Author: Sajuti Rahman Haque

Register now for 2021 Mentorship Program

Register now for 2021 Mentorship Program

By Ellen Yau, October 13, 2020 

APA California – Northern Section is excited to kick off its 2021 Mentorship Program. Registration is open now until the end of November 2020.  

Our career development program offers one-on-one mentorship matching between mentees and mentors. The program aims to build relationships, enhance the knowledge base, and connect planning professionals to those who share our experience as California planners. Sign up to be a mentor or to be matched with a mentor for the 2021 mentorship class.  

Please visit the Mentorship Program webpage for program requirements and more information. 

Volunteer to be a mentor.

Register to be mentored.

Return to the November Northern News here.

Planners must care, especially now

Planners must care, especially now

By James Rojas, November 14, 2020

Community engagement is a big business. It can be part of a formal planning process every few years when formal, adopted plans are updated. But community engagement happens all the time through organizing. If we are to build trust between our communities and the governments that provide their services, we planners need to learn how to bridge the gap between our formal, infrequent engagement and the ongoing community organizing.

As a Latino, I find traditional urban planning community meetings disingenuous at best, confusing or contentious at worst. I believe community engagement needs to celebrate people, lift their spirits, and remove any doubt the participants, especially Latinos, might have about government and planning.

Most of my collaborators are women of color who have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their community. They want a social, collaborative approach to planning. Some want what we call community visioning. Others want to organize around environmental issues in the community. 

Many of these people have been left out of the formal planning processes of municipal governments and private consulting firms. In too many places, their issues, concerns, and voices have never been heard. 

If we, as planners, want these communities to trust us in what we propose, we have to share our planning power or concede it. We need to be there, in and with the communities we represent and serve. That means we cannot appear every five to seven years. Instead, we have to build the planning capacity of our communities, lift them up, and encourage their interest and involvement, if not self-determination.

I argue that solely using words is a very limited way of understanding place and planning for communities. We need to expand our toolkit beyond words to feel the essence of communities and capture the nuances that create great places.

To sum up, as Al Zelinka, the Riverside City Manager and a colleague on the California Planning Roundtable stated, “Civic engagement should be a conduit for community building through shared vision, shared responsibility, and shared benefits.”

We also need to trust communities to undertake their own community engagement, and share problem solving with community members. 

An example of power-sharing is the East Oakland Neighborhoods Initiative, a partnership between the City of Oakland Planning Bureau and 12 community-based organizations focused on equity-based planning for deep East Oakland. The community organizations conducted a year of outreach to identify the primary concerns, goals, and priorities of East Oakland residents and stakeholders.

James Rojas is an urban planner, community outreach specialist, and artist with Place It! He holds an MCP from MIT and a B.S. in interior design from Woodbury University. You can reach him at





Return to the Northern News here.

Who’s where

Who’s where

Christina Ratcliffe, AICP, is now Plan­ning Manager for the City of Vallejo. Pre­viously, she was com­munity and economic develop­ment director for the City of Martinez. Before that, Ratcliffe was the princi­pal of her own consulting firm, community development director for the City of Benicia, senior plan­ner for the City of Orinda, planner for the City of Alameda, and a senior associate at PMC. She completed her master’s in city and regional planning at UC Berkeley and holds a BA in urban studies from San Francisco State University. She is on the steering committee of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association (BAPDA) and has served on the Northern Section Board. 

Dina Tasini is now Director of Community Development at the Town of Tiburon. Previous positions included community development director at the City of Dixon, planning manager at the City of Vallejo, and deputy director of planning and economic development at the City of Martinez. Before that, she was principal at Tasini and Associates, planning manager at Lennar Development Company, and deputy director for Base Reuse for the City of Alameda. Tasini holds a master of architecture and urban planning from UCLA and two bachelor’s degrees in urban studies and planning — from UC San Diego and the California Polytechnic University.  

Who’s where

Who’s where

By Sajuti Rahman, associate editor, Northern News

The Northern Section Board has elect­ed Floren­tina Craciun, AICP, as Dir­ector-Elect of the sec­tion. A Se­nior Environmental Planner with the Environmental Planning DivisionSan Fran­cisco Plan­ning De­partment, Cra­ciun holds a mas­ter’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UCLA and a BA in history from UC Santa Bar­bara. She has served on the Board since 2012, first as membership Director, followed by East Bay RAC (regional activity coordinator, 2013-2014), and Awards Co-direc­tor for APA California-Northern (2015-2020).

Amalia Lorentz Cunning­ham, AICP, was pro­moted to As­sist­ant Dep­uty Dir­ector, Hous­­ing and Com­­munity Im­­prove­­ment, in the De­­part­­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and De­vel­op­ment of Con­tra Cos­ta Coun­ty. The move creates an ex­panded di­vi­sion in the Coun­ty to sup­port af­ford­able housing, federal­ly fund­ed projects, and economic de­vel­op­ment initiatives. Formerly economic development manager for the Coun­ty, Cun­ningham holds a master’s degree in City and Regional planning from UC Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. She and her family reside in El Cerrito where they are heavy users of the Ohlone Greenway and their Contra Costa branch library. 

Delo Freitas was recently hired as a Se­nior Plan­ner for the City of Arcata where she focus­es on cur­rent and long-range plan­ning ac­tiv­ities as well as his­tor­ic pre­ser­va­tion. She pre­viously was an associate planner for Planwest Partners in Arcata, and before that, was an assistant planner for the City of Eureka. Freitas holds a BA in com­mu­ni­ty and re­gion­­al plan­ning from the University of Washington.  


Bri­an Hea­ton, AICP, is a Land Use and En­viron­men­tal Planner at GHD in Eureka. Pre­vi­ous­ly a se­nior plan­ner for the City of Eu­reka, Hea­ton holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in ur­ban and re­gion­al plan­ning from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-Mad­ison, a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in en­vi­ron­men­tal studies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­ne­so­ta-Duluth, and a certificate in project management from UC Irvine.

James Murphy is an As­sist­ant Plan­ner with the City of Cu­per­tino. Pre­viously a plan­ning tech­ni­cian with the City of San Jose, Mur­phy holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in ur­ban and re­gion­al plan­ning from San Jose State Uni­ver­sity and bach­e­lor’s de­grees in geo­graphy and ur­ban studies from UC Berkeley. When not in the office, James enjoys hik­ing and cycling on the San Fran­cis­co Penin­sula. 


Lauren Nin­ko­vich has re­cent­ly been hired as an As­sis­tant Plan­ner at the City of Cu­per­tino. For­mer­ly a plan­ning in­tern at the City of Pough­keep­sie, New York, Nin­ko­vich holds a BA in ur­ban studies from Vas­sar Col­lege. Out­side of work she enjoys play­ing volley­ball and hik­ing.


Melis­sa Ruhl is an Emerg­ing Mo­bil­i­ty Re­search­er at Ford’s Re­search and Ad­vanced En­gi­neer­ing di­vis­ion in Palo Alto. Her work there focuses on new and emerg­ing trans­por­ta­tion trends, such as micro­mobility, micro­transit, and aut­on­o­mous ve­hicles initiatives. Previously, Ruhl was a senior planner for Arup in San Francisco where she managed projects on transportation innovation. Ruhl holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from San Jose State University and a bachelor’s degree in history from University of Oregon. She regularly speaks in California and nationally on autonomous vehicles and the future of cities. She has published a number of articles on future mobility and most recently co-authored a chapter on mobility as a service in the recently published Disruptive Transport: Driverless Cars, Transport Innovation and the Sustainable City of Tomorrow. In September 2019, Melissa was recognized on the 40 under 40 Mass Transit Magazine list. 

2021 Planning Leadership Academy, February 5

2021 Planning Leadership Academy, February 5

Co-hosted by the California Planning Roundtable and APA California

Friday, February 5, 2021, from 8:30–10:30 am

The California Planning Roundtable has launched the 2021 Leadership Academy. Registration is now open until December 27, 2020

This professional development program is targeted to mid-career professionals interested in leadership roles in their organizations. The program was developed to help planners make an impact by learning directly from fellow change-makers from across California who are advancing best practices and important causes and leading others through transformative changes.

