Tag: nn-norcal-apr-2019

The Food Zone
John Livingstone, AICP, in his kitchen, about to eat a sandwich with a huge slice of homegrown beefsteak tomato.

The Food Zone

By John F. Livingstone, AICP.

What if cities required new developments and major additions to plant something that provides food? That food could be used by the residents or occupants of the subdivision or development, or if surplus, donated to local schools, homeless shelters, and food banks.

It’s a simple idea. Most cities require landscaping, and many require the planting of specific street trees. A City Food Plan could identify where certain plants and trees would grow best. Property owners could be encouraged or required to plant a fruit tree of their choice from a list provided by the city. Small lots could have a planter box for growing seasonal vegetables, not unlike the urban victory gardens of WWII, or dwarf trees.

If you have ever had your own apple, orange, or persimmon tree, you know that one tree can provide enough fruit for several households. A small planter box can grow more tomatoes and zucchini than one family could possibly eat.

Think about how nice it would be for a tired student to be able to grab an orange or a handful of cherries between classes for free, instead of a packaged processed food.

I know of food banks that will strip your tree of fruit in return for keeping some or all of it. Or just as you put your recycling bins at the curb, you could put out your city- or nonprofit-provided food bin for pickup by the local food bank.

In the South Bay, for example, once one of the largest fruit production regions in the world and known as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, there is no reason that fresh food should not be readily available and affordable to many, if not all.

John Livingstone, AICP, in his kitchen, about to eat a sandwich with a huge slice of homegrown beefsteak tomato.
Ethics/Law “two-fer” program recap

Ethics/Law “two-fer” program recap

By Elizabeth (Libby) Tyler, FAICP.

The Northern Section held its annual WINTER ETHICS/LAW TRAINING on February 23, 2019, at the fabulous Wendel Rosen conference facilities overlooking the heart of downtown Oakland. More than 40 Section members participated in the event. In the law session, Wendel Rosen attorney Robert Selna discussed the legalization of cannabis in California and how it is implemented through local land use permits, and attorney Amara Morrison spoke about the implications of SB 35, the new fast-track housing development legislation.

Libby Tyler, FAICP, introduces a scenario in the AICP Ethics Code. Photo: Tom Holub

The law session was followed by a panel of local certified planners who discussed APA’s current Ethics Cases of the Year along with lively audience participation. Panelists included Elizabeth “Libby” Tyler, FAICP, the section’s Ethics Review Director; Shannon Hake, AICP, Distance Education Coordinator; Afshan Hamid, AICP, Professional Development Director; and Rob Olshansky, FAICP, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois.

If you missed this event, stay tuned; we plan to produce Webinar versions later this spring.

We welcome your ideas and suggestions for future sessions! Contact Libby Tyler at ethics@norcalapa.org.

Planners4Health Co-sponsors Healthy/Resilient Homes Leadership Program

Planners4Health Co-sponsors Healthy/Resilient Homes Leadership Program

By Beth Altshuler and Will Dominie.

APA California Northern Section is thrilled to co-sponsor a “Health and Resilient Homes Leadership Program” with the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII), the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and the Great Communities Collaborative.

This program’s goals are to:

  • Build a cohort of leaders on healthy, resilient, stable housing across Bay Area Health Departments. Increase the knowledge, skills and relationships needed to implement health equity solutions.
  • Foster connections between health departments and sister agencies working on housing quality, stability, and resilience.
  • Support multidisciplinary teams to implement departmental priority solutions to improve housing quality, stability and resilience.
  • Draw down new revenue sources for healthy resilient housing.

BARHII is the coalition of the 11 Bay Area public health departments founded to address the preventable decade-long differences in life expectancy that exist by race, income, and neighborhood. BARHII convenes public health staff across the region to identify emerging public health trends and to advance best practices for health equity. BARHII staff and members have been involved with MTC’s CASA process (They do amazing work and have great resources on their website.)

