James A. Castañeda, AICP
What made you fall in love with planning?
That was the icebreaker question at APA California’s Chapter Board retreat, which I had my first opportunity to attend a few weeks ago, representing you in my new role as Northern Section Director. At first I felt intimidated, but that question and the many familiar faces assured me I was in the right place.
I had to think for a moment, but then shared the story, only half joking, of how I came to planning as a disengaged engineering student whose grades suffered from spending study time playing SimCity 4. It was around the same time that I discovered the city-planning program in college and learned that it was a profession that seemed to have what I was looking for. Beyond visions of building cities from scratch, I was curious about what made communities what they are, and what challenges they faced in getting there. I also had a strong desire to be a problem solver. All of those together made me fall in love with planning.
That exercise at the retreat also got me thinking about why I volunteer my time with APA: It’s that same love for planning that landed me here in service to the Northern Section. It’s also a desire to validate others who love this profession and further empower them by providing the resources they need to be successful. I feel it’s part of our Northern Section duty to support and nurture that love for planning that drives us to serve our communities. That’s why I’m proud to serve as your Section Director, and I am honored to work alongside all of you in this fantastic body of professionals who share a similar vision.
So what’s new for Northern Section this year?
We’ll be continuing with some of our proven programs even as we take on new challenges in 2019. To name just a few, we’ll continue our successful and recently streamlined awards programs (currently accepting nominations through Feb. 19) and our expanded mentorship program (275 participants this past winter). And we’ll continue to partner with other professional organizations including AARP, AEP, SPUR, ULI, and the Silicon Valley Economic Development Alliance, while reaching out to other related professional organizations to expand your opportunities for learning, networking, and advancement. Finally, with the National Planning Conference coming to San Francisco April 13–16, we in the Northern Section will be preparing assiduously to welcome planners from across the country.
Last year, Northern Section introduced two new tracks that the Board hopes will be valuable to and popular with our members. Our Distance Education Coordinator, Shannon Hake, AICP, will create new events and expand on many of our existing ones (most of which will offer CM credits) to make them available online. At the same time, our Mid-Career Planning Group Coordinator, Miroo Desai, AICP, will focus on finding resources and creating new events and workshops specifically for those of us in the middle of our planning careers.
A good start
By the time you read this, your Section board will have held its annual retreat to reflect on last year’s successes and challenges as a way to guide us in what we want to do in 2019. I’ll share in our March issue what we’ve come up with, as well as what we’re doing to implement some of the great ideas we rolled out last year.
Again, I am honored to work on your behalf to bring you additional programming, events, and resources, while validating what made you fall in love with planning. Together, let’s make 2019 a very special year for planning in northern California.