Category: Director’s Notes

Director’s note – March 2019

James A. Castañeda, AICP

“Clarity and Focus”

That was the theme of our section board’s retreat in January, or as I call it, “The KonMari” retreat. I wanted to impress on the board the importance of making many of our policies and procedures — those that help us work on your behalf — as effective and efficient as possible. Since the board is 100 percent volunteers, it’s important to ensure that being on the board is time worth spending on giving back to the profession — and that we are passionate about doing it. I truly believe that what the section board does affects all of our 1,900 members and sparks joy in our profession.

I was excited to hear what board members at the retreat wanted to accomplish in their respective areas in the coming year, and I want to share a couple of the bigger takeaways here.

Northern News

The board took some time to discuss the future of our flagship Northern News and its value to our members. All who spoke on this matter at the retreat said the newsmagazine is iconic, and universally valued for its informative content, for its quality, and for bringing us locally based and locally authored articles and stories. We are moving toward a fully digital product this year (no more PDF), but the monthly publication schedule will remain — we agreed that was the right frequency for presenting curated articles and ICYMI planning news. So I’m lobbing you the same challenge I gave to your board members: embrace ownership in our publication by contributing to it. The Northern News has always been of, for, and by Northern Section planners, and we can continue that only if you contribute to the content.

Online Distance Education Opportunities

A topic that came up often at the retreat was offering webinar or video streaming services of some of the Northern Section events. Given the tremendous effort that goes into coordinating and hosting the many workshops, lectures, and training sessions we offer, we want to ensure that you can easily access them. That’s the main reason we created a Distance Education Coordinator position on the board last fall and appointed Shannon Hake, AICP. With the help of our immediate past director Sharon Grewal, AICP (who also serves on the Chapter board as Vice President–Professional Development), we’ll be looking to make some of our programming available online beginning in the second half of 2019.

New Board Members

Your board has appointed four new members: Danae Hall will serve as YPG Co-director alongside Veronica Flores. Della Acosta takes over as University Liaison and is already coordinating with our student representatives from UC Berkeley and San Jose State. After a phenomenal reboot of our Mentorship Program, Liz Probst, AICP, has stepped down as Mentorship Director, and Ellen Yau has been appointed to pick up where Liz left off. Mark Young is stepping into the role of South Bay Regional Activity Coordinator. (Cherise Orange moved to Planning Diversity Co-director with Cindy Ma, AICP.) All of these folks bring enthusiasm and great ideas to their respective roles and to the board. Also new to the board is first year graduate student Marta Polovin, Student Representative from UC Berkeley. We’re excited to have all of them on board.

Onward We Serve

All of us on the board are excited about what we are planning for the section in the coming months. The retreat set the tone for a great year, so keep an eye on our event calendar for future events. And if you are (as I hope) motivated to join the board, we are large enough that we almost always have positions available. Right now, we are looking for a new San Francisco Regional Activity Coordinator and a Treasurer to serve out the remaining 2019 term of Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, who is now our Section Director-elect. Make sure to check online for our latest open positions.

Director’s note — February 2019

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.

Director’s Notes – 2017

By Sharon Grewal, AICP, Northern Section Director

We are beginning the year with significant change in Washington, but I believe we at the local level have the greatest impact in shaping our communities. In these challenging times, we, the planning community, have the opportunity to be a force for good and a force for change. We must be that change, involved in and committed to improving our communities.

During the Northern Section Retreat January 21st, your Board reflected on new ways we can engage our planning community and build coalitions with local organizations. As Section Director, I also have the privilege of representing the Northern Section on the California Chapter Board and look forward to bringing you great ideas from the Chapter Retreats.

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