By: Victoria Chung, 2017 APA Orange Section Student Representative, UCI MURP Class of 2018
Students at UC Irvine (UCI) gathered on January 23, 2018 to engage with a group of panelists on the topic of “Diversity in Planning”. This panel was brought to students in a collaborative effort by UCI’s Urban Planning Student Association and APA Orange Section. The featured panelist were,
• Leila Carver, PTP, Associate Planner at CSG Consultants • Marlon Regisford, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at Caltrans District 12 (Orange County) • Todd Nguyen, Environmental Project Manager at WSP for California High Speed Rail Authority • Cuong Trinh, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator at Caltrans District 8 (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) • Carolina Ilic, AICP, Senior Regional Planner at San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).
Diversity was the main theme at the 2017 APA Convention in Sacramento as several cities across the state began updating their general plans with diversity and equity in mind. Students at UCI were curious as to how diversity discussions will change the planning field especially with the recent passage of SB 1000, which requires the development of an Environmental Justice (EJ) element or the inclusion of EJ goals, polices, and objectives in other elements for future general plans. There were several main takeaways from the panel: first, as cities increasingly become a melting pot of cultures and demographics it’s important to also ensure discussions on the generational and gender divides as well. Young planners should encourage technology in the workplace but in exchange cultivate and preserve institutional knowledge from seasoned staff. Second, there are several tools that can aid in diversity or SB 1000 planning. A resource is the Environmental Screen 3.0 that can supplement data thresholds such as low income minimums (LIMS), or in the case of SB 1000, disadvantaged communities (DACS) to ensure these populations are adequately accounted for within cities. Some great examples of the effective use of these tools are in the San Diego Forward: Regional Plan and the PlaceWorks SB 1000 Implementation Toolkit. Third, though SB 1000 and EJ elements have good intentions, for multi-jurisdiction projects such as the California High Speed Rail, these elements have a potential to hinder the progression of large scale projects, especially since many cities have already adopted EJ requirements in their general plans in addition to the EJ requirements in CEQA and NEPA. Lastly, it’s important that planners share the visions of inclusivity, diversity and equity in planning, but it’s critical that these planners get the opportunity now more than ever to move these ideas forward through upward mobility and access in senior level positions. These ideals are no longer checkmarks on a list, but encourage quality communities for all. Sureena Basra, a first year MURP that attended the panel said, “I really enjoyed the Diversity Panel, especially the different backgrounds of the panelists. One aspect that struck out to me the most was the conversation of needing to integrate public health into urban planning and design. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health, I too believe that the built environment plays a vital role in affecting health and quality of life for not only individuals but a community as a whole.”
UC Irvine Masters in Urban and Regional Planning students would like to thank the panelists for their time and expertise to devote to students on this interesting topic. Thank you to the sponsors for ensuring the event was a success. Thanks to Katia Polster, MURP Class of 2018, for moderating the panel and for encouraging a Diversity Panel to take place at UCI.