For more information, please visit the Leadership Academy webpage.

Return to Northern News here. 

Northern News recognizes our content providers for 2019

Northern News recognizes our content providers for 2019

Each year, we list the names of those who authored articles during the preceding calendar year, along with links to their articles. The editors are grateful to the 27 people listed below for their contributions to the planning profession and to this publication. We also wish to acknowledge Andrea Mardesich, a former associate editor, who scoured last year’s issues to prepare this list. Thank you, Andrea! 

Altshuler, Beth and Will Dominie. Planners4Health Co-sponsors Healthy/Resilient Homes Leadership Program. (April) 

Arce, OzzyGetting downtowns moving with convenient and sustainable access. (Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020) 

Arjona, Andrea, Richard Boggs, Anthony Nachor, Carolyn Neer, and Mindy Nguyen. Diridon to Downtown: Strengthening San Jose through wayfinding. (June) 

Bihan, Rene. Can a sports arena be a mixed-use, multiplex, urban park? (October) 

Brey, Jared, Next City. Nonprofits may soon get first dibs on SF apartment buildings. (May); The students pushing Stanford to build more housing. (July/August); What is CaRLA, and why is it suing California cities? (September) 

Capstone Studio Class of San Jose State University, Fall 2019. A community engagement project: Toward a Vision for the Alum Rock Community of San Jose. (Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020) 

Castañeda, JamesDirector’s Note. (FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuly/AugustSeptember) 

Frudden, Julia, and Andrew Mogensen, AICP. New state law helps kids and communities thrive, while relieving zoning headaches(Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020) 

Gastelum, Jennifer and Charlie Knox, AICP. California launches program to increase housing production. (April) 

Hamid, Afshan, AICP. A disruptive housing technology: The story of Mare Island, a Base reuse, and Factory OS. (April) 

Herzberg, Samuel, AICP. Marking history with the Ohlone-Portolá Heritage Trail project. (April) 

Holub, Tom. Exploring Oakland by bike. (June) 

Kamp, John and James Rojas. Collaborative sensory-based community engagement for a more equitable bike/pedestrian environment. (July/August) 

Kidd, Catarina. Meet a Local Planner. (MarchAprilMayOctoberDec. 2019/Jan. 2020) 

Knox, Naphtali H., FAICPBelow Market Rate in California. (February) 

Lantsberg, Alex, AICP, and Roxana Aslan. Taking the high road to fix California’s broken housing production system. (April) 

Livingstone, John F., AICP. The Food Zone. (April) 

Matarazzo, Steve. My short course on Working with Difficult People. (May) 

Paternoster, Robert, FAICP.  Pro bono planning assistance for California communities. (May) 

Pontarelli, Henry. Reclaiming Downtown for People- Downtown Hayward Specific Plan, Code, and EIR. (October) 

Rubin, VictorPolicyLink. Bay Area Equity Atlas. (July/August) 

Savay, Al, AICP. How much house is too much? Rethinking single family house size. (April) 

Scruggs, Gregory, Next City. Big Tech’s affordable housing push doesn’t let them off the hook. (February) 

Soland, Brian, AICP. An American planner in Canada. (Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020). 

Taecker, Matt, AICP.  From Arterial Roadway to Greenway: New regional infrastructure across Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. (April) 

Tsou, Sunny. Zoning ordinance adopted to make zoning consistent with General Plan may be rejected by Referendum. (February) 

Tyler, Elizabeth “Libby,” Ph.D., FAICP. Diversity, inclusion, and equity — a focus of NPC 19. (June) 

Return to the September issue here.

CPF Scholarship deadline extended to Sunday, May 31

CPF Scholarship deadline extended to Sunday, May 31

About the scholarships

CPF, the California Planning Foundation, supports outstanding planning students across California who are entering their final year of an eligible undergraduate or graduate degree program. Criteria for the scholarships include academic performance, financial need, increasing diversity in the planning profession, and a commitment to serve the planning profession in California after graduation.

