire book as well as the regional planning process.

Osgood sets you up chapter by chapter describing the issues, like “needed regional reforms” and “transportation shortfalls” in Part I; he gets into planners’ and legislators’ relationships with lobbyists at the state level, shares a few “dirty tricks,” discusses controversy, funding problems and environmental justice. Wrapping up Part IV of the book, Osgood offers solutions such as sub-regional cooperation and tax-base sharing.

The regional planning process gets results when a Final Regional Plan is adopted. He introduces the very useful concept of recruiting “regional citizens” to participate in the planning process and to become knowledgeable on regional issues. His passion for planning in general, and regional planning in particular is reflected in the formation of a not-for-profit entity to promote regional planning through education and participation. The author not only has his own objectives for the book, but has included twelve objectives for regional planning.

This is a book that can make a difference in the metropolitan regions we live in. It will be very useful to transportation planners and regional board members. All students of regional planning will benefit from reading. I would make it required for young planners who have not seen or experienced the political pressures faced by planners and policymakers. Here is a way to alert those who are naive toward dirty tricks, bribery and coercion. While Regions Aroused is somewhat tame when it comes to describing the methods some people and organizations might use to have their way, there is a good dose. Some of those unbelievable efforts could be the subject of entire books.

I highly recommend Frank Osgood’s book: Regions Aroused – not solely for its entertainment value, but for its educational value in describing an important process for regional planning.


“The Role of Subregions in Los Angeles Regional Planning”

by Frank W. Osgood, AICP and Lee Schoenecker, AICP


The Los Angeles Region: This very large region had a 2004-2005 population of between 17 and 18 million per the U.S. Census for 2004-2005. Within another 20-30 years it is projected that the population of the Los Angeles Region will reach 22-24 million people. This population covers the six counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial. Today, Los Angeles County alone has just about ten million people and is the most populous county in the United States. In addition, this six-county region includes 185 local general purpose units of government, not to mention the many special purpose districts. East to west, the Los Angeles Region stretches for about 130 miles, and north to south, it covers a distance of 40 to 60 miles. In total it covers close to 38,000 square miles, about half of which is in San Bernardino County.

The Southern California Association of Governments and The Subregions: Region-wide planning of some type within the above counties goes back decades, particular that of Los Angeles County. Regional planning for the entire six-county region grew out of an expansion of the Southern California Association of Government’s (SCAG).This change resulted in SCAG’s expansion to its present 77-person Regional Council (the board of directors) in the 1990s. During this same period, drawing on already existing organizations as well as newly- developed organizations, SCAG was divided into 14 subregions, particularly for planning purposes. And today, the great majority of SCAG’s 77-person Regional Council is made up of the members from the 14 subregional organizations.

Two of SCAG’s specific regional planning programs are of note as they relate to the 14 subregions. First, a growth management planning program initially identified a draft region-wide land use vision. Each of the 14 subregions were then involved in a subregion by subregion hands-on review of this draft vision as each review pertained to the respective subregion and also to the Los Angeles area as a whole. Ultimately, the draft vision resulted in the Compass Growth Vision and was incorporated into the final 2004 Regional Transportation Plan for the Los Angeles Region.

Second, growing out of the Compass Growth Vision, an implementation approach called the 2% Strategy was developed. This strategy pertains to that 2 percent of the land area in the Los Angeles Region where each of the 14 subregions contain several or more of the sites and areas that have significant potential for smart-growth type land uses and other like development. A total of a little over 260 sites and areas across the Los Angeles Region were identified. Also, SCAG has initiated a Demonstration program for 16 of these 260 sites or areas, providing consulting services to local governments and other involved organizations and agencies to implement the principles of the Compass Growth Vision. Sub state regional organizations are involved in several of the Demonstration projects.


The 14 subregions, listed alphabetically, and an example of a program consideration(s) each has or might incur follow:

(1) Arroyo Verdugo Subregion (Cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, Pasadena, and South Pasadena; Over 400,000 population, 150 square miles) Known for its entertainment industry (including Disney studios) and rugged physical features, this cluster of five cities works closely to protect its environment.

2) City of Los Angeles ( Over 3,850, 000 population, about 500 square miles). As the Region’s central city and nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles is crucial due to its downtown size, location, and centrality.

(3) Coachella Valley Association of Governments (Much of eastern Riverside County including Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, nine other local governmental bodies, and Riverside County; Over 400,000 population, 4,800 square miles) Key considerations include managing growth in a fragile environment, congestion, air quality, and maintaining a good quality of life.

(4) Gateway Cities Council of Governments (Long Beach and 26 other cities; Over 2,100,000 population, about 500 square miles) Still suffering from loss of manufacturing jobs during the 1990′s recession, this subregion must cope with significant workforce retraining problems and extensive through truck traffic related to a huge influx of international trade activity at the Port of Long Beach and at the Port of Los Angeles.

(5) Imperial Valley Association of Governments (Six municipalities, a special purpose district, and Imperial County; Over 155,000 population, 3,000 square miles) Water supplies must be available over the 2000-2020 period to adequately maintain its irrigated crops while urban growth pressures are beginning to raise significant infrastructure capacity issues.

(6) Las Virgenes, Malibu, Conejos Council of Governments (Over 100,000 population, 250 square miles) Controlling growth and protecting the environment, including the Santa Monica Mountains, will be a prime objective.

(7) North Los Angeles County (Cities of Lancaster, Palmdale, and Santa Clarita; Over 500,000 population, 2,000 square miles) Controlling rapid residential growth is a vital concern.

(8) Orange County Council of Governments (All of Orange County including 32 cities; Just under 3,000 000 population, 948 square miles) Part of this area needs to revitalize its land use and infrastructure. Light rail and other transit should help congestion.

(9) San Bernardino Association of Governments (City of San Bernardino, 23 other municipalities, and San Bernardino County; Over 1,950,000 population, 20,000 square miles, largest geographic county in the country) Developing as a transportation/distribution center and housing growth market. Growing truck traffic and regional freight movement can adversely impact road capacity.

(10) San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (Pasadena, San Gabriel and 28 other cities; Over 1,100,000 population, about 500 square miles) The San Gabriel Valley has significant ground water and other environmental problems.

(11) South Bay Cities Council of Governments (Torrance is the largest of 16 cities south of the City of Los Angeles, over 850,000 population, over 250 square miles) This subregion is fragmented by congested streets. And while an economic benefit, it is impacted by the noise, congestion, and pollution of Los Angeles International Airport.

(12) Westside Cities Council of Governments (Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, parts of the City of Los Angeles; Over 700,000 population, 100 square miles) Mostly built-out, these cities have common planning interests which influence their cooperative efforts. Key problems are air quality, water quality, and traffic congestion.

(13) Western Riverside Council of Governments (Western Riverside County including the City Riverside and 13 other municipalities plus Riverside County; over 1,200,000 population, 2,500 square miles) This huge, flat subregion is rapidly developing as a major transportation/distribution center, and is also providing housing to major job markets in Orange County and San Diego County. It is in the path of Los Angeles and Orange counties driven air which can be a problem.

(14) Ventura Council of Governments (City of Ventura and nine other municipalities as well as Ventura County; Over 800,000 population, 2,500 square miles) Holding an eclectic mix of small cities, rich farmlands and orchards, naval bases, and light industry, the region protects it agricultural heritage. It has recently legislated growth limits and other slow growth approaches.

