By Libby Tyler, FAICP
Do you still need to fulfill your mandatory AICP/CM credits for Ethics?
Then refresh your memory of the AICP Code of Ethics using a fun game-show platform!
View the recording of a fun and informative session held in April 2021. It featured veteran ethics trainer Darcy Kremin, AICP, of Rincon Consultants, and a panel of experts. The 90-minute program introduced ethics material via a learning game platform and breakout discussions. Earn your credits by viewing this lively and engaging Ethics refresher here. Then use the code provided to get your required AICP Ethics credits.
By Haeseo (Hazel) Choi
Erica Baptiste is now Principal Planner and Planning Manager at Metropolitan Planning Group (M-Group). She previously was a senior planner at the City of Jersey and before that an urban planner with the Manhattan Borough President’s office. Baptiste also had been a community planner for Manhattan Community Board 4, from 2013 to 2015. She holds an MS in city and regional planning from Pratt Institute and a BA in architecture and community design from the University of San Francisco.
Diana Benitez is Urban Planning Justice Manager with Just Cities, LLC. She had been an intermediate planner/ designer at Raimi + Associates and before that a Data and Research Analyst at Advancement Project California. Benitez holds a UCLA master’s in urban and regional planning with a focus on community and economic development at the intersection of the built environment and health and a BA in urban studies and planning (minor in GIS) from CSU Northridge. She is Northern Section’s Planners4Health Coordinator and the APA California P4H Initiative Chair.
James M. Moore is now a Senior Planner at the County of Maui. He previously was a principal consultant on land use, environmental planning, urban design, and mixed-use infill development strategies for private clients and/or Bay Area municipalities from 2017 to 2021. Moore served as director of planning and building services for the Town of Fairfax from 2009 to 2016. He holds an MCP and a BA in political science from UC Berkeley.
Himangi Mutha, AICP, is an Associate Planner at the County of San Benito (Hollister). Previously, she was a planner at the City of Destin, Florida, creating ordinance amendments to the general plan and land development code, and processing tentative survey maps and subdivision planning projects. Mutha holds a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington and a B.Arch from Savitribai Phule Pune (India) University. She also studied Machine Learning (ML) in Urban Planning at Columbia University, 2021.
Matthew Taecker, AICP, is now a Senior Urban Designer and Planner at Wallace Roberts & Todd. Prior to joining WRT, he was manager of Station Area Planning for California’s High-Speed Rail Authority at WSP USA. Taecker led his own urban planning and design firm from 2013 to 2020. He was the principal planner for the downtown area of Berkeley from 2005–2011, and a principal at Calthorpe Associates, 1990–2001. Taecker holds master’s degrees in architecture and in city planning from UC Berkeley and a BA from the University of Chicago in urban policy and economics. He is an emeritus member of the California Planning Roundtable and has taught urban design at USC, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.
Elizabeth “Libby” Tyler, Ph.D., FAICP, who previously was Planning Manager at the City of San Pablo, is now the city’s Community Development Director. She was community development director for Urbana, Illinois, from 2000 to 2017. Tyler holds a Ph.D. in regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MLA in environmental planning from UC Berkeley, and a BA in environmental conservation from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is Ethics Review Director for APA California – Northern and is on the steering committee for PHEAL (Planning for Health, Equity, Advocacy, and Leadership). Tyler is vice-chair of APA National’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, and in 2008 was the first woman in Illinois to be inducted to FAICP.
Michael Wooley-Ousdahl, AICP, has been named Northern Section’s SF RAC (Regional Activity Coordinator, San Francisco). He is a transportation planning and operations manager for Google, overseeing their global shuttle programs and leading site infrastructure improvements from concept to implementation. Wooley-Ousdahl also represents Google externally in transportation planning and policy initiatives, building external relationships with public, private, and nonprofit partners. He holds master’s degrees in city and regional planning and in public administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a bachelor’s in psychology and social behavior from UC Davis. In his spare time, Wooley-Ousdahl enjoys traveling to cities, riding public transit, and time with his wife Megan and two-year-old son Levi.
By Florentina Craciun, Director, Northern Section, June 24, 2021
This June we received the gift of another Federal Holiday: Juneteenth. Juneteenth marks the day a Major General of the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Black people in Texas from bondage, almost two-plus years after the proclamation. In recognition of the holiday, I want to challenge all of you to read pieces that reflect on the role that the planning profession had in perpetuating institutional racism. The most glaring examples are exclusionary zoning, the construction of freeways through traditionally black neighborhoods, and the obliteration of economic opportunities for black families through eminent domain and white rage (see Tulsa Massacre for example). Through those examples, we can address the future of planning and our role in ensuring that we do not repeat mistakes of the past.