About the 2020-2021 CPF Scholarships

For planning students enrolled at eligible professional planning degree programs in the state of California. Scholarships are awarded to students seeking to enter the planning profession based on an application and selection process.

Designed for continuing students entering their final year of an eligible undergraduate or graduate degree program. Criteria include academic performance, financial need, increasing diversity in the planning profession, and a commitment to serve the planning profession in California after graduation.

The deadline to apply for 2020 CPF Scholarships has been extended to Sunday, May 31, 2020, 11:59 pm, PDT.

Applicants need only apply once to be reviewed for all scholarships for which they are eligible. Scholarship awards will be announced during the summer. Scholarship winners will be honored at the Annual CPF Scholarship Luncheon on Saturday, September 12, 2020, in Riverside, California, in conjunction with the APA California Annual Conference. The Chapter’s 2020 Conference will be held September 12-15, 2020 at the Riverside Convention Center.

How to apply

The 2020 CPF Scholarship Application is online! You can apply here.

The application form uses Google Drive to store attachments that applicants upload (e.g., recommendation letters, essay responses, etc.). Applicants will be required to log in using their Google ID. (If you do not have one, please create a free account or contact the scholarship committee.) If you share a file from your Google Drive account, no member of the California Planning Foundation will have access to that file on your system. The system creates a copy of the file and stores it in the CPF Drive. Your Google Drive is never accessible to CPF.

You can also simply upload a file from your computer without it being in Google Drive, but you still need to log into your Google Account. You will be able to edit your application responses, but all applicants are encouraged to preview the application form first so that you know what questions are asked and can gather all of the necessary application materials.

In addition to the application form, applicants will need to submit the following:

  • Résumé
  • Budget, using this Excel template
  • Unofficial transcripts
  • Two recommendation letters (one from a faculty member; one from a professional reference), and responses to two essay questions. Please note that members of the CPF Board are not able to provide recommendation letters.

If you are unable to complete the application form online for accessibility reasons, please contact Hilary Nixon, Ph.D., at

Complete information on the available scholarships, eligible degree programs, and past scholarship recipients can be found here.

California’s approach to housing crisis is ineffective, Auditor says

California’s approach to housing crisis is ineffective, Auditor says

By Jared Brey, Next City, November 20, 2020 

California State Auditor Elaine Howle issued a report  saying that the state has failed to create a comprehensive approach to ad­dressing hous­ing issues and has left $2.7 billion in potential hous­ing funding on the table, according to a report in Bloomberg. The audit says that the state’s four agencies that issue funding for housing pro­grams are “mis­aligned,” and that the state fails to compel cities to provide their own share of affordable housing, according to the report. According to Bloomberg, the report recommends eliminating the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, which is chaired by the state treasurer, and is responsible for allocating debt and bond authority for various projects with a public benefit. The committee could do more to address the housing crisis if it would dedicate more bond funding to affordable-housing projects, rather than to other projects like proposed rail lines and waste and recycling plants, the report found, according to Bloomberg. 

“California is failing to build enough affordable homes for lower income residents in part because the state lacks an effective approach to planning and financing development of affordable housing at both the state and local levels,” the auditor found, according to the report. “The state needs to improve its statewide housing plan, harmonize its funding programs, and strengthen its oversight of cities and counties.” 

Read the full column here. 

Return to Northern News here. 

Who’s where

Who’s where

Haeseo (Hazel) Choi has joined the Northern Section team as associate editor, Northern News. For two years, she was a manager at the Seoul Digital Foundation, fostering urban startups addressing transportation problems and implementing research cooperation among cities and entrepreneurs. Choi completed coursework in policy science from Ewha Women’s University and holds a bachelor’s degree from Dongduk Women’s University (both in Seoul). She is a master in urban planning candidate at San Jose State University and was awarded a California Planning Foundation scholarship for 2020-2021.

Christopher Dacumos joined Good City Company in October as a Senior Planner and Proj­ect Man­ag­er, bring­ing nearly 10 years of local govern­ment ex­peri­ence with small to mid-range local governments and trans­portation districts. Previously the community development management analyst for Redwood City, he also worked as the management analyst for the Town of Hills­borough and as budget and grants planner for SamTrans. Dacumos holds an MPA in public policy from Princeton University and a BA in social welfare from UC Berkeley.  