This partnership is partly an outgrowth of national and state APA initiatives. In 2015, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), national APA teamed up with the American Public Health Association (APHA) to implement a three-year, $9 million program to help communities combat determinants of chronic disease — lack of physical activity and lack of access to nutritious foods. The first two years were called “Plan4Health,” and the third year was called “Planners4Health.” During the third year, in 2017, California APA was awarded a Planners4Health grant to build the capacity of planners to incorporate a public health lens into their work. An outcome of this initiative was to create Planners4Health coordinator positions at each local section who would be responsible for organizing professional development activities to strengthen our ability as planners to address public health issues in our communities.

Healthy and Resilient Homes Leadership Program overview

Over the course of 2019, BARHII’s Built Environment Committee will train and support a cohort of local public health department staff and Bay Area planners to implement their jurisdiction’s priority solutions to improve housing quality, stability, and resilience.

BARHII will conduct trainings with local health department staff to bring them up to speed on all the new housing legislation and planning and funding opportunities. The first of these trainings occurred on March 15, 2019, with representatives from all the local health departments.

This program will also invite staff from county and city housing authorities and planning departments to trainings on health equity; health, housing, and resilience; and public health solutions to these issues. Planners and public health staff will attend implementation trainings to advance solutions.

BARHII will work to pair up planners with their health department staff so they can collaborate on an actual housing and health equity project (see sidebar for some of the implementation topics). BARHII staff and co-sponsors will provide technical assistance and support a community of practice to share lessons across counties. BARHII and project sponsors will also host at least one session exploring and developing solutions to common challenges that emerge from interdepartmental projects.

If you are interested in learning more about this initiative, please fill out the SurveyMonkey form. If you have ideas or requests for other Planners4Health programs, please email Beth Altshuler.

Beth Altshuler, MCP, MPH, is senior associate at Raimi + Associates and is Northern Section’s Planners4Health Coordinator. You can reach her at beth@raimiassociates.com 



Will Dominie, MURP, is policy manager of Housing and Equitable Development at Bay Area Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII).You can reach him at WDominie@barhii.org 

Meet a local planner — John Schwarz

Meet a local planner — John Schwarz

By Catarina Kidd, AICP.

JOHN SCHWARZ, an environmental planner for 22 years, is president and principal of JHS Consulting, specializing in environmental planning. He holds an MBA from Santa Clara University and a B.A. in environmental studies from UC Santa Barbara. 

What brought you to environmental planning?

As a student at UC Santa Barbara, I was interested in environmental studies and started taking courses because I loved the variety of topics and their relevance. My approach was about liking the subject rather than trying to figure out the career. After graduating, I landed an entry-level position at David J. Powers and Associates. I then went into the tech world, but missed urban planning and went back to DJP&A.

Tell us about your environmental planning experience.

I was at DJP&A for a total of 19 years, working on public and private development, residential, office, and mixed use. I also did a lot of infrastructure work, including water, sewer, and transportation projects. It was a good mix of projects to round out my knowledge and exposure to different practice areas. I worked my way up to vice president and principal, and was later involved in running the firm, which was terrific experience.

What inspired you to start your own firm?

I wanted to learn the entitlement side and was ready to try something different, and a couple of clients helped me launch the business. I’m working on entitlements and project management for private applicants and contract environmental planning for public agencies — sometimes as an extension of city staff.

Your observations on being a business owner versus employee?

As an employee on the management team at DJP&A, I was stressed about running the business. Now the stress is greater, as it all comes down to just me. It’s fun to be on your own, but not having internal support to get things done can be tough. That’s not a surprise, but it is an ongoing challenge. I’m spending a lot of time figuring out whether to make the business bigger or stay solo and nimble.

How do clients differ?

Applicants always want to get through the process quickly and minimize cost, but the public sector focus is to be accurate and defendable. And schedule is always a priority for both public and private clients. Despite different goals and the contentiousness of the process, I find that everyone wants the job done quickly and well.

Which projects stand out to you?

