Author: Mari Hsu

Who’s where

Who’s where

Sarah Allen, AICP, has ac­­­cep­ted a new pos­it­ion as Pro­ject Dev­elo­per with Eden Hous­ing in Hay­ward. She is leaving her position as assistant planning director at the City of Lafayette, where she has been working since she started in 2007 as an intern. Allen’s new position will entail all aspects of project development for affordable housing including identifying properties for sale or in need of rehabilitation, finding funding sources, pursuing entitlements (on the other side of the counter now), overseeing construction, and tenanting the buildings with veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income individuals and families. Allen holds a master’s in urban planning and real estate development from USC and a bachelor’s in sociology from CSU Sacramento.


Nisha Chau­han, AICP, has left Al­ame­da Coun­ty as a sen­ior plan­ner to be­come a Sen­ior Land Plan­ner with PG&E. She also serves as a legislative liaison with the California Association of Environmental Professionals, evaluating proposed environmental and land use planning bills for members of the legislature. Chauhan’s work included managing large solar projects, transportation (rail and freeway expansion), flood protection, drainage, water supply, residential, and mixed-use projects. She holds an undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz in environmental studies and a certificate of completion in land use and environmental planning from UC Davis Extension.


Ranu Ag­gar­wal, AICP, was recently pro­mot­ed to Prin­ci­pal Plan­ner at M-­Group. She is an ac­com­pli­shed urban planner with an interdisciplinary approach to planning and with advanced skills in GIS, policy, communications, environmental review, development and design review, and permitting. Aggarwal holds a B.Arch from Sir J.J. College of Architecture, University of Mumbai; a master of landscape architecture from UMass, Amherst; and a master of regional and city planning from the University of Oklahoma, Norman. She enjoys hiking, gardening, and home improvement projects.


Samuel Gut­ier­rez has moved on from six-­and-­a-­half years of cur­rent plan­ning work with the City of Palo Alto’s Plan­ning and Dev­elop­ment Ser­vic­es Dep­art­ment to the post of Prin­ci­pal Plan­ner in the Dep­art­ment of Plan­ning and Development, County of Santa Clara. Gutierrez holds a master’s in urban and regional planning from San José State University, a bachelor’s in urban studies and planning from CSU Northridge, and an associate degree from Pasadena City College.


Chris­to­pher Nich­olas has join­ed Good City Com­pany as a Sen­ior Plan­ner, where he will be work­ing on high-­level pro­ject plan­ning, adva­nce plan­ning, and trans­por­tat­ion-­re­lat­ed pro­jects. Nicholas grew up in Vallejo and spent 12 years on the east coast before moving back to California to work in Caltrans’s Office of Regional and Community Planning. During his time at Caltrans, he was a guest speaker at APA’s National Conference in San Francisco, April 2019, a project manager for the Statewide Streetlight Data Pilot Program, and helped develop Vehicle Mile Travel guidance for Caltrans. Nicholas holds a master’s in urban planning from Virginia Commonwealth University and a bachelor’s in architectural design from North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro.


Renata Robles was re­cent­ly pro­mo­ted to sen­ior plan­ner at the City of La­fay­ette where she had worked as an associate planner since 2020 and co-led the Housing Element update for the city. That included developing and implementing community outreach around the update process; collaborating with the public, architects, builders, attorneys, contractors, and engineers in the City’s entitlement process; and other housing-related projects. Robles completed coursework in landscape architecture and urban design at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and received her BA in urban and environmental studies from Brown University. She will graduate with a masters of urban planning from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy in May 2022.


Kate White is lead­ing a cross-­dis­ci­plin­ary init­iat­ive as Arup San Fran­cisco’s new Re­stor­ative Com­muni­ties Lead­er, focus­ed on re­con­nect­ing neigh­bor­hoods his­toric­ally harmed by urban roadways. She has been with Arup for the past three years as a planning policy leader in the San Francisco office, assisting public and private sectors in implementing ambitious mobility, climate, equity, and sustainability goals. White was a deputy secretary with CalSTA, the state transportation agency, for five years and served as executive director of ULI San Francisco for six years. A current board member of the San José SPUR branch, she holds a master’s in public and urban administration from San Francisco State University and a BA in political science from Oberlin College.