After 17 years in the Bay Area, Shannon Fiala, who had been coastal program manager for the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Com­mis­sion, is relocating to Los Angeles to rejoin the California Coastal Com­mis­sion. (She was a CCC senior coastal planner in 2017.) As South­ern California Coast­al Program Manager, Fiala will supervise long-range plan updates and permits in collaboration with Caltrans Districts 7, 11, and 12 covering five counties from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Her previous positions include senior coastal planner at California Coastal Commission, Ocean Beach deputy program manager at SPUR, and restoration project manager for Napa County Resource Conservation District. She holds an MCP and MLA from UC Berkeley and a BS in resource ecology and management from the University of Michigan. Fiala served on the APA California–Northern Section Board, 2014-2016. 

Sanhita Ghosal, AICP, recently joined the APA California-Northern Section board as Distance Education Coordinator, a post created in September 2018. The coordinator plans, organizes, and hosts the many work­shops, lectures, and training sessions Nor­thern Section offers online — streaming and as webinars — and expects to offer in-person as well, post-pandemic. Ghosal has been with the City of San Jose for more than 16 years, most recently as a planner III. She holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State University, a master of en­gineer­ing/archi­tecture from the University of Tokyo, and a BA in architecture from the Bengal Engineering and Science University. Ghosal believes that training and development are two pillars of success and is excited to contribute to the professional growth of the planning community.

Leila Hakimizadeh, AICP, LEED AP ND, has joined the Northern Section team as associate editor, Nor­thern News. She has co-authored several articles featured in Northern News (2014, 2020). Hakimi­zadeh has over 14 years’ experience in land use and transportation planning, urban design, and housing for the public and private sectors in Canada and the US. Since 2014, she has been with the City of San José as a supervising urban planner. Hakimizadeh holds master’s degrees in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design and a graduate certificate in GIS. 

Julia Hoffman recently joined Good City Com­pany and will start as a contracted Planning Technician for the City of San Carlos. Hoffman recently graduated from UC Davis with a BS in environmental policy analysis and planning. Previous ex­per­iences include part-time project manager at Repower Yolo, policy intern at UPSTREAM, and social science and sustain­ability intern at UC Davis. Hoffman is looking forward to being a planner in her own hometown.  

Sailesh Mehra, who had been with the City of South San Francisco for more than five years — most recently as planning manager — is now the City Planning Manager for the City of San Mateo. Earlier positions included associate city planner for Redwood City and city planner for the City and County of San Francisco. Mehra holds a BA in ur­ban studies from San Francisco State University.  

Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, who joined Facebook in March 2017 as Campus Con­nectiv­ity Manager has been pro­moted to Man­ager of Trans­porta­tion Plan­ning and Optimiza­tion. In his new role, he over­sees plan­ning, analysis, and project management for the Transporta­tion team. Before join­ing Facebook, Schuppert had been a planning associate with Alta Planning + Design and a lecturer at San Jose State University. He has been active on the Northern Section Board since 2013, serving as South Bay Regional Activity Coordinator, Professional Development Director, Treasurer, Director-elect, Director, and Immediate Past Director as of January 1, 2021. Schuppert holds a BS in city and regional planning from Cal Poly–San Luis Obispo. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, photography, bicycling, food, and coffee.

Darcy Smith, AICP, is now Community De­velop­ment Director for the City of Millbrae. Previously she was the community and economic development director for the City of San Bruno. Before that, Smith was with the city of San Mateo for more than 15 years, most recently as principal planner–zoning administrator. Earlier positions included associate planner for the city of Campbell and urban planner at Dyett & Bhatia, San Francisco. Smith holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State University and a BS in earth systems from Stanford University. 

Rachael A. Tanner has been appointed by the Board of Supervisors to the San Francisco Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. She will serve out the remainder of a term that ends on June 30, 2022. Tanner is the Assistant Director of Planning and Development 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 a BA in political science from the University of Michigan. 

Return to the Northern News here.