From 2004 to 2005, the Hitachi/IBM campus in San Jose: It was a coming-of-age project for me. It was big and ambitious, with lots of stakeholders. The applicant team had high expectations, and we had lots of technical issues to iron out. There were moments of having to deliver bad news in the middle of a strong push to the finish line. It was a landmark project in my career.

I’m also passionate about Silicon Valley Clean Water’s Conveyance System going into construction at Redwood Shores. The challenges were aging sewer infrastructure and having to go through residential areas and habitat. From the outset, the alternatives were unpopular with the public and the regulatory agencies. The technical team evaluated a host of other options and came up with tunneling as a feasible solution. After much consideration, SVCW proposed a deep tunnel bore for one of the main project components.

One of three vertical shafts being excavated for the project. The tunnel-boring machine will be lowered into the first shaft and will begin excavating the tunnel horizontally. Photo: Silicon Valley Clean Water.

That eliminated many of the environmental impacts, and the opposition vanished. It was easier to run the environmental analysis because we had so much project detail and data. This essential project is now under construction: work has begun to build the shafts for tunneling.

How have you handled client demands at odds with best practices and professional ethics?

I never had a supervisor who cut corners or asked me to do something unethical. If you want to be in this for the long term, you have to be honest. We all get pressured and want to give people an answer they like. I try to understand my clients and what is driving their project. Pressure to do something unsound usually comes from an aggressive schedule. Once bloodied, you realize the bad news won’t go away. Deliver it early and honestly, and present solutions and trade-offs — then the bad news usually is better received. Once you realize that no client is worth ruining your reputation, the difficult conversations become easier.

What are your thoughts on choosing the right consultant?

Sometimes you know only in hindsight that they weren’t a fit for you or the job. Sometimes the lesson is “don’t use them again.” The companies and organizations that often hire the same consultants, do so because they know what they can expect. Predictability is important.

What can cities do to prevent scope changes and the ensuing budget challenges?

One approach is to ask the consultants to show their staffing capacity for the project and to highlight potential budget issues. The interviews should try to determine how flexible the consultants might be. The environmental review process is messy: things change, unforeseen questions come up. Agencies need to build contingencies into the contract and budget, and authorize and allocate changes separately and only when necessary. Consultants and their clients need to acknowledge and document which things have been done and remain open and flexible to reduce the element of surprise.

Any advice for new planners?

Find something that really interests you and think about how you can make a career out of it.

  • Learn what you can about the field, then try it out.
  • Get an internship if possible, or request an informational interview to get a flavor for the career.
  • Talk to folks in that field — just pick up the phone and call.

This can be intimidating when you’re starting out, but even though we are all busy, most of us enjoy those conversations and are happy to help. I was always impressed when someone did that. I may not be hiring, but I probably know someone who is.

Any advice for mid-career planners?

We all struggle with staying inspired. Sometimes the work is a tough grind. Work on something different, with new people, and a new team. Go to industry events, conferences, and lectures to build relationships. I find those to be inspiring: It’s energizing to see a room full of people working on and struggling with the same issues, and it helps you remember you are part of a professional community.

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is Northern News’ associate editor. All interviews are edited.

Meet a local planner — Maren Moegel

Meet a local planner — Maren Moegel

By Catarina Kidd, AICP.

MAREN MOEGEL, an urban and architectural designer and master planner with broad international experience, is Studio Director at Studio T-SQ in Oakland, California. She is working on urban mixed-use projects throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is your education background?

I have lived in Berkeley and the East Bay since acquiring my master’s degree in urban design at UC Berkeley in 2000. I also earned an earlier master’s degree in architecture at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.

What do you do?

I am currently the Urban Design Director at Studio T-SQ in Oakland. My work emphasizes urban redevelopment, creating mixed-use transit-oriented neighborhoods in the Bay Area. I am passionate about cities and urbanism. I believe providing dense urban districts and multifamily housing next to transit stations plays a major role in ensuring sustainable lifestyles. I work at all scales, from urban plazas or city blocks to neighborhoods and entire districts. While architects focus on designing buildings, as urban designer I focus on arranging land use and buildings so that they frame great public open spaces. I approach each design challenge with people and community in mind, and create places where people can walk, bike, or relax and interact. I’m also honored to work with SPUR’s regional strategy workshop.

