By Ashley Atkinson, AICP
Director, APA Los Angeles (2016-2019)
Earlier this week, I commenced my second term as Section Director by kicking off our first-ever strategic planning process. In the coming months, our Board will be working with a consultant to lay out a vision for the future of APA Los Angeles, and goals for the next 3-5 years. We’re excited to embark on this journey, and hope that the results reflect our members and the broader community of planners, as well as the populations and cities we serve.
When our Board voted in fall 2016 to amend our bylaws to require a strategic plan, it was part of an ongoing program of improvements focused on professionalizing our operations and building infrastructure. In the past two years, we’ve established measurable annual objectives; implemented a budget and brought the Section’s finances into good standing; expanded opportunities for members to participate in Board operations through new committees; and created an operations manual. While the results may not be visible from an external perspective, our efforts were in the service of creating an organization that is both a better resource to its members and a stronger voice for planning in Los Angeles County — an outcome that we hope is apparent.
The charge and the challenge for APA Los Angeles is to address the diversity that planning in our county encompasses. With more than 1,400 members working in 88 cities and countless other organizations spread over 4,751 square miles, our activities must bridge planning disciplines, geographies, and individuals’ backgrounds. With an all-volunteer Board devoting time to APA in addition to their jobs and families, and a limited budget, it is indeed a challenge, but one that we wholeheartedly accept — diversity & inclusion has been a major focus of the past two years. Our 2016 bylaws revision included a new commitment to creating, cultivating, and sustaining an inclusive environment that encourages diversity in membership and programming. Following that commitment, in July 2017 we held a professionally-facilitated workshop for Board members and committee volunteers that resulted in a concrete action plan around diversity & inclusion goals.
It’s ever more critical that we continue to promote the inclusion of diverse perspectives and address issues of equity in today’s political environment around planning. Planning-related ballot initiatives continue to multiply, the state faces a housing crisis, gentrification touches every city, and environmental issues grow more pressing – with the planning field more high-profile than ever, our voices are even more necessary. To that end, we’ve amplified and expanded our efforts around meaningful advocacy and policy conversations. This included taking a stance in opposition to Measure S; taking a stance of support for Measure M; signing on to coalitions including the county-wide #ourparks coalition supporting parks and open space; sponsoring an article for CalPlanner on affordable housing issues and solutions in LA County; hosting a panel discussion on planning at the ballot box; and joining a pro-housing convening of broad organizations seeking consensus around approaches to LA’s housing crisis.
And while policy advocacy, diversity & inclusion, and operational improvements have been at the top of our agenda, we’ve also continued the many other activities that create value for our members. Here are just a few 2016-2017 highlights:
- Held 24 events with more than 2,300 registered attendees, offering 48.5 CM credits.
- Hosted a successful signature event: Going for Gold – Planning for the 2028 Olympics. This sold-out event featured two panels with guests from LA28, practitioners who worked on previous games, and visiting academic experts. Most importantly, the discussion highlighted both the opportunities and challenges that the 2028 Olympics present for us as planners, and for our communities.
- Launched a new Leadership Training Program for mid-career members. Twelve participants successfully completed the six-month program, which provides a select cohort with an intensive monthly training and professional development opportunity. A second cycle will take place in 2018.
- Continued our popular “Summer in the City” series, which each year spotlights planning successes in several of Los Angeles County’s 88 municipalities through tours and site visits.
- Held a series of events in partnership with the Latinos in Planning division addressing questions of gentrification in Boyle Heights and South LA.
- Welcomed Los Angeles’ new Director of City Planning, Vince Bertoni, in his first public appearance after being appointed to his position.
- Held one of our most successful Planning Awards galas at historic Barnsdall Art Park, with 300 attendees, $14,000 in sponsorship revenue, and keynote speaker Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times.
- Presented our first Outstanding Young Planner Award for a member under 35.
- Focused on providing relevant and meaningful communications. These included emails targeted to specific subsets of our membership; blog posts addressing topics like healthy communities, urban design, and mobility; and sharing policy updates through our e-newsletter.
Building on the investments we’ve made in ourselves in the past two years, in 2018 and beyond our Board members are excited to turn our focus outward and play an even greater role in supporting LA’s planners and helping you create better communities. And in 2018, for the third consecutive year, we will have a fully-staffed Board of 22 — a group representing six municipalities, two County-wide agencies, a federal department, nine private firms, and all of our local universities — plus dozens of committee volunteers. I look forward to working with them, and with you, to continue sharing knowledge and guiding change in both the profession and the diverse communities we serve.
With that, I’d like to thank our outgoing Board members for their service to APA Los Angeles. Each of them contributed countless hours to the success of our organization and profession, and the value of their efforts cannot be overstated. Please join me in expressing gratitude to:
Director Pro Tem – Bryan Eck
Vice Director of Professional Development – Richard Rojas
Vice Director of Membership – Nina Idemudia
Vice Director of Finance – Lila Burgos
Planning Commissioner Representative – Kinikia Gardner
Diversity & Inclusion Director – Eric Claros
Young Planners Co-Director – Kristen Gordon
Young Planners Co-Director – Lena Mik
Social Media Director – Martin Potter
Web Director – Pete Noonan
Awards Co-Director – Geoff Danker
Marketing & Sponsorship Director – Lauren Grabowski