Various subregions have become quite active in planning and development activities pertaining to their own subregions. The Gateway Cities COG is a good example. It covers the industrial heart of the Los Angeles Region, providing for one out of seven jobs in this Region. Two specific examples of its subregional planning and development program, one dealing with transportation and economic development, one dealing with transportation and environmental protection, follow:

This subregion and its COG is integrally involved with significant improvements for major freeways. The I-710 study is particularly noteworthy as it is the main freight route from the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles over a 18-mile stretch to State Highway 60. This two-year effort will develop a multi-modal plan to modernize this vital freight transportation link. This study is being led by an Oversight Policy Committee with a representative from each of the COG’s 27 municipalities plus representative
from the two ports, a Los Angeles County Supervisor, and representatives from the Southern California Association of Governments, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the California Department of Transportation.

Another innovative project of the Gateway COG is their Clean Air Program which has two parts. The first part allows truck owners to trade in freight trucks built in 1986 or earlier for freight trucks built in 1999 or later and provides an average grant for a truck trade-in of about $20,000. The second part involves a 4.1 million dollar grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the Gateway Cities COG to provide further subgrants for off- road cleanup efforts. Some one million dollars of this particular COG program, as a matching subgrant, goes to the Port of Long Beach to clean up stationary diesel equipment.

The formation of subregional planning agencies in the SCAG region has also provided opportunities for focused interregional planning to occur. Specifically, the Western Riverside Council of Governments participated in two interregional planning efforts which were funded by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD): one with the Orange County Council of Governments and one with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Each of these studies looked at issues related to jobs/housing imbalance on key transportation corridors: the SR-91 corridor connecting Orange and northeast Riverside Counties, and the I-15 corridor connecting San Diego and southwest Riverside County. The studies led to cooperative follow-up implementation actions among the participating agencies, as well as the State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and HCD. The interregional planning approach is now being discussed by other regional planning agencies in California through the Regional Blueprint Planning Network which has been formed by the Governor’s Office and Caltrans.

Increasing Subregional and Regional Awareness: This requires a lot of effort and education on how regional efforts are important when so many growth and development issues extend beyond city boundaries. And this is true whether we are talking about a subregion or the Los Angeles Region as a whole. In fact, one could suggest that creating subregional awareness will also lead to better understanding of the Los Angeles Region in its entirety. Awareness can best be achieved through constant education in subregional meetings concerning such issues as traffic, air pollution, housing, taxation, and land use.

Signing Up and Keeping Cities in Subregions: Many cities within a given subregion have been in competition with each other for years if not decades. Thus, it is a constant struggle to get all the cities within a subregion to join and cooperate. One of the strongest cases for developing subregions comes from the success of cities working together to resolve common problems and find that their differences can be overcome through listening and helping each other. And perhaps the key to all this is an awareness that subregional cooperation saves monies for the individual local governments which would not be forthcoming without joint cooperation and agreement.

Subregion Staff Development: The staffs of the 14 subregional planning agencies typically range from one person to ten people, and a few have staffs of 20-40 people.There is substantial variance in their staff capabilities and needs. Generally, most subregions will eventually need increased staff whether through direct hires or contract, with the recognition that it will take time to acquire additional funding and to develop these staffs. Funding could come from local, state, or federal agencies for general and more specific purposes. And for highly special or technical needs funding might also come from foundations, other non-profits, and the private sector. Of special note, increased staff capacity needs to be evolved to allow each of the subregions to fully participate in the SGAG periodic update of the Compass Growth Vision and in implementing the 2 % Strategy. Just as importantly, staff capacity is also needed to enable these bodies to develop planning and development programs that are unique to each of the 14 subregions.

Planning and Growth Management: As mentioned above each of the subregions were involved in the in the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Region Compass Growth Vision process, particularly as related to their individual subregions. And this process will be repeated in a more extensive manner in late 2006 and 2007 for the update of the Compass Growth Vision as it feeds into the 2007 update of the Regional Transportation Plan.

So each of the subregions is already involved in planning for the entire Los Angeles Region through Compass and its periodic updates. And several of the subregions are far enough along to be able to develop overall subregional plans and growth management measures. For example, a given subregion could explore three future alternative growth patterns: continuation of present growth, or focus on compact neighborhoods and open space, or develop growth nodes near and around major transportation facilities. In fact, two or three of the subregions, mainly via the subregional transportation function, are already close to such a subregional overall planning function. More of the subregions should follow in the same vein, moving eventually to broader subregional planning.
Urban Vitalization and Revitalization: The 2 % Strategy and its Demonstration projects was mentioned above. Under this Strategy, two of the subregions—the San Bernardino Association of Governments (SANBAG) and the Western Riverside Council of Governments— are integrally involved in three of the Demonstration projects. SANBAG is involved with the City of San Bernardino and SCAG consultants in developing better rapid transit/land use linkages in that City. SANBAG is also involved along with SCAG consultants in working with the City of Ontario in providing for a better jobs/ housing mix for a large area that is about to undergo extensive residential development. The Western Riverside Council of Governments is working with several cities and SCAG’s consultants to plan for the extension of Los Angeles Region commuter rail —that of Metrolink— beyond the City of Riverside.

As mentioned before, under the Compass Growth Vision 2 % Strategy, there were identified about 260 smart-growth type sites and areas throughout the Los Angeles Region, including sites and areas in each of the 14 subregions. This is a program area which, eventually, should be ripe for the 14 subregional organizations to develop community development efforts. Within a context of adequate planning and growth management, the various subregional agencies in direct working relationships with the local governments and other public and private parties might well evolve strong implementation programs for these various sites and areas.

Housing Development: All subregions in the Greater Los Angeles region need to develop housing—particularly affordable and workforce housing. At present, the State of California is pursuing a far-reaching affordable housing program requirement as placed on local governments and implemented in part through the larger regional planning agencies such as SCAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, and others in different parts of the State. Within the Los Angeles Region, though there is some consultation by SCAG with the subregions, by and large, SCAG works directly with local general purpose units of government as most of the subregions are still too politically fragile to get involved. Eventually, however, as more experienced is gained with the state program, on a case by case basis, the subregions could begin to play a role in this program. And looking beyond the State’s affordable housing program requirements, the Compass Growth Vision also suggests that the subregions could get involved in housing for those sites and areas which have possibilities for infill development and other like Compass Growth Vision and 2 % Strategy implementation.

Development of a Regional Citizenry: One of the keys to the long-term success of the subregions is the development of a significant citizen involvement. Without such active and meaningful civic participation, regional or subregional planning will continue to have somewhat limited effectiveness. This is true whether we are talking about the Los Angeles Region and its subregions, or various other metropolitan and regional planning endeavors across the country. The 14 subregions provide a unique opportunity to develop varying citizen involvement models. Eventually, some of these models, with or without adaptation, could be applied to SCAG as a whole, or in other parts of the country. Governments, and private and non-profit organizations, including foundations, need to provide political and financial support for citizen and civic involvement in regional planning and development.


The 14 subregions have been in existence as a part of the Southern California Association of Governments structure for close to 15 years. This is too short a period of time to make judgments about overall success. Initially, however, it can be said that, generally, the approach is working reasonably well in most of the subregions, especially in the last few years. Based on the immense and truly sprawling nature of the Los Angeles Region of 17- 18 million people, the subregions allow each of these 14 planning bodies to operate more effectively and to let the local areas have their say as to how each of these subregions operate. This permits local satisfaction and pride to flourish. At the same time, each of the subregions participate in now- evolving Los Angeles region-wide planning through such SCAG programs as Compass Growth Vision. Based on progress to date, it is fair to suggest that, within 15-25 years, the use of subregional planning in the Los Angeles area might well be looked upon as an effective overall innovation. It is also possible that some of the unfolding innovations of the 14 subregions may eventually be adapted elsewhere across the country, especially as several large and medium-size metropolitan areas coalesce through urban growth.

Lee Schoenecker