MIT e-Planning Seminar


"From Neighborhood Knowledge to a National Community Information Infrastructure: Examining Emerging Planning Tools"

Friday, October 17, 2003

MIT Rm. 3-401, 12:15PM - 2:00PM

DUSP Discussants: Lorlene Hoyt, Ceasar McDowell, Melvin King

In Los Angeles over the past seven years a public information initiative has grown, beginning at UCLA, but now moving beyond the campus, to explore the broader potential of internet-based G.I.S. and other analytic tools for promoting community development efforts. In fact, the Los Angeles initiative may be laying the groundwork for a comprehensive national information infrastructure that can exist outside, but in relation to, local, state, and federal systems.

This presentation briefly reviews the history of the Los Angeles community information initiative from the Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles (NKLA) ( early warning system on housing disinvestment, to efforts such as Living Independently in Los Angeles ( where users -- primarily persons with disabilities -- co-create their own tools, producing almost all of the data that are displayed online. Less than one year ago, the Neighborhood Knowledge California (NKCA) project ( was launched as the first statewide community information system. It enables users to integrate their own spreadsheets with data sources on the platform, producing powerful analytic displays with a few mouse clicks. NKCA provides the user with a flexible, electronic, learning environment, encouraging a dynamic interplay with information in ways that can enhance public dialogue.

Because NKCA so clearly demonstrates the inherent scalability of internet-based GIS and enables users to customize applications to meet their needs, the system has quickly been adopted as a national model. The FannieMae Foundation has hired the new LA-based organization, Community Informatics, to use this model for a new national community development information system that seeks to serve a wide range of its stakeholders - policymakers, developers, investors, as well as neighborhood advocates. This presentation introduced and provided an overview of the new national system, and highlight some of the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead for this project.

Neal Richman

Neal Richman is Associate Director of the Advanced Policy Institute (API), and on the faculty of the Deparment of Urban Planning at the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research. He has over twenty years of experience in affordable housing management and development, contributing to the rehabilitation/construction of more than one thousand dwelling units in Southern California. Most of these projects were designed as scattered-site, infill developments with the aim of strengthening the fabric of distressed neighborhoods. His development work has relied on expanding resident-controlled housing and broadening opportunities for ownership by lower income households. His development research clients have included organizations in Europe, Africa, South America and the former Soviet Union.

As associate director of API, Dr. Richman has been exploring the use of new information and communication technologies to support a wide range of community development activities. The Neighborhood Knowledge Los Angeles (NKLA) internet site provides access to a searchable database that for the first time anywhere makes available information on property tax delinquencies, code violations, and other city and county data. It can be accessed at One outgrowth of this project has been the development of an electronic code enforcement system that relies on the use of Palm Pilots by housing inspectors. Living Independently in Los Angeles (LILA) is a community building project designed to facilitate the sharing of information by and for persons with disabilities at A new statewide platform, Neighborhood Knowledge California, that focuses on promoting inner city development opportunities and neighborhood reinvestment can be found at Over the past four years, in a partnership between API and the Southern California Association of Governments, Dr. Richman has conducted regular training programs for government officials, and representatives of private industry on how new technologies will reshape urban development and finance.

Since 1991, he has been teaching courses on such topics as real estate finance and development, planning theory, non-profit management and professional practice in the UCLA Urban Planning Department. He received a Ph.D. in development and planning from the University of Aalborg, Denmark, and his M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA.

Return to e-Planning Seminar index

Return to e-Planning Seminar index