City planners have long used sophisticated 2D GIS and other mapping applications to manage community planning activities and to try and convey results to the general public. While they may be very effective analysis tools, these applications often fail to impart knowledge in a format that the average citizen can easily grasp. A 2D map, the architect's rendering, and a tabular summary are not tools that are familiar to the layperson. The world is 3D, and city planners are beginning to look at ways to present information that is more easily understood.

Some cities have gone so far as to create a physical model to help the community visualize existing and proposed land use conditions. This approach can be very costly, time consuming to create and maintain, a challenge to store, and difficult to view at a street level vantage point. This is one of the reasons Google Earth offers a 3D Buildings layer: to enable people - everyone, not just city planners - to understand their world in an easy, comprehensive way. Recognizing the growing use and awareness of Google Earth, some cities are beginning to publish their GIS data to the 3D Warehouse for display in the "3D Buildings" layer.

Recently, we introduced a new model category in the Google 3D Warehouse called "Help Model a City." This was in response to cities like San Jose, California, that don't have the resources to model a city on their own and who are hoping to enlist the help of 3D modeling ethusiasts. So far a few cities have published 3D "massing models" along with digital photos, making it easy for 3D modelers anywhere in the world to create visually accurate 3D textured buildings.

If you enjoy 3D modeling and would like to lend any of these cities a hand, I'm sure they would appreciate the help!