I offer you a few quick reads as resources:
Institutional Racism and Planning: A year ago, James Brasuell wrote an eloquent piece in Planetizen summarizing the various voices and perspectives at the intersection of race and urban planning, as well as ways planners can help break the barriers of institutional racism:
“Planning and urbanism have not achieved some apolitical or post-racial transcendence, despite good intentions. Overcoming institutional racism will require a thorough commitment to centering issues of equity in every planning discussion — from the public realm of streets and parks to the private realm of mixed-use development and housing.”
The article encourages urban planners to think about our “normal” and what we should shed from it. Brasuell:
“No matter how difficult it is to confront, the field of planning [is entering] a new era that centers racial, social, and environmental justice in every act.”
Exclusionary Zoning: The White House on June 17 published an interesting blog about the impacts of exclusionary zoning. As the blog points out, in America we build our generational “wealth via homeownership,” and exclusionary zoning poses significant barriers to black communities.
“One area that is particularly important for economic well-being and wealth accumulation is housing. Families who can purchase their own home in the neighborhood of their choice at a fair price and see the value of their home grow over time do better economically in the long run. But numerous policies have systemically discriminated against Black families who wish to pursue that path. This blog focuses on one of these policies: exclusionary zoning laws, which have played a role in causing racial disparities in the housing market.”
I accept that those policies stem from racism and that we as planners must play an active role in dismantling them.
Transit Equity: There is an overall recognition that a healthy transit system has a positive impact on disadvantaged communities. TransitCenter built a transit equity dashboard, which according to their website:
“… measures how well transit networks in seven U.S. cities connect people who’ve been marginalized within those metro areas to the jobs, services, and amenities they need to thrive,” according to the website. “Using February 2020 as a baseline, the dashboard looks at metrics like the number of jobs people can reach within a limited timeframe or budget, travel times to hospitals and grocery stores, and service frequency, and tracks how these measures have changed in each region.”
You can learn more in our Planning news roundup, “TransitCenter launches San Francisco-Oakland transit equity dashboard.”
Question: How do we take action without being overwhelmed? Answer: Take this one bite at a time.
An op-ed by Tom Holub, June 15, 2021
Public-private partnerships require compromises. The goal of the public entity (the public interest, ideally) is inherently in tension with the goal of the private entity (profit, explicitly). The agreements made between the two codify a set of compromises each side is willing to make to work together.
These partnerships usually include severely imbalanced power relationships. Multi-billion dollar international conglomerates do not negotiate on an equal basis with individual cities, so cities often end up compromising far too much in the process of getting a contract signed.
Compromises on terms, such as the cost of a service or the division of contract responsibilities, are natural in such negotiations, but I am concerned with compromises on principles.
Oakland’s scooter contracts include provisions for civic principles such as equity and accessibility — principles private entity does not care about, and will not deliver except under contractual obligation; and unless we write real requirements into the contract and enforce them, the principles will be ignored.
There are two ways cities compromise their principles in public-private partnerships: bullshit enforcement, and bullshit requirements.
This came up during May’s presentation at Oakland’s Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) on e-scooter operators in Oakland. Oakland announced three new scooter operators in October 2020; two of them (Spin and LINK) had representatives at the meeting.
Kerby Olsen, Oakland’s New Mobility Supervisor, presented about the program on May 25th, focusing on efforts to require scooters to be locked to bike racks. During his presentation, he mentioned that the city is not enforcing the equity provisions of the contract, because the vendors have seen a 75 percent drop in ridership. Both Spin and Link stated they’re not in compliance. Spin said they want to work with communities to find out where to put the scooters, and Link said, basically, that they’re small and can’t afford to. There’s absolutely no evidence for this.
In my neighborhood, Spin didn’t have to ask people to figure out that they should put scooters at Macarthur BART and at Cato’s Ale House. It’s not hard. Scooters would definitely get used at Eastmont Transit Center, or the East Oakland libraries or schools.
Also, this contract was awarded six months into Covid, so everyone already knew about the drop in ridership. If Covid makes you unable to meet the equity provisions, you aren’t capable of fulfilling the contract; and if the city is awarding the contract to vendors incapable of meeting the equity provisions, and if it falls to enforce those provisions, the city is complicit in perpetuating inequity.
One BPAC commissioner who is critical of the scooter program thinks there wasn’t a single scooter available in District 6 (East Oakland) or District 7 (Deep East). That’s close to correct. At the time I checked the apps, there was exactly one scooter in East (at 55th and International) and one in Deep East (at Foothill Square, at the end of the AC Transit 57 bus line). Obviously, those weren’t put there by the vendors.
There also appear to be no three-wheeled adaptive scooters.
It is not Oakland’s problem that companies like Spin (a division of Ford Motor Company) do not have a sustainable business model. Even more, it is not our problem that providing equitable and accessible micromobility is less profitable than providing micromobility for abled people in affluent neighborhoods. If we actually believe that equity and accessibility are important principles, it’s on us to enforce the contract requirements all the time, not just when it’s convenient for the vendors.
If you can’t meet the requirements, get out of Oakland.
