The Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) has launched an independently-led, multi-year study and review of the city’s Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU) system. NPUs are citizen advisory councils that make recommendations to the mayor and city council on zoning, land use, and other planning-related matters.
CCI’s goal is to strengthen community engagement in Atlanta in partnership with a growing coalition of community organizations and individuals. CCI spent the past year conducting historical research and meeting with key stakeholders, including elected NPU leadership, city council members, mayoral representatives, and community-focused organizations.
Over the next two years, the NPU Initiative will educate residents about the history of community engagement in the city, analyze how engagement is happening today, and suggest improvements for making it better.
The NPUs was created early in the administration of Mayor Maynard Jackson in the early 1970s.
“A Neighborhood Planning Unit is the kind of organization where people can go and get to know what’s going on in their neighborhood. They can be as involved as they want to be. They can take a leadership role, and many community leaders have come out of NPUs,” said  Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, who worked as a planner for Economic Opportunity Atlanta, a precursor to the NPU system established during her late husband’s first term as mayor.
“Atlanta’s residents should shape the future of our city, and NPU system was created to do exactly that,” said Rohit Malhotra, Founder & Executive Director of the Center for Civic Innovation. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure it is working how people need it to be. This initiative won’t be perfect, but we’re committed to being honest and authentic along the way. We have to remember why we’re doing this: for people whose voices are often overshadowed and unheard. That has real-life consequences.”
The next phase of the NPU Initiative will involve a city-wide survey of Atlanta residents on how they engage with local government, including interactions with the NPU system. Simultaneously, the coalition will attend meetings and conduct a thorough assessment of all 25 NPUs, work with key stakeholders to gain deeper insight into community engagement challenges and opportunities, and develop and implement a city-wide education program of “NPU 101” events.
Learn more about the NPU Initiative at npu.civicatlanta.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.