How did you get to your chosen specialty in urban design?

Having grown up in Europe, I have always enjoyed cities, plazas, and exploring parks, watching people, being able to walk everywhere — and feeling safe in public spaces — the elements that make great urban neighborhoods.

My background is in architecture — university in Karlsruhe, Germany — with studies abroad in Sweden and Norway. My architecture thesis focused on development around the Oslo train station and waterfront area, and I was always interested in the larger scale of urban planning. After graduation, I started working in Oslo, Norway, for an architectural firm, where I could pursue my interest in both architecture and master planning.

I was in my twenties then, adventurous, and eager to explore the world beyond Europe. I was accepted to UC Berkeley’s Master of Urban Design program — a great introduction to California culture and how design and planning are approached here.

What advice would you give to new graduates?

Pursue your interests, try out a few things, acquire a solid set of skills, persevere, and follow your path to completion. Also realize that the relationships you are forming now are important and can last a lifetime, and via social media you can stay connected even across continents. Build a reputation for competence and integrity.

What project are you working on now that particularly excites you?

Mixed-use residential community at Lawrence Caltrain Station in Sunnyvale, CA, existing and proposed plan. Credit: Studio T-SQ.

I am working on master planning and architectural design for a 16-acre residential community with generous public open space next to Caltrain’s Lawrence Station in Sunnyvale, CA. This is the second high-density urban mixed-use project in this station district that I am managing through to entitlement approval. I like working with the ambitious planning staff. It is exciting to see Silicon Valley becoming more urban and transit-oriented, and that I am contributing to that effort.

Tell us about a favorite past project.

The MacArthur BART Master Plan. About 12 years ago, we had proposed a high-rise tower along with five-story housing and a great urban plaza. Back then, the economy did not support a tower, but now a decade later, everyone’s ready for one. A great urban neighborhood is emerging with pedestrian-friendly streets, subterranean parking, and lots of market-rate and affordable housing.

What do you consider to be a great urban space in the Bay Area?

I love the Uptown district in Oakland with its authenticity and diversity, artists, eateries, and nightlife.

Who are your design heroes, living or dead?

There are so many, but I admire a lot of Scandinavian architects, past and current, like Alvar Aalto (Finland, 1898-1976), Snøhetta (Oslo), and Henning Larsen (Copenhagen). In urban design, Jan Gehl’s office in Copenhagen has set a great trend with their people-centric approach. Mies van de Rohe (1886-1969) and his colleagues from the Bauhaus school in Germany had strong influence on modern cities, which carries on today. I love Chicago’s Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. In art and design, I like Ray and Charles Eames (1907-1978), and sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976).

What draws you to their work?

I believe that good design can improve people’s lives. In architecture, I value designs for simplicity, clean lines, functionality, focus on light and comfort, and connection with nature where feasible. In urban design, I admire projects that are truly about people, not centered on cars or prioritizing short-term profit making, but sincerely designing what humans need.

How do you balance honoring client direction and giving sound professional and ethical advice?

I don’t see this as a conflict, but as a good challenge. Most of my clients are developers, and they are essential partners or collaborators to implement projects. It is very rewarding to see my designs not just on paper but built. Many for-profit clients hold on to property for a lifetime and are interested in creating long-lasting attractive places with tangible human qualities. Of course, there are compromises to make, but overall, I love the challenge of envisioning great places and then seeing them implemented successfully.

What was the best advice you’ve received and from whom?

This advice came from professors and supervisors I worked with over the years: Be authentic and true to yourself. It is generally appreciated when you show your passion, believe in your work, and clearly give your best.

Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is Northern News’ associate editor. All interviews are edited.

From arterial roadway to greenway
Housing opportunity site along improved greenway

From arterial roadway to greenway

New regional infrastructure across Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville

By Matt Taecker, AICP.

