Northern Section award categories 2020



The following Northern Section award categories highlight topics and local efforts in planning that are not currently offered at the state level. These award categories cover critical topics that impact the quality of our built environment.

Planning and health

This award honors a plan or project that advances public health into the planning process. Project and plans that demonstrate a commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of the community, advance the discussion of health in planning, and incorporate health from the early planning stages.

Example projects include; stand alone health elements, health assessments, health in all policies, and health districts, public spaces that incorporate health elements, bike and pedestrian planning, complete streets.


  • Education

    Describe how the project advances health in the planning process and profession. Also include strategies used to educate the community or stakeholders about the co-benefits of health and community planning.

  • Planning Process

    Describe the planning process including public outreach, extent of community support, outcomes, and challenges including any obstacles the project/plan overcame to advance health in the planning process.

  • Effectiveness

    Explain the health benefits of the project and, if applicable, key outcomes that would not otherwise have been included without the planner’s advocacy role.

Social and environmental justice

This award honors a plan for a project that addresses concerns and aims to improve a community that has historically been underrepresented. This includes projects/plans/efforts that contribute to improving the quality of life and/or environmental conditions of underrepresented communities and groups  through direct action, policy/ plan development, or implementation strategies.

Example projects include comprehensive plans, specific plans, and development projects that dedicate efforts to improving the lives of underrepresented communities.


  • Social and economic

    Describe how your entry addresses the needs of at-risk individuals or populations that society typically overlooks. How have your entry’s efforts advanced or sustained sound, ethical, and inclusionary planning within the planning field, within a specific community, or in society at large?

  • Effectiveness and results

    Specify how your entry has had a positive impact on the lives of those it was intended to help. Indicate how these efforts have touched a wider audience, helped increase diversity and inclusiveness within the planning field, or in helping support diverse populations.

Please note that the description and criteria for this award are similar to the National APA award category entitled “Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff.” However, they two awards are not affiliated and a win at the local level is not necessary to apply at the National level.

Planning and food systems

This award honors efforts to improve food systems. Per the Sustainable Cities Institute, food systems include the growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposing of food. The goal of this award is to recognize planning efforts that help build and support food systems that provide for long-term health of our environment and communities. This includes projects, plans or programs that help create community food systems that directly connect to public health goals such as reducing hunger or obesity; the protection and conservation of natural resources including energy, water and soil; and supporting or facilitating local economic growth.

Example projects include; Citywide food access programs, tools that locate nearby fresh food, community gardens, research projects and policy framework to reduce food deserts.


  • Effectiveness

    Explain the details of the project, and how community members will have increased access to fresh food upon implementation of the program, plan, or project.

  • Outreach

    Describe public outreach process and how the project raises community awareness.

Great Places

This local award honors a Great Place within the boundaries of the APA California Chapter Northern Section, which includes the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma.

A Great Place is one that exemplifies character, quality, and excellent planning and is a place where people want to be.  It can be anywhere from the beach to the mountains, from a large city to a small community. It can be a vibrant downtown, a suburban gathering place, a historic small town, a public park, or preserved open space.


  • Form and Composition

    How does the Great Place fit in its natural setting and the surrounding environs?  How does the Great Place foster social interaction and promote human contact? How is a sense of community and neighborliness created? Is the Great Place perceived as safe for children?

  • Character and Personality

    What makes the Great Place stand out? What makes it extraordinary or memorable? What elements, features, and details reflect the community’s local character and set the Great Place apart? Does the Great Place provide interesting visual experiences, vistas, natural features, or other qualities?  How does the architecture of the buildings, landscape and/or streetscape create visual interest? What is the history of the space, and how is it remembered or passed on from one generation to the next?

  • Features and Elements

    How does the Great Place accommodate pedestrians or others whose access to the space is by transit, bicycles, or other means? Is the space welcoming to those with physical disabilities or others with special needs?  Does it provide interesting visual experiences, vistas, or other qualities? Is public art incorporated into the Great Place? Does it include any sustainability elements or features that improve the environment?

  • Activities and Sociability attributes

    What activities make the Great Place attractive to people and encourage social interaction (commerce, entertainment or performances, recreational or sporting, cultural, markets or vending, exhibits, fairs, festivals, special events, etc.)?  How does this Great Place encourage use by a diverse cross section of the public? Is this Great Place accessible to all people and income levels?

Both the National APA organization and the APA California Chapter have a similar Great Places designation / award. Please note that this local award is not affiliated with either the National APA designation or the California Chapter award and a win at the local level is not necessary to apply at the National or Chapter level.  For information regarding the National APA Great Places in America program, please visit For information regarding the California Chapter Great Places application process, please visit

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