Author: Naphtali Knox

Director’s note: Rethinking our public spaces and health

Director’s note: Rethinking our public spaces and health

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, May 13, 2020

Playgrounds and benches are roped off. Cars during rush hour on freeways “rush” without traffic jams. Parking garages sit empty and parking meters are moneyless. Meanwhile, people are getting pushed out of crowded parks and are starting to take over streets once dominated by automobiles.

People seem genuinely happier on the streets now than they were a few months ago.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed long bike rides, my dog in tow, in our refreshingly clean air, great spring weather, and nearly car-free streets. I cross streets without having to press a button, and jog in an empty roadway lane without worrying about twisting my ankle on all the curb ramps I’d encounter on sidewalks. I can avoid the “door zone” (where most bicyclists are forced to ride) and I no longer need to limit my route to neighborhood streets and streets with bike lanes, giving me the freedom I would normally have in a car.

My first full day of married life was largely spent biking around the streets of San Jose at Viva CalleSJ, one of the many great open streets events that take place across the globe. These events “open” the streets to people to walk, run, or roll around, exploring neighborhoods and businesses that people whiz by in cars most of the time. These events celebrate our culture, encourage healthy lifestyles, and rethink the way we plan for public spaces.

While these events are usually temporary, some become more permanent. San Francisco has for years opened large sections of streets in Golden Gate Park to people (not cars) on weekends. Several cities (San Francisco included) have established “slow streets” to better encourage social distancing during this pandemic. And the City of Seattle plans to close 20 miles of streets permanently to most vehicular traffic so people can stay healthy.

As people embrace car-free or car-light lifestyles, what changes will we make to streets — our largest public spaces — to accommodate people and promote health? What aspects of our current environment will extend post-COVID, and how will we view our streets once we slowly stop the distancing? What will plazas and parks look like in the future, and will they be seamlessly connected to “healthy” or “complete” streets around them?

As you travel the streets and experience other public spaces in your city, think about what changes you want to see to promote staying active, keeping social distance, and creating community. I envision wider sidewalks with level street crossings, slower-speed streets where bikes and cars can safely commingle, and additional landscaping for more shade and fresh air.

Welcome, new planners!

As we enter graduation season, I offer a warm welcome to our new planners and encourage them to hold their heads high. I can only imagine their concerns as they enter our profession during an economic downturn and global pandemic. With a tighter job market, new challenges interviewing and onboarding remotely, and an uncertain outcome, this can be a stressful time. It can also be a time of opportunity as the planning world faces our current and future challenges.

What skills will these eager new planners bring to our profession? I hope we can learn from their experience, growing up in a digital age and fluent in asynchronous communication — something we all appear to be practicing in our readjusted schedules.

Law and Ethics CM credits REGISTRATION is OPEN

Law and Ethics CM credits REGISTRATION is OPEN

By Libby Tyler, FAICP, February 22, 2020

Do you

  • Still need to fulfill your mandatory AICP|CM credits for Ethics or Law?
  • Want to learn more about how recent housing legislation preempts local planning?
  • Learn about ethics using a fun game-show platform?

APA California–Northern Section’s Annual Law/Ethics Training Program will be held Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 8:30 am to 12:00 noon, at the Alameda County Training & Education Center, 125 Twelfth Street, Suite 400, Oakland CA (4 short blocks north of Lake Merritt BART Station).


Coffee break/networking (10:00 to 10:30)


Come join us for our annual Saturday morning “two-fer.” At 8:30, Attorney Eric Phillips (Burke, Williams & Sorensen) will discuss how recent and pending housing legislation in California is preempting local planning review and signaling the end of zoning exclusively for single-family residences. At 10:30, a panel of experts led by Darcy Kremin, AICP, (Rincon Consultants) will put your knowledge to the test using Kahoot! — a popular learning game — in a lively and engaging refresher of the Code of Ethics.

Registration required; go here.

Questions? Contact Libby Tyler, FAICP, Northern Section Ethics Director, online or at  (217) 493-4372.

Northern News adds editors

Northern News adds editors

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, editor

The Northern Section Board’s executive committee has appointed three associate editors, and all have contributed to producing the February 2020 issue:

The three are:

Richard Davis, a survey re­search­er at UC Ber­ke­ley’s Trans­porta­tion Sus­tain­ability Re­search Cen­ter and a research assist­ant at San Jose State Uni­ver­sity’s Mineta Trans­porta­tion In­sti­tute (MTI). Recently, he co-au­thored the re­port A Frame­work for Inte­grat­ing Trans­porta­tion into Smart Cities, published by MTI in No­vem­ber 2019. Davis is a graduate stu­dent in the urban and regional plan­ning program at San Jose State. He holds a BA in screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University. He grew up in Cupertino, where he now resides.


Andrea Marde­sich is a senior plan­ner for the City of San Carlos who pre­vious­ly worked as a contract city plan­ner with Neal Martin & Asso­ciates. She holds a master of business administration from Kaplan Univer­sity and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Santa Clara University, and is currently obtaining her master of urban plan­ning San Jose State University. Mardesich lives in San Carlos with her husband and two children.


Sajuti Rah­man, a man­age­ment an­alyst with the City of San Car­los Com­mun­ity Devel­op­ment De­part­ment. She pre­vious­ly worked in economic development with Suisun City and on affordable housing with BRIDGE Housing. Rahman holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State University and a BA in urban studies from UC San Diego.

You can reach us at

Northern Section Holiday Party kicks off the Season

Northern Section Holiday Party kicks off the Season

By Libby Tyler, FAICP

The Northern Section Holiday Party kicked off the holiday season in festive style. More than 100 planners and friends attended the November 22nd event held at La Peña Cultural Center, a longtime Berkeley institution that promotes social justice, arts participation, and intercultural understanding.

The venue, La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley

Attendees enjoyed the Mexican food and drinks offered by the on-site restaurant Los Cilantros, and listened to the mesmerizing vocals, drums, and classical guitar of the Wasska Project. The highlight of the evening was an extensive and enticing array of raffle prizes donated by the event sponsors and by the California Planning Foundation (CPF) and presented in great showman fashion by Juan Borrelli, AICP. The raffle raised funds to support the CPF’s diversity scholarship program.

Many thanks to our sponsors for the evening: M-Group, Placeworks, MIG, Raimi + Associates, and Libby Tyler at the Platinum level; Dyett & Bhatia and AECOM at the Gold level; and AKRF and Rincon Consultants at the Silver level. Thanks also to the Holiday Party Planning Committee members, Della Acosta, AICP; Tom Holub, and Libby Tyler, FAICP, as well as Sarah Allen, AICP; Terry Blount, AICP; Michael Cass, James Castañeda, AICP; James Hinkamp, AICP; Greg Holisko, AICP; Matt Kawashima, and Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, for their additional support. Event volunteers included Abigail Brown, Izanie Love, Laurel Mathews, Marta Polovin, Brianne Reyes, and Leslie Trejo.

Thank you also to all who joined in the Holiday Party, and to all those who supported the California Planning Foundation. It is never too late to donate to CPF — just click here.

Happy Holidays, and check out all of these Tom Holub photos from our fabulous party!

Looks like Abigail Brown won a vase!
Claudia Garcia of Ascent Environmental chats with James Hinkamp, AICP, of Contra Costa Transportation Authority, and a member of the Holiday Party Planning Committee.
Mariela Herrera and Javier Trujillo of Wasska Project
Current, future, and former Northern Section Directors: Hanson Hom, AICP; Andrea Ouse, AICP; Darcy Kremin, AICP; Mark Rhoades, AICP; Wendy Cosin; Hing Wong, AICP; Jonathan Schuppert, AICP; James Castañeda, AICP; Sharon Grewal, AICP; and Juan Borrelli, AICP.
Nancy Finkle.
George Foster, USC planning student.
SJSU Masters of Urban Planning alums. Back row: Avalon Schultz, AICP; Carmela Campbell, AICP; Emma Reed, AICP; Hing Wong, AICP; Mark Young; Hanson Hom, AICP. Seated: Veronica Flores, Mariaclara Zazzaro.
Libby Tyler, FAICP
Darcy Kremin, AICP, wins, with Hing Wong, AICP, and Juan Borrelli, AICP.
Are congested streets and highways just around the corner?
On Fremont in San Francisco, looking NW across Howard St. and Salesforce Park, 4:45 pm

Are congested streets and highways just around the corner?

By Naphtali H. Knox, FAICP, editor, May 3, 2020

Probably all of us have seen and read the considerable speculation and hope — recently expressed by urban and transportation planners, not to mention commuters — that, as the pandemic eases, our city/state/country won’t revert to the congested streets and highways of past years. I have seen some interesting data about the past, including, from the Eno Center for Transportation, The last time VMT dropped this sharply was WWII.

I also saw a study out of Vanderbilt University’s Work Research Group, The rebound: how COVID-19 could lead to worse traffic,” that forecasts an incredible spike in congestion in San Francisco “unless transit systems can resume safe, high throughput operations quickly. The cities most at risk include” San Francisco because, as Jay Barmann reported in SFist, May 7th, of it’s “relatively heavy dependence on transit and the fact that 3 out of 4 transit users here also own a car.”

Graphic by Work Research Group, Vanderbilt university

Barmann continued: “But given how slowly the Bay Area is expected to reopen businesses — and how many people are unemployed and how many companies will likely allow remote working for months to come — the ‘carmageddon’ scenarios here could be quite a ways off.”

As a reminder of how eerily quiet the roads were two months ago, I offer 12 photos showing the near total absence of vehicular activity in and around San Francisco on March 27 during what would have been the Friday afternoon getaway. The photos were taken by my pre-teen grandchildren Hazel and Karl as their mom drove. The drive started and ended in the East Bay and crossed all three core area bridges. The first photo was taken at 4:41 pm and the last one at 5:22 pm.

Westbound on the west span of the Bay Bridge, 4:41 pm


On Fremont looking northwest across Howard St. and Salesforce Park, 4:45 pm


At Pine Street, looking north along Front  St. toward One Maritime Plaza. 4:46 pm


Looking up Powell from Pine Street at 4:48 pm


Looking up Franklin from California at 4:52 pm


Northbound on the Golden Gate Bridge at 5:01 pm


Northbound Highway 101, passing through Sausalito on the Waldo Grade, 5:04 pm


Leaving northbound Hwy 101 at the Richmond Bridge exit, 5:09 pm


Eastbound on the Richmond Bridge at 5:15 pm


Highway 80 eastbound, passing through El Cerrito at 5:20 pm


Driving south on Highway 80 eastbound, Albany Hill on the left. 5:21 pm


Eastbound Highway 80, Albany exit, 5:22 pm
Governor suspends Brown and Bagley-Keene Act meeting requirements
US Forest Service photo, July 2009

Governor suspends Brown and Bagley-Keene Act meeting requirements

By California News Publishers Association, March 12, 2020

“Governor Gavin Newsom [has] issued an Executive Order suspending meeting requirements of the Brown Act and Bagley-Keene Act in response to the increasing threat posed by the Coronavirus.

“The order authorizes state and local bodies to hold public meetings by teleconference and to make public meetings accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to attend and to address the local or state agencies. …

The order suspends a number of teleconference requirements until the Governor lifts the emergency.

“The Executive Order requires state and local agencies that meet by teleconference under the order to:

“(i) Give advance notice of each public meeting, according to the timeframe otherwise prescribed by the Bagley-Keene Act or the Brown Act, and use the means otherwise prescribed by the Bagley-Keene Act or the Brown Act, as applicable; and

“(ii) Consistent with the notice requirement in paragraph (i), each state or local body must notice at least one publicly accessible location from which members of the public shall have the right to observe and offer public comment at the public meeting, consistent with the public’s rights of access and public comment otherwise provided for by the Bagley­ Keene Act and the Brown Act …

“The Order does not affect other key provisions of either act, including requirements to notify the public on each agenda of what is to be discussed at an open or closed session of the teleconferenced meetings, or the ability of the public to obtain agenda packets or other documents used by decision-makers for the meetings. Nor does the order change what the respective bodies are required to publicly report after they meet in closed session.”

Read more here.

Read the Executive Order here.

Director’s note

Director’s note

By Jonathan Schuppert, AICP

MARCH marks the start of my fourth year at Facebook. During my first orientation there, my newby colleagues and I were challenged to “commit to being a little terrified every day.” I took that to heart — and ultimately created a poster with that message to remind me — that if I’m comfortable, I’m not being adequately challenged, and I need to find something new to keep me mentally energized.

When James Castañeda, the previous Director of APA California–Northern, and I spoke about his new job opportunity in LA and my expedited path to Section Director, that long-ago quote reminded me to be flexible and adapt to new situations.

Was I excited for this new professional challenge, yes. Was I excited for what this meant for my career growth, yep. Was I a bit terrified, absolutely!

I share this to challenge everyone — including myself — to find areas where we can expand our knowledge, learn new skills, take on risks, and continue to be leaders who can shape our world so future generations can thrive.

Midway through our Section retreat on February 1st, I officially became APA California–Northern Section’s Director, then led our board through a goal setting exercise. I took a moment to reflect on our Section’s accomplishments and encouraged our board members to think about where we want the profession to be at the end of this new decade — and what we, as individuals and as representatives of our Section, can do to get there.

At the retreat, we broke into focus groups to start preparing work plans for the year, identify issues and tools needed for success, and confirm partnerships that will increase our impact. As always, our board not only collaborated, but pushed the envelope. Themes we embraced include providing high-value programming for members, embracing technology to reach larger audiences, supporting students, adding program opportunities for emerging and mid-career planners, and growing our partnerships.

To improve our impact and streamline our efforts, I’ve made my initiatives for 2020 to better document our procedures, create onboarding resources, and update our bylaws.

In the optometry world, 2020 represents perfect vision. I’m excited to make 2020 a year of vision and clarity for our APA section and a year for me to think about my long-term goals and visions for the efforts in which I’m involved.

Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint

I hope 2020 inspires you to identify (or reassess) your long-term goals and push you out of your comfort zone whenever you feel too comfortable. Find small actions you can take to work toward your goals, check in often with yourself to see how you’re progressing, and don’t forget to celebrate the small victories — they really add up.

Northern News – June 2018
Photo by Denise Pinkston

Northern News – June 2018


Reverse BANANA: Build all Kinds of Housing Almost Everywhere

Naphtali Knox, FAICP, interviews Denise Pinkston, MCRP. We need that “missing middle,” from ADUs to fourplexes. If a third of the Bay Area’s existing single-family homes each added one unit over the next decade, we would add half-a-million homes with no visible disruption to our communities. Page 1. (For those who haven’t run across it yet, BANANA goes a step beyond NIMBY to “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.”)

Nonprofit Takes Bay Area Cities to Court

Bill Chapin. The California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA) has been racking up legal victories, forcing Bay Area cities to reverse course and approve new housing. Page 4

The Evolution and Application of a CEQA Exemption

Stephen Velyvis. Any parking and aesthetic impacts of transit-oriented infill projects located within transit priority areas cannot be considered significant environmental impacts and are thus exempt from CEQA. But there’s a history to that. Page 8

The Very Best

Announcing the 2018 Northern Section Award Winners. Page 12

Read as a virtual magazine

Download or read as a PDF

SFUFF starts Sunday; some events are free

SFUFF starts Sunday; some events are free

By Fay Darmawi

SF Urban Film Fest’s mission is to leverage the power of storytelling to spark discussion and civic engagement around urban issues. We focus on what it means to live together in a city and how to make urban planning more equitable and inclusive.

For its 6th annual festival, the SF Urban Film Fest presents thought provoking films, panel discussions, and storytelling workshops around the theme of “Place and the Populist Revolt.”  In our most ambitious program yet, we investigate how cities are ground zero for the struggle to hold onto — or finding — a place, both for those already there and for the newly arrived. To help us collectively process these changes and challenges, we follow each film-screening with a discussion that is framed to develop community-centered solutions to ground us in the spirit of place. To help facilitate holistic discussions, the panels intentionally comprise a balance of storytellers, filmmakers, and artists, as well as policy subject experts and practitioners. 

During the week of February 2-9, 2020, events will be held at six important cultural and civic venues throughout San Francisco including SPUR, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Bayanihan Community Center, the Lab, and the Roxie Theater. Details on programs and tickets can be found on our website.

At the end of the festival, on February 9, we feature two storytelling workshops at SPUR, developed specifically for planners. The best place to start is Level 1 Workshop: How to Use Storytelling in Transportation Planning where you will learn storytelling basics in an hour and a half. Next, apply what you learned in Level 1 to storyboard with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) at Level 2 Workshop: Make a Bad Video Better: SFCTA Congestion Pricing Study. Registration fees are $10 for Level 1 and $15 for Level 2.  If you register for both Level 1 and Level 2 the combined fee is $20. CM credits are pending for both workshops. 


The SF Urban Film Fest was founded by Fay Darmawi in 2014 to raise awareness of potential urban planning solutions to the housing crisis. It is curated and produced by a cross-disciplinary team representing academia, urban planning, housing finance, multi-media production, and independent film. Fay’s formal urbanist training is from M.I.T., where she earned her master’s in city planning, and the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., urban studies), but her love of cities is from her childhood, growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia. (Photo by Michael Axtell)

Northern Section postpones planning tour to Middle East

Northern Section postpones planning tour to Middle East

International Directors Alex Hinds and Hing Wong, AICP, have postponed until 2021 Northern Section’s previously scheduled 2020 tour to the Middle East.

“Our decision reflects the value we place on the health and safety of all those who travel with us and the severity of and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said in a report to the Northern Section Board.

“We are considering, however, an international planning collaboration to be conducted online later this year. Although not confirmed, a potential project has been identified to exchange information on public engagement strategies with an advisory committee appointed by the municipality of Puebla, Mexico.”