THIS IS A VISION PLAN that reimagines how the very wide rights-of-way existing along the Shattuck-Adeline-Stanford corridor can be used to increase community livability and promote urban sustainability. These generous rights-of-way originally accommodated rail and were repurposed in the 20th century primarily for movement and parking of motor vehicles.

GREENWAY CORRIDOR AND DISTRICTS. The corridor connects numerous destinations, while passing through distinct districts that call for context-appropriate design solutions. Credit: Taecker Planning & Design.

In the 19th century, rights-of-way along this corridor were made much wider than other major streets to accommodate four pairs of tracks for both streetcars and heavy-rail trains.

RAIL LEGACY PRESENTS OPPORTUNITY. Shattuck, Adeline, and Stanford are wide streets because they accommodated both electric streetcars and diesel passenger trains. Top photo: BAHA. Bottom photo: Brian Thompson in Key System Album, Interurbans Special 68 by Jim Walker (Interurban Press, Glendale CA ,1978, ISBN 0-916374-31-9)

In the mid-20th century, the rails were removed and the wide rights-of-way were redesigned to move cars swiftly and to maximize parking in some areas. In the 21st century, the communities along this corridor can again repurpose the wide rights-of-way to reflect today’s values of livability, sustainability, resilience, and equity.

This Vision Plan lays a foundation for envisioning and realizing a new urban Greenway that can address multiple needs along its length. As envisioned, the Greenway would create an unimpeded pedestrian-bicycle route punctuated by neighborhood centers, recreation, and ecological features.

Significant repurposing of corridor rights-of-way is possible

If the narrowest acceptable traffic lanes and lane widths are used, and if on-street parking is arranged more efficiently, some 60 or more feet of the corridor width can be put to new purposes, all the while reducing traffic speeds and improving safety. With advanced transportation technologies and practices, no loss in vehicle travel times should be experienced.

FROM GRAY TO GREEN. Autonomous vehicle technology will allow narrow traffic lanes while reducing congestion. Consequently, road rights-of-way may be repurposed for pedestrian and bicycle paths, additional landscaping, and community open space. Credit: Tom Sohrweide, SEH, http://bit.ly/2JqMs0z

The Greenway Vision also considers how it can affect surrounding land use. Its design can complement existing land uses and, at the same time, promote new street-oriented and pedestrian-friendly development, including housing that can help alleviate California’s housing crisis.

This Vision Plan is an advocacy report

The Greenway Vision Plan has not been officially adopted as a “plan” per se. It lays a foundation for finding funds for further planning in and by the cities it connects: Berkeley, Oakland, and Emeryville. In this respect, the Vision Plan is already succeeding. Berkeley made greenway planning a priority for Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Alameda County funding; Oakland has added the greenway alignment to its draft Bicycle Master Plan; and Emeryville is working to strengthen pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Bay Trail.

SHATTUCK AVENUE PROMENADE. Shattuck’s wide right-of-way can be reconfigured to yield a 60-foot linear park that includes a continuous bicycle-pedestrian trail and placemaking features to strengthen downtown Berkeley.

This greenway planning has, to date, been a grassroots effort in close consultation with community stakeholders and city officials. A linear greenway on Shattuck was adopted in concept in Berkeley’s 2012 Downtown Street & Open Space Improvement Plan, but the idea of extending a greenway south to the Bay Trail emerged later. In 2017, Bike East Bay and Taecker Planning & Design applied for and received seed money for planning from the Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund at UC Berkeley. After receiving the grant, the Downtown Berkeley Association and City of Berkeley Councilmembers contributed discretionary funds. Small grants were also received from Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development, LMC Multifamily (a Lennar Company), and the Austin Group.

Planning began with extensive outreach to interested committees and commissions in the three cities and with neighborhood and business associations along the corridor. The work plan originally included community workshops and other forms of engagement, but contributions were only sufficient to cover the staff costs of Matt Taecker, AICP, the Greenway consultant who envisioned the project with Dave Campbell, advocacy director for Bike East Bay, and John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association. The author of this article has done most of the work, and pro bono.

The Vision Plan includes extensive planning analysis, examples of built precedents, schematic design options, policy recommendations for addressing gentrification resulting from improvements, and a strategy for implementation.

With the Vision Plan now completed, grants and other funds can be gathered to prepare one or more City-sponsored plans, to thoroughly engage community members, and to address technical issues. The 80-page Vision Plan can be downloaded here.

Matt Taecker, AICP, holds an MCP and an M.Arch from UC Berkeley and a B.A. from The University of Chicago. He has been a leader in transit-oriented development for 35 years, focusing especially on downtowns and urban revitalization. His firm, Taecker Planning and Design, is located in Berkeley. You can reach him at matt@taeckerplanning.com

Director’s note – April 2019

By James A. Castañeda, AICP.


I remember walking into Union Station in Washington, DC, in the spring of 2004 and marveling at the opening reception. As a student about to graduate with a city and regional planning degree, it was a thrill to be around people in a profession I would join in just a few months. With eagerness and curiosity, I took in everything — sessions on planning topics I had studied, meet-ups with other students, and the vast exhibitor’s hall. I bought a polo shirt to commemorate the trip and the event.

Me in DC in 2004

In many ways, my first National Planning Conference set the tone for what has been a rewarding career as a planner since my first job later in 2004. After that first conference, I was easily lured to San Francisco the following year for the 2005 National Planning Conference. It was there I really felt like I was something larger just by being in our profession, and that led me to practice planning in the Bay Area. I credit much of what has shaped my career to those two conferences.

Proof I attended the 2005 National Planning Conference in San Francisco

I also acknowledge that much of what has continued to inspire me over the years is the annual gathering of my fellow planners. I’m excited that, after 14 years, the National Planning Conference has returned to the Bay Area. In a way, I too have come full circle as a planner in our Northern Section.

Planning Camp

Without fail, whenever I’m away from the grind for a few days, I return to the office full of ideas and eager to continue to be an agent of change and innovation. Like so many things in life, sometimes our best ideas just need a little space and the right environment to bloom into clarity. That’s what I expect will happen to me after I spend four days around other planners at a National Planning Conference, or as I heard someone at NPC17 in New York call it, Planning Camp.

Planning Camp has always been a place for me to be inspired and to reinvigorate my passion for the profession. It’s a place where our best ideas are nurtured, as most everyone comes with an open mind and ready to share their experiences and skills. That eagerness is what sparks insightful dialogues that trigger creativity. Everyone, from the inspirational keynote speakers sharing the big picture, to students anxiously ready to talk about their posters, contributes to what soon becomes an invaluable experience and validation of what it means to be a planner.


It’s a great honor that, on behalf of the Northern Section, I get to welcome planners from across the country to the Bay Area for NPC19. For those like me who experienced the 2005 National Planning Conference, it’s exciting to take stock of where we were 14 years ago and focus on how we have evolved since then within our profession. We can do that internally, or in the NPC sessions, or on any of the 60 mobile workshops we have on the NPC program.

NPC19 would not be possible without the coordination and help of those who volunteered to serve on the Local Host Committee. We owe much to Hing Wong, AICP, the Local Host Chair; Sharon Grewal, AICP, the Activities Coordinator; Jonathan Schuppert, AICP, our Mobile Workshops Coordinator; Bob Zimmerer, AICP, Orientation Tours Coordinator; and Alessandra Lundin of Raimi + Associates, Community Planning Workshop Coordinator. It was my pleasure to contribute to coordinating the creation and curation of the City Guide that is featured in the NPC19 mobile app. After countless volunteer hours from those on the Local Host Committee, I’m confident this will be another successful National Planning Conference, one that all in our Northern Section can be proud of.

I hope I will get to see many of you there. Join me in letting this year’s Planning Camp strengthen your passion for learning. Be sure to stop by our Northern Section welcome table in the main lobby to say hello. You may see me and other familiar faces. I might not be wearing my 2004 APA conference polo or sporting the frosted tips hairstyle from college days, but I’ll be at SF Planning Camp with all of the same eagerness and curiosity!