Courtney Elizabeth Knapp, PhD, AICP is a consultant and Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Her research interests include race and urban development, housing, placemaking, citizen engagement and participation, equitable development practice, and environmental justice. Her book, Diasporic Placemaking: Race, Planning, and Urban Cosmopolitanism in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press. She is currently involved with new research projects focused on the democratic potential of planner-librarian collaboration, post-recession adaptive housing planning across Southern California, and planning in the age of American mass (de)incarceration. Courtney previously worked as a Planning Free School organizer in Chattanooga, Tennessee; a regional Economic Development and Housing Planner in Lowell, Massachusetts; and a researcher at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Project for Public Spaces.
Please provide a brief overview of your current work in planning.
I am an Assistant Professor of Community Development in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I teach Community Planning Studios for undergraduates, as well as Housing, Community Development, and Graphic Communication courses. I also teach in the College of Environmental Design’s Summer China Program, which is an interdisciplinary urban design-based program based in Beijing.
What brought you into planning?
I discovered planning through environmental justice advocacy work. I realized that there were complex institutions and actors coordinating land use decision-making that both positively and negatively impacted people’s lives, and I wanted to learn more and enter these circles to promote the equitable and sustainable development of communities.
Where did you go to school for planning and why?
I have a Master’s in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University and a PhD in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. I chose Tufts because it emphasized both the planning and public policy dimensions of equitable development. I chose Cornell to work with one of my academic heroes, Dr. John Forester, who writes about the micropolitics of planning, participation, and deliberative democracy.
Why do you love Los Angeles?
Los Angeles has been more home for just over two years now. I love this city because it is culturally diverse, socially and economically dynamic, and full of surprises.
What’s something that’s happening in LA that excites you?
As I get to know the housing and community development landscapes of this city better, I am so impressed by the various non-profit housing developers who develop innovative portfolios to address the housing needs of our city’s most vulnerable residents, including homeless veterans, youth aging out of the foster care system, families with children, and seniors. I also love the emphasis on the connections between cultural development, preservation, pride, and planning.
What’s your favorite LA recreation activity?
Record and book shopping at the Last Bookstore. I love camping, hiking, and building community. Last summer, I organized the first Queer Camp LA, a weekend of camping for LGBTQ folks, which we held at Chilao Campground in the Angeles National Forest. We had nearly 50 people attend, coming from as far away as San Diego and Fresno. We hope to have another camp this winter. Contact me if you’d like to find out more details!
Tell us about a good book for planners!
Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta by the late Clyde Adrian Woods changed my life.