Jerry Wil­burn re­cent­ly ac­cept­ed a posi­tion as Pro­gram Man­ager at the Bill Wil­son Cen­ter in Santa Clara, which provides services for homeless youth across Santa Clara county. Wilburn’s previous work was at the tiny homes transitional village as program manager for People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) in San José in conjunction with his master’s thesis in urban and regional planning at San José State University. In addition to his master’s, Wilburn holds a bachelor of applied science in urban planning/sociology (B.A.Sc.) also from San José State.

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Who’s where

Who’s where

James A. Casta­ñeda, AICP, who joined the North­ern Sect­ion Board in 2011 and was Di­rec­tor of our North­ern Sect­ion in 2019 and 2020 before de­part­ing for Los Angeles, is now a senior assoc­iate at Place­Works’ Los Angeles office. Pre-pandemic, Castañeda was a planner for the County of San Mateo for 14 years as both a program coordinator for the SFO Community Roundtable and a project planner in the Current Planning Section. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP hired him as senior land-use planner for their Los Angeles office early in 2020. Castañeda holds a BS in city and regional planning from New Mexico State University. He still plays SimCity 4, lives in West Hollywood, and is engaged to a city planner.



Isabel Cas­tel­lano, whose di­verse train­ing in­cludes arch­itect­ure, cons­erva­tion, and arch­aeo­logy, has joined M-­Group as Hist­oric Pres­erva­tion Spec­ial­ist. Prior to M-Group, she contributed to the technical development of a number of architectural and urban planning projects. Most recently, Castellano worked for PPM Consulting Engineers as a consultant to the City of Miami Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Division, overseeing various historic districts and designated structures. She holds a master of arts in conservation studies for historic buildings from the University of York (England) and a B.Arch. from Syracuse University. Her architectural passion is preserving local culture, craft, and design. Castellano enjoys traveling to diverse cities and recording, learning, and deciphering the local architecture, culture, and cuisine.


Mari Hsu has been ap­point­ed Assoc­iate Edit­or for North­ern News, in add­it­ion to their duties as the SJSU Stud­ent Rep­resent­ative to the North­ern Section Board. Hsu is entering their last semester of the master of urban and regional planning program and is writing about community outreach efforts around the San Francisco and Oakland bus rapid transit line implementations. Having grown up in a part of Appalachia that relies solely on personal cars, advocating for public and active transit is near and dear to Hsu’s heart. They are also an advocate on issues of social and racial justice and hope to work at this intersection in the near future. Hsu holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Bryn Mawr College.


Ashley James, AICP, has been elec­ted Treas­urer of the North­ern Section. Her term of of­fice will run through 2023. Among other duties, the Treas­urer pre­pares our an­nual budget, and receives and disperses funds as authorized. James is an associate planner with the City of Berkeley. Before that, she was an associate planner with the City of Vallejo and an associate at PlaceWorks (Berkeley). James holds a master of urban and regional planning (economic and workforce development) from the University of Minnesota and a BS in environmental economics from the University of New Hampshire.


Mary Mc­Gee is the new UC Berk­eley Stud­ent Rep­resent­ative to the North­ern Section Board. A first year grad­uate student at UC Berkeley pursuing concurrent master’s degrees in city planning and public health, she hails from Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental economics and geography from Colgate University. McGee is passionate about creating healthy and equitable cities and communities for all. She is also interested in transportation, commuting behaviors, active transportation, and design/user experience. McGee loves being outdoors (skiing, hiking, biking, etc.) and exploring new places, especially through food and performance arts.


Guido Per­si­cone, AICP, who for the past six years has been plan­ning mana­ger for East Palo Alto and Los Altos, is now with the City of Marina as Com­mun­ity Dev­elop­ment Direc­tor. Persicone has 18-plus years of experience in complex urban infill development, zoning code updates, and affordable and Below Market Rate housing. He holds a master’s in urban and regional planning from SJSU and a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Riverside. He and his wife have two children and live in south San Jose. When he has spare time, Persicone runs or hikes the trails and hills around his neighborhood or walks his new puppy, Charlie.

Rachael A. Tanner, who was ap­pointed by the Board of Super­visors to the San Fran­cisco Plan­ning Com­mis­sion in 2020, has been elected by her col­leagues to serve as pres­i­dent of the com­mis­sion. Tanner is the As­sistant Director of Plan­ning and Develo­ment Ser­vices for the City of Palo Alto. Before that, she was a senior planner for the City and County of San Francisco and legislative aide to District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai. She holds a master of city planning from MIT and BA in political science from the University of Michigan.

