Tag: 2020-02-nn-norcal

Director’s note: What’s your Superpower?

By James A. Castañeda, AICP

James CasteñedaThe ice break­er at the APA Cali­for­nia Chap­ter re­treat last week was pre­sent­ed as two ques­tions: “What makes you ex­cited about 2020,” and “What’s your super­power?” Your Director-Elect Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, and I scratched our heads. Jonathan answered “visions and clarity” made him excited for 2020, whereas I was excited about “new opportunities and challenges.” As to “superpower,” Jonathan claimed “superb organization skills” (I can attest to those). Mine was “the power to keep running” in the face of immense challenges.

I see those skills and strengths in the collective leadership of the Northern Section. Last year, the Board set out to bring clarity and focus to our organization’s structure and operations to make us a more effective and resilient board to the benefit of our membership. With our combined “superpowers,” we managed to move the needle quite a bit, and it was with great pride that I reported that outcome during the chapter retreat.

Much is yet to come in 2020

No doubt 2019 was an engrossing year for planners in the Northern Section as we continued to navigate challenges in housing, equality, and resiliency in the communities we serve. Now more than ever, the planning profession is front and center in these issues, and 2020 will most certainly require planners, as agents of change, to exercise their problem-solving superpowers. Isn’t this an exciting time to be a planner? We should all be looking forward to the challenges we’ll face in laying the foundations for equitable and resilient change, growth, and evolution.

My own Big Change

This year also brings significant change for me. After 14 years with San Mateo County and living in the Bay Area, I’m moving on. I’ve accepted a land use planner position with Sheppard Mullin, starting in their Los Angeles office mid-month. This exciting opportunity is bittersweet because I am leaving behind my friends, my work colleagues, and my APA family. Since 2011, I’ve proudly served Northern Section as a board member, starting as Peninsula RAC and concluding as Section Director.

When I arrived in in the Bay Area in 2006, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had moved here from my first job in Arizona, just a year-and-a-half out of college. But I could never have anticipated all that I would experience here, where in a sense, I “grew up” in my planning profession. Without a doubt, this is where I became a planner.

Continued leadership in the Section

My departure to LA means I will be resigning the Directorship, but I leave the board in the competent hands of your Director-Elect Jonathan Schuppert, AICP. Not only has he been a dedicated Board member since 2013; he’s also my close friend and confidant. I expect his superpowers will help lead the board and the section as you face 2020’s unknowns and beyond.

Acknowledgements and thanks

As my chapter with Northern Section comes to a close, I’d like to acknowledge several people who have been instrumental during my time on the board. Immediate Past Director Sharon Grewal, AICP, whom I served alongside during her Directorship, has been an inspiration. She had confidence in my leadership abilities and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. Northern News Editor Naphtali Knox, FAICP, has been a constant in my time on the board. He made my monthly Director’s notes shine, and encouraged me to keep putting my words out in the world. And thanks to Hing Wong, AICP, who nine years ago encouraged me to be part of the Northern Section leadership.

I wish everyone success and joy in 2020 and beyond. Thank you for allowing me to serve you. It’s been an honor.  —James

Who’s where

Who’s where

James Castañeda, AICP, is moving to Los Angeles, taking a position as senior land use planner with Sheppard Mullin, an international law firm with 15 offices and 875 attorneys. He had been with San Mateo County since 2006, most recently as Planner III (current planning) and as Program Coordinator for SFO’s Community Roundtable. Castañeda holds a BS in city and regional planning from New Mexico State University. He joined the Northern Section Board in 2011, and had been Section Director since January 2019. You can read his final Director’s note in this section of Northern News.

Elizabeth Caraker, AICP, is now Planning Manager at The Presidio Trust. The Trust pre­pares a va­ri­e­ty of plan­ning and en­­vi­ron­men­tal documents to guide the management of park resources. Caraker had been with the city of Monterey for 11 years, most recently as the housing and community development manager. Before that, she worked for RBF Consulting, and for the city of Marina as planning manager. She holds a master of community and regional planning from the University of Oregon, and a BS in food science from Cal Poly SLO. Caraker was Northern Section’s Regional Activities Co-coordinator for Monterey Bay for four-and-a-half years, from April 2008 through November 2012.


Nisha Chauhan, AICP, has been ap­point­­ed to the Board of Di­rec­tors of Keep Oakland Beautiful, a lo­cal non­prof­­it com­mit­ted to creating and sus­tain­ing a beau­tiful, clean, green, lit­ter-free Oakland. Chauhan is a senior planner with Alameda County, where she manages land use and environmental projects. She holds a certificate of completion in land-use and environmental planning from UC Davis and a BA in environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz.

Portrait of Ellen Clark, AICPEllen Clark, AICP, is now Com­mun­ity De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor for the City of Pleas­anton. She served as Pleasanton’s deputy director of community development/planning manager for the prior two years. Clark began her planning career at Design, Community & Environment (now PlaceWorks) in Berkeley, followed by positions as a senior planner and principal planner for the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and planning director for the Town of Moraga. She has 20 years of experience in public and private sector planning. Clark holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Cambridge. She lives in Oakland with her family.


Portrait of Coleman Frick

Coleman Frick was pro­mo­ted to Senior Plan­ner at the City of Con­cord, where his work will fo­cus on long-range plan­ning and pol­icy. Pre­vious­ly, he held posi­tions at Town of Moraga for three years, in SFMTA’s Sus­tain­able Streets Di­vi­sion for one year, and as an urban forester in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for four years. Frick holds a master of city and regional planning from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a BA in environmental studies from Eckerd College, Florida.

Portrait of Evan KenwardEvan Kenward is now a Project Lead for Bikes Make Life Better, a San Fran­cisco-based employee bicycle program management company. He has previously worked in various roles within active transportation planning, most recently at Alta Planning + Design. Kenward serves as a steering committee chair for the San Francisco chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit organization aiming to pass national carbon pricing policy. He holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State University and a BA in communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Portrait of Carolyn Neer, AICP

Carolyn Neer has been ap­point­ed Co-Di­­rec­t­or of North­­ern Sec­tion’s Emerg­ing Plan­ners Group. She is As­so­ci­ate Pro­ject Man­ager at David J. Powers and As­so­ci­ates, San Jose, having recently moved there from Rincon Con­sult­ants, Oak­land. Neer holds a master of urban planning from San Jose State and a bachelor’s in history from UC Berkeley. In her spare time, she enjoys backpacking, biking, and baking.


Portrait of Matthew Stafford, AICPMatthew Stafford, AICP, is now a Trans­porta­tion Plan­ning Analyst at Face­book. Pre­vious­ly, he was an as­so­­ci­ate at Nel­son\Ny­gaard’s Seat­tle of­fice, where he focused on transit planning projects for cities and private clients. Stafford holds a BS in urban and regional planning from Cal Poly Pomona. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, traveling, and riding his bike around town.

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 news@norcalapa.org.

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)