Top Rated Program

Jan 28, 2015

CRP is again a top planning program in North America. For the past 12 years Cal Poly has consistently ranked near the top of programs for planning in the country according to the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs.  According to the 2019 guide, the program is the #9 small program in the country and the #25 overall program in the country according to planning educators. More information about the Planetizen guide can be found here:

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CRP Professor Spotlight: Dr. Hemalata Dandekar

Mar 24, 2021


Newly elected chair of the City of San Luis Obispo Planning Commission Dr. Hemalata Danadekar had not participated in much community volunteer work before coming to San Luis Obispo, “Right away you get the feeling that San Luis Obispo is a well  governed city, and that there’s been some thoughtful tending to its physical form. It looks like a city that’s cared for and loved, it's palpable,” said Dandekar about what drew her to participate in the process in San Luis Obispo. “My reason for engaging in the Planning Commission and before that the Cultural Heritage Commission,” she continued, “was to see if I could use my expertise in preservation and get to know what the city is about.” Retiring last year from her full-time teaching position at Cal Poly SLO, Professor Dandekar has a robust portfolio of leadership, planning, and architecture experience. After receiving her doctorate at MIT, she taught at the University of Michigan Urban and Regional Planning Program for 22 years, and also served terms as an  Associate Vice President for Research for the University where she had oversight over the Humanities and Social Sciences, and as Director of  the Center for South and Southeast Asia.

Professor Dandekar’s combination of degrees and license in architecture and planning moved her from the University of Michigan to become Director and Professor,  School of Planning, College of Design at Arizona State University for 7 years. Moving to Cal Poly in 2009 she served as Department Head of City and Regional Planning for 7 years.  She  taught  full time there until Spring 2020. Throughout her academic career, Dr. Dandekar published numerous books on the subjects of Women and Housing, Rural-Urban Connections, and the transformation of rural economies due to the impacts of urbanization and industrialization.

Upon her initial relocation to SLO Dr. Dandekar served as a member of  the Cultural Heritage Committee. Reflecting on her time on the committee she notes, “In the four years I served, I found that the community is really engaged, and invested in its past. Something I had not realized in the other two cities I had spent a good deal of time in before.” It was this engagement with the community that resulted in her being recruited to the City’s Planning Commission. Professor Dandekar embraced the opportunity to serve because of the larger scale of projects that were coming forward and would have significant impact on the city’s future. “When you have larger subdivisions and projects, there’s a lot more information to digest.” Dr. Dandekar described, “You have to be up to speed on huge CEQA documents, and have a thorough understanding of the zoning code - you really want to be prepared and you really want to contribