SMART Parks Toolkit Receives National Planning Award

American Planning Association recognizes UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation for achievement in planning and urban design

A technology guide, compiled by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to help improve park operations, will receive the Silver 2019 National Planning Achievement Award for a Best Practice from the American Planning Association (APA). SMART ParksTM: A Toolkit aims to help park managers, designers, and advocates make parks more user-friendly and sustainable. Smart Parks: A Toolkit is one of 20 Achievement Award recipients this year.

“A smart park uses technology to achieve equitable public access, enhanced health, safety, resilience, water and energy efficiency, and effective opera­tions and maintenance,” said Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, professor of urban planning and associate dean at UCLA Luskin, who led a small team of researchers and UCLA students on the SMART Parks project. “I commend the American Planning Association for recognizing the importance of these objectives.”

Many urban parks are beset by challenges, from rising maintenance costs and underutilization, to water and energy usage. SMART Parks, which was supported by The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, is a centralized guide to technologies that can improve park operations and decrease costs. Each chapter evaluates specific technologies for different uses, such as landscaping, stormwater and activity spaces. The toolkit also provides guidance on staff training and cost constraints related to technology implementation and suggests creative funding strategies and partnerships to manage SMART parks more efficiently.

“SMART Parks is a practical and implementable toolkit for communities around the country, ensuring that park space continues to provide an important community aesthetic and much needed gathering space,” said Wendy Shabay, AICP, 2019 Awards Jury Chair.

Each year, APA recognizes outstanding efforts in planning and planning leadership through its National Planning Excellence and Achievement Awards. The two-tier awards are selected through a juried process. Excellence Award recipients are the highest honor and Achievement Awards recognize accomplishments in areas of specialization within the planning profession. The awards recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues for more than 50 years.

The 2019 National Planning Award recipients will be honored at a special luncheon during APA’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco on April 15, 2019. The recipients will also be featured in the May issue of Planning magazine. For a complete list and summary of all the APA 2019 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit