Curated by Silvia Sulis, AICP, LEED AP ND
Jeff Ballantine, AICP
Jeff Ballantine, AICP (he/him) recently joined the City of El Cerrito as a Senior Planner. He previously worked as an associate and senior planner for El Cerrito, then returned after a couple of years at the City of San Rafael. Some of his most interesting projects from these cities include the proposed redevelopment of the San Rafael Northgate Mall into 1,422 residential units, the redevelopment of the WildCare wildlife hospital and nature education center in San Rafael, and several proposed mixed-use developments in El Cerrito’s San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan area. Ballantine’s prior professional experience also includes working as a project manager at MIG, an associate planner at the City of Woodland, and a contract planner for the cities of Dixon, Ione, and Suisun City.
What he most enjoys about being a planner is the opportunity to continually learn about best practices and analytical tools from a variety of specializations.
Jeff enjoys playing on league tennis teams, tending to his garden, and learning about local histories (the East Bay Yesterday podcast is a favorite). He also enjoys exploring the Bay Area with his wife, Cindy Ma (former Diversity Co-Chair for APA Northern California), and two children, Phillip and Grace.
Channing Bickford, AICP, LCI
Channing Bickford recently joined Northern Section’s Board as Events Program Manager. He works as a transportation planner at Kimley-Horn in Oakland. He is currently working on the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a statewide effort to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries across the state. Bickford is passionate about creating vibrant communities that are walkable, bikeable, accessible, have good public transportation, and have an interesting urban fabric. He holds a master’s in city and regional planning from Rutgers University and bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies and Asian studies from Marlboro College.
When not working, Channing enjoys traveling, exploring, and learning the history of the places he visits and lives in, especially from a planning or transportation perspective. He is a big fan of nature in urban areas, such as street trees, public parks, and urban nature preserves.
Jennifer M. Gates, AICP
Jennifer M. Gates, AICP recently became the Community Development Director for the City of Sonoma. She is currently working with the Planning Commission and City Council on merging the Building and Planning Departments into one Community Development Department and will soon start working on the General Plan Update, the implementation of the Housing Element, and a housing education program.
Gates has extensive experience in the public sector and has worked as a planner for the City of Encinitas, the City of Laguna Beach, City of San Clemente, the City of Tulsa, and the City of Oklahoma City. She also served on the board of the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, APA Oklahoma, and APA California, Orange County Section. Some of her most interesting past projects include a Wayfinding Sign Program in San Clemente and the Housing Element in Encinitas. Her favorite aspect of being a planner is how every project is an opportunity to learn about people, the natural and built environment, and what policies are working or not.
Gates holds a master’s in city planning with a focus in economic and community development and a MS in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in environmental design from the University of Oklahoma.
Jennifer enjoys traveling to new places with friends and family, and hiking the North Bay with her two rescue pups, Gatsby and Carnegie.
Carla Mays recently joined Northern Section’s Board as the Regional Activity Coordinator for San Francisco. Mays is the Co-Founder and head of Global Policy and Research at #SmartCohort, and a Founding Principal at Mays Civic Innovation. Her expertise includes digital transformation, smart cities, and transportation equity.
Mays’s work is focused on governance, finance and policy implementation. As the leader of #SmartCohort, she strives to enable an equitable, smart, and disaster-resilient world through applied research, programs, and international educational exchanges. Her work spans the globe, with a focus on Asia-Pacific, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Greater Gulf Cooperation (GCC), Germany and Switzerland. Mays has also served as a UN Climate Action delegate with her work leading a #RoadToCOP28. She is also passionate about supporting her own community. This summer, Mays has joined the ULI San Francisco Committee on San Francisco Downtown Recovery.
Mays received both a bachelor’s and master’s in public administration from San Francisco State University. She is an alumna of UC Berkeley – Haas School of Business Executive Program, the Executive Global Cities Program at the London School of Economics, and the Future Cities Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She has held fellowships at Clean Energy Leadership Institute, Urban Land Institute San Francisco Pathway to Inclusion, and CORO’s Resilient San Francisco Leadership Academy
Resilience during the pandemic.
Dhawal Kataria, AICP, RSP1
After a year as a guest writer, Dhawal Kataria, AICP, RSP1 (he/him) officially joined the Northern Section’s Board as an Associate Editor on the Northern News, where he will continue to write Meet a Local Planner.
Kataria works as a transportation planner at Kittelson & Associates in Oakland. He is passionate about multimodal transportation and committed to fostering healthy, sustainable, and safe communities. He previously worked in both the public and private sector, including TJMK Transportation Consultants in the Bay Area, Rockford Metropolitan Planning Organization (Rockford, IL), and the City of Cedar Hill in Texas. Some of his most recent projects include the Central Alameda Comprehensive Multimodal Corridor Plan, the circulation elements of Oakland’s and Livermore’s General Plan updates, the San Mateo Quiet Zone Traffic Study, and the San Mateo Local Road Safety Plan.
What Kataria likes the most about being a planner is the opportunity to work on complex issues while making a meaningful impact on the lives of those around him. Additionally, he finds that planners seem to never run out of conversation topics at social gatherings!
Kataria holds a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington and a bachelor’s in urban planning from the School of Planning and Architecture Vijaywada (India). Outside of work, Dhawal enjoys playing chess, sketching, reading short stories, taking walks around Lake Merritt, trying out different cuisines, and watching documentaries.
Justin Meek, AICP (he/him) is Northern Section’s new Treasurer, and previously served as the Monterey Regional Activity Coordinator.
Meek is a Principal Planner at the City of Watsonville and has over 20 years of professional experience on planning and environmental projects in both the public and private sectors. Over his professional career he has provided planning services and environmental documentation for projects involving land development, retail, recreational, redevelopment, business parks, transportation, desalination facilities, and solid waste facilities. His work has included a wide array of public experience, from long range planning to a variety of current planning projects, such as use permitting and design review. Some of his project highlights include managing the preparation of the Marina Municipal Airport Master Plan and teaching a community assessment course at San José State University (SJSU) in the Urban and Regional Planning Department.
Meek holds a master’s in urban and regional planning from SJSU and a BA and BS in environmental studies and Earth sciences from UC Santa Cruz.
Leslie Mendez (she/her) recently joined the City of Albany as a Planning Manager. She is a skilled land use planner dedicated to public service with over two decades of experience working for local Bay Area governments. Her expertise is in project development with experience in design and environmental review.
Mendez is committed to community involvement through transparency, education, and incorporation of diverse perspectives in the planning process. She holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and a BA in environmental studies from Brown University. For the past six years she has served on the El Cerrito Planning Commission.
Leslie’s hobbies include hiking with her dog, traveling with friends and family, and solving New York Times Sunday puzzles. Through her love of puzzles and commitment to transparency and education, Leslie enjoys (yes, enjoys!) translating state laws into concise and easy to understand local ordinances. (She is currently updating Albany’s accessory dwelling unit ordinance).
Leslie believes one of the best parts of being a planner is working with the community to visualize and realize a sense of place through the built environment.
Olivia Mendoza joined Northern Section’s Board as a co-director of the Young and Emerging Planners (YEP) group, a position she previously held with the Los Angeles Chapter. She currently works as a transportation planner at Steer, where she brings enthusiasm and passion for equitable transportation through community engagement, transportation demand management (TDM), behavior change, and modeling.
Prior to joining Steer, Mendoza worked as an assistant project manager at Irvine and Associates and as a law clerk at Gilleon Law Firm, where she focused on environmental justice, land use consulting, and affordable housing in downtown Los Angeles. Some of her recent projects as a planner include Link21, TDM ordinances and plans for the City of Mountain View, the City of Sacramento, and developers in San Mateo, and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge E-bike Commute Program. Mendoza holds a BA in geology and environmental analysis from Pitzer College.
In her work, she is committed to address the wrongs of the past and give planners the opportunity to build equitable, healthy, and accessible communities through thoughtful collaboration. She also hopes to leverage her geology degree in her planning work through projects that mix transportation, natural disaster preparedness, and equity.
Olivia’s hobbies and interests include tennis, pickleball, and climbing.
Carlina Rose is the new Monterey Bay Regional Activity Coordinator for Northern Section, where she previously served as the San Jose State University Student Representative. Rose works as a TDM Coordinator for Transportation Solutions at SJSU, where she is also pursuing her master’s in urban and regional planning.
Prior to this, she worked at the SJSU Office of Sustainability as a student assistant, as a policy and legislation graduate student assistant at the City of San Jose Department of Transportation, and as an administrative manager at the Center for the Development of Recycling in San Jose. She holds a BS in environmental studies from SJSU and an AS in math and science from Norco College.
Some of Rose’s most recent projects include planning sustainability-related events at SJSU, including the Urban Planning Coalition Spring Symposium and the annual Green Career Panel. Her passion for planning stems from having the opportunity to provide tangible benefits to the community served.
Carlina loves spending time in nature, traveling to new places, and building community.
Dorothy Suchkova just joined Northern Section’s Board as the Mid-Career Planners Group Director. She currently works as the Northern California Transportation Planning Section Manager and Project Manager at HDR, where she supports various project types including, multimodal and complete streets, community engagement, community impact assessments, and traffic analysis. Currently, Suchkova is focusing her work on helping transportation agencies with early integration of equity and environmental justice principles into programs, projects, and plans.
Prior to HDR, she had roles in the public and non-profit sectors in California, New York and New Jersey, including the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), New York City Mayor’s Office, The Horticultural Society of New York, Rutgers University Department of Transportation, and Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. As a planner, she enjoys working in a multidisciplinary field and always having an opportunity to learn. She holds a master’s in city and regional planning from Rutgers University and a BS in environmental science from UCLA.
Dorothy’s interests and hobbies include meditation, walking, and time management.
Logan Woodruff, AICP
Logan Woodruff, AICP (he/him) is one of the new Events Program Managers on Northern Section’s Board. In his new role, he hopes to bring fresh, welcoming, and inclusive programs, and build momentum with regular programming, timely communication, and a variety of outreach strategies. Woodruff is an Associate with PlaceWorks’ Parks and Open Space Planning and Design team, focusing on long-range conceptual planning and design for parks, trails, and open spaces at a regional scale, community engagement, strategic communications, and interpretive programming. Some of his most recent and ongoing projects include the Big Basin Redwoods State Park Facilities Management Plan, Bay to Sea Trail Feasibility Study, and a project to Re-Envision the Statewide California State Parks Junior Rangers Program.
Before joining PlaceWorks, Woodruff worked at MIG, the City of Oakland, DIS Study Abroad in Scandinavia, and the Forum for Urban Design in New York City. He is an empathetic planner and a strong storyteller. Through the principles of Design Thinking, he strives to weave community and stakeholder priorities together with professional expertise and quantitative analysis. As a strong visual communicator, he enjoys breaking down complicated policies, procedures, and datasets into meaningful and digestible insights, diagrams, and illustrations that support informed and productive discourse.
Woodruff holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning and landscape architecture from UC Berkeley, and a BA in urban studies from Vassar College. His interests and hobbies include biking, yoga, graphic design, landscape photography, and board games.
Michael Wooley-Ousdahl, AICP
Michael Wooley-Ousdahl is the new Marketing & Sponsorship Manager for the APA California–Northern Section Board. He originally joined the Board in 2021 as Regional Activity Coordinator (RAC) for San Francisco. He currently works as a transportation planning and operations manager at Google.
Wooley-Ousdahl has over 15 years of planning experience focused on transportation planning and operations, working in both the public and private sectors, in projects all over the world. As a planner, he loves the breadth of the field and the opportunity to work with broad range of experts.
Wooley-Ousdahl holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning and public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In his spare time, Michael enjoys exploring cities, riding transit, and spending time with his family.