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Who’s where

Who’s where

Jim Berg­doll, AICP, who had been a sen­­ior plan­­ner for hous­­ing at the City of Dub­­lin, is now Sen­­ior As­soci­ate at Raimi + As­soci­ates. He has a passion for more equitable and sustainable cities, neighbor­hoods, and housing developments. Over the course of his career, he was a housing and urban planning consultant, a director of real estate development and government programs with Habitat for Humanity, and an urban designer/planner with the San Francisco Planning Department. Bergdoll holds a master of city planning from UC Berkeley and a B.S. in architecture from the University of Virginia. He has resided primarily in Oakland for the past 30 years and enjoys biking on the regional park trails and in the city.

Danae Hall, AICP, has been ap­point­ed as Awards Pro­gram Di­rec­tor for the North­ern Sect­ion Board. She pre­vious­ly served as the Young and Emerging Planners Director. Hall is a Project Manager with Kimley-Horn where she leads CEQA/NEPA efforts for a variety of projects around the Bay Area. She holds an M.S. in environmental management from the University of San Francisco and a B.A. in environmental economics from California State University, Chico.

Dha­wal Ka­tar­ia, AICP, join­ed Ki­ttel­son & As­soci­ates in Oak­land as a Trans­porta­tion Plan­ner after two years with TJKM Trans­porta­tion Con­sul­tants. In addition to a master’s degree in city and regional planning and a GIS certification from the University of Texas at Arlington, Kataria earned a bachelor’s in planning from the School of Planning and Architecture, Vijayawada. He is experienced in transportation safety, long-range transportation plans, streetscape improvements, complete streets design, and transportation funding projects in California, Texas, and Illinois. Kataria is passionate about multimodal transportation and creating healthy, sustainable, and safe communities. When not wondering about how to plan great communities, he enjoys hiking, biking, playing chess, taking road trips, and trying adventure sports.

Prat­hna Mah­araj, AICP, has been ap­point­ed the new You­ng and Emer­ging Plan­ners Group Di­rec­tor on the Nort­hern Sec­tion Board. She is an Envi­ron­men­tal Plan­ning Ana­lyst at Kimley-Horn who has worked as a teacher in Irvine and San Mateo assisting college-bound students to develop reading skills, clarify ambitions, and prep for standardized testing. Maharaj has a master’s in urban planning from UC Irvine, and a B.S. in environmental science and management from UC Davis. She previously was the UCI Student Liaison for the APA and AEP Orange Section. Maharaj has built her career in sustainable development, with an emphasis on climate adaptation and mitigation, and urban resiliency.

Sonja Cald­well Kos, AICP, is now Di­ver­sity Co-­Di­rec­tor on the North­ern Sec­tion Board. She has been a planner for the City of San Carlos and the City and County of San Francisco, a lecturer for San Jose State University, and a mediator. During her eight years as a code enforcement planner with the City and County of San Francisco, Kos worked proactively with the departments of Building, Health, Police and Fire as well as the office of the City Attorney and the District Attorney’s Office as a representative of the Mayor’s Bayview Neighborhood Rescue Team. She has a BArch. from Hampton University (Virginia) and a master of regional planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Ramon Meraz re­cent­ly re­turn­ed from sev­eral years in Ha­waii as an Am­eri­corps VISTA mem­ber and separately as a To­bac­co Heal­th Ed­uca­tion Man­ager for the Ma­la­ma Po­no Heal­th Ser­vices. Meraz is now working with Generation Housing in Santa Rosa as their Community Engagement Director. He is excited to be working to increase the political and community will for increased housing, educating elected and appointed officials and the community about the link between housing and quality of life in Sonoma County.

James M. Moore is also back on the main­land as Com­muni­ty De­velop­ment Di­rec­tor for the City of Sau­sa­lito. He had been a senior planner at the County of Maui. Before that he consulted on land use, environmental planning, urban design, and mixed-use infill development strategies for private clients and Bay Area municipalities from 2017 to 2021. Moore served as director of planning and building services for the Town of Fairfax from 2009 to 2016. He holds an MCP and a BA in political science from UC Berkeley.

Ko­har Ko­ja­yan, AICP, has join­ed the Sar­es Re­gis Group of North­ern Cal­ifor­nia as Vice Pre­sid­ent after work­ing with Ther­av­ance Bio­pha­rma US, Inc. as head of real estate strategy and workplace planning. Kojayan is a former Community Development Director for the City of San Mateo, with over 16 years of public sector experience in land use planning and development. She is known for providing innovative solutions for real estate, workplace strategy, and master planning projects. Her passion is to add value to the built environment and bridge the gap in the public and private sectors through collaborative problem solving, negotiation, and consensus-building to provide innovative solutions for real estate development and workplace projects of all sizes, types, and complexities.

Gar­ri­son Rees, AICP, is now a mem­ber of the North­ern Section Board as Red­wood Coast Reg­ion­al Act­iv­ity Co­ord­ina­tor (RAC). He is a Senior Planner and Project Manager for SHN in Arcata, California. Rees has a bachelor of science degree in natural resource planning from Humboldt State University, and has 14 years of experience assisting public and private clients with planning, permitting, and environmental review services. His primary focus has been as a project manager overseeing CEQA/NEPA work and he also serves as the contract planner for the City of Blue Lake. Rees is an active member of both APA and AEP and has helped organize programs and social events for planners in Humboldt County over the last several years.

Car­lina Rose is a grad­uate stud­ent in the Dep­art­ment of Urban and Reg­ion­al Plan­ning at San Jose State Uni­ver­sity. In addition to her MUP, she is working on certificates in environmental planning, transportation and land use planning, and GIS. Rose’s current experience includes internships with the Department of Transportation for the City of San Jose and the Office of Sustainability at San Jose State. She is most concerned with low-income and underserved communities taking the brunt of climate change impacts. Among many other endeavors, Rose sees her degree in urban planning as a tool that can be used to promote accessibility, update infrastructure, and build more resilient communities.

Laura Sim­pson has begun an In­ter­im Com­mun­ity Dev­elop­ment Di­rec­tor pos­it­ion at the City of Los Altos starting Dec­em­ber 2021, after ret­ir­ing from the City of Hay­ward as De­velop­ment Ser­vices Di­rec­tor. Simpson is managing the Planning, Building, and Sustainability staff for the City and leading the Housing Element update for 2022-2031 together with Lisa Wise Consulting. Together they are working toward providing a public draft of the Housing Element in April. Simpson holds a a master of city planning from UC Berkeley and a BA in urban studies from Vassar College. She has worked for more than 30 years in planning, housing, and community development in Bay Area cities. After this interim position, she plans to travel around Portugal.

Ant­ara Tan­don is now a Sen­ior Plan­ner­/­Des­ig­ner at Raimi + As­soci­ates. An arc­hit­ect and an urban planner, she is passionate about creating sustainable and inclusive communities. She has worked in social, non-profit, private consulting, with international organizations and as an urban planner for UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya. Tandon’s strong design sensibilities, with a social conscience, have led to responsive and innovative design solutions. She holds a master’s in urban planning from Harvard University and a bachelor’s of architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

Ben­ja­min Ulrey is a Plan­ning Techn­ic­ian for the City of Con­cord, the main per­son in the Plan­ning Di­vis­ion pro­vid­ing front line cust­omer ser­vice and pro­ces­sing build­ing per­mits, busi­ness lic­enses, and other ap­pro­vals. Prior to this, Ulrey was an intern at Concord Planning providing support to the city’s Housing Element Update, SolSmart application, and several other projects. He hails from Alameda and has a diverse professional background having worked for a BART Board Director, the Alameda County Complete Count Committee, and the Measure RR campaign. Ulrey has a master’s degree in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in international security and conflict resolution from San Diego State University.

Ami Upad­hyay is join­ing Inter­west Con­sult­ing Group as a Sen­ior Plan­ner, having work­ed as a plan­ning con­sul­tant for sev­eral Bay Area com­munit­ies in current and long-range planning. With 12 years of experience in urban planning and arc­hitec­ture, she will be work­ing with the City of San Jose as­sis­ting with the City­wide Rezoning and General Plan Alignment Initiative. Upadhyay’s experience with local government planning was instrumental in the approval of large-scale residential and office developments in the Bay Area, specific plans/urban design, and active transportation plans. She has a master’s degree in urban planning from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Central Lancaster.

Sav­an­nah Van Akin has been pro­moted to As­sis­tant Plan­ner in the Com­muni­ty De­velop­ment Dep­art­ment, Town of Los Gatos. She worked as a transportation intern in the Parks and Public Works Department from April 2020 to November 2021, and as a planning intern for the Community Development Department from November 2021 to December 2021. Van Akin holds a master’s in urban planning, with a focus in community development and technology in planning, from San Jose State University. For her BA, she double-majored in sociology and geography and minored in earth science at UC Santa Barbara. In her free time, Van Akin enjoys hiking, baking, and exploring urban environments.

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