Alfred Bettman

Born: Cincinnati, Ohio, August 26, 1873

Died: Altoona, Pennsylvania, January 21, 1945

Following receipt of the A.B. (1894) and the A.M. and LL.B. (1898) degrees from Harvard, Bettman returned to Cincinnati to practice corporate law and to serve a brief term as city solicitor. Appalled by corruption and inefficiency in government, Bettman dedicated his life to reform through city planning. To remove the primary source of the political graft, Bettman introduced a bill in the Ohio Legislature authorizing cities to create citizen-dominated planning commissions, premitting these commissions to prepare plans for their communities, and specifying that once such a plan is adopted by the commission, it cannot be violated by city council, thus placing determination of public works expenditures in the hands of the planning commission. Enacted in 1915, this legislation became the basis for local community planning in America. The Cincinnati Plan (1925), prepared by Bettman with the assistance of Ladislas Segoe and the Technical Advisory corporation, became the first comprehensive plan to be officially adopted by the planning commission of a major American city.

In 1926, Bettman, Segoe, and John Blandford of the Bureau of Government Research prepared the first municipal capital budget in America. With the encouragement and support of Secretary Herbert Hoover, Bettman drafted both "A Standard State Zoning Enabling Act" (1924) and "A Standard City Planning Enabling Act" (1928) for the U.S. Department of Commerce, laying the foundations for local planning in America through adoption of comprehensive plans and enactment of zoning controls.

In Euclid v. Ambler (1926), Bettman successfully defended zoning before the Supreme Court of the United States, creating the legal foundation for American land-use controls. Bettman chaired the Fourth Region of the National Resources Planning Board during the 1930s, and served as the first president of the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO) (1934 - 1938). His model legislation for urban redevelopment, created in the early 1940s, evolved into the American urban renewal programs of the postwar era.


  • A. BETTMAN, Urban Redevelopment Legislation,Washington, 1944;
  • A. BETTMAN, City and Regional Planning Papers, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1946;
  • A. BETTMAN (with OTHERS), Model Laws for Planning Cities, Counties, and States, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1935;
  • L.C. GERCKENS, "Bettman of Cincinnati" inThe American Planner: Biographies and Recollections, New York, 1983.
  • Copyright 1995 - by Laurence Gerckens

    Web Version by Stephen Best