Unfortunately, the equity and accessibility requirements in most contracts are so weak that we never get to enforce them in the first place, and the e-scooter contract is a perfect example. Here are the contract’s requirements for equitable distribution:
Dockless Scooters should be distributed equitably throughout Oakland. More than 50 percent of Scooters must be deployed in Oakland’s Communities of Concern, as designated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
Fifty percent of scooters in Communities of Concern sounds good until you actually look at MTC’s Communities of Concern map.
For whatever reasons, MTC designates most of Oakland as Communities of Concern, including downtown, Uptown, and Lake Merritt. It would be impossible for a for-profit scooter vendor to fail to fit 50 percent of its scooters into the mapped areas. It’s a deceptive requirement, and everyone involved knows it.
We could make this requirement meaningful by requiring 50 percent of scooters to be located in just MTC’s areas of Higher or Highest Concern. Here’s that map for Oakland:
Vendors wouldn’t want this. It might be less profitable. But it could have a real effect on transportation inequities in Oakland, which the current requirement does not.
The scooter contract also has ridiculous accessibility requirements. Here’s the accessibility clause:
- Operators must provide Adaptive Scooters for persons with disabilities. The total percentage of Adaptive Scooters shall be based on expected need, performance, and usage.
- If the Operator is unable to deploy Adaptive Scooters at the time of permit issuance, a plan must be submitted to the Oakland Department of Transportation within three months of permit issuance detailing a timeline for incorporation of shared Adaptive Scooters.
Both of these are total bull. Section (1) doesn’t define who decides what “expected need, performance, and usage” are, which effectively means the vendor makes the call. The operator can say, “We don’t see much demand for adaptive scooters,” meaning nothing can stop them from ignoring the requirement indefinitely. That is exactly what Bay Area Bike Share is still doing, six years into their contract. Bay Area Bike Share even canceled their makeshift program under which you could borrow a trike to ride around Lake Merritt on Saturdays. That was two years ago.
(The Bay Area Outreach Program for adaptive cycling, BORP, which was paid to operate the Lake Merritt program, runs a great adaptive cycling program at the Berkeley Marina, entirely on grant and donation funding. Don’t tell me that Lyft, market value $18.4 billion, can’t afford it.)
Section (2) specifies a timeline for providing a plan, but not a timeline for providing the service. The vendor can (and will) give us a lot of rubbish about how they’re investigating potential options for adaptive scooters, are working with engineers to develop a prototype, and plan to pilot it as part of their Phase 2 rollout, which they hope to deploy by Q2 2023. If they haven’t gone out of business by then.
This, too, is bullshit and everyone involved knows it. Especially when the vendors know we don’t intend to enforce even the weak requirements we’ve included.
Here’s what a realistic accessibility contract clause might say:
- Operators must provide Adaptive Scooters for persons with disabilities. At least 5 percent of the Operator’s total fleet must meet the section (6)(a) requirements for Adaptive Scooters.
- If the Operator is unable to deploy Adaptive Scooters at the time of permit issuance, a plan must be submitted to the Oakland Department of Transportation within three months of permit issuance detailing a timeline of no longer than one year for incorporation of shared Adaptive Scooters.
It’s totally doable. So why aren’t we doing it?
OakDOT’s Shared Mobility Team has drafted a good set of shared mobility principles. Here are two of them:
“The communities of East Oakland, Fruitvale, and West Oakland, where high numbers of Latino, Black, and low-income residents live, are underserved by transportation options, including shared mobility. Shared mobility services should be designed in a way that maximizes benefits and minimizes burdens while giving communities opportunities to have decision-making authority. Shared mobility services should include these communities and their common destinations in their service area, identify and reduce barriers to access, ensure that their service does not allow or perpetuate discrimination based on race, and provides health and economic benefits.”
Equitable access to services
“Shared mobility services should provide greater physical, cultural, financial, and digital access to transportation options for low-income communities of color and persons with disabilities. Shared mobility should be designed to link these populations to jobs, schools, housing, health care facilities, grocery stores, mass transit, and other essential services.”
If you’re going to compromise these principles when writing a contract, and then compromise them again when enforcing it, you undermine their purposes. You essentially say, “Yes, we kinda think equity and accessibility are important, but they’re not as important as helping billion-dollar corporations make money in Oakland.”
The challenge to everyone who shares these principles is to enact them in every aspect of our jobs. Whether you’re a department head, an individual contributor, or a contractor, you can insist on equity and inclusion in the work you do. We enter into contracts that require the work of dozens of mostly well-meaning individuals; the bullshit will stop if enough of us refuse to compromise.
Tom Holub has been Northern Section’s Technology Manager since 2018. He is the founder and principal of Totally Doable Consulting, a strategic and technology firm serving nonprofits and the public sector. From 2000 to 2013, Holub was the Director of Computing for the College of Letters & Science, Dean’s Office, at UC Berkeley. He holds a B.A. in urban studies from UC Berkeley and lives in Oakland. Holub blogs on social issues related to urban cycling at https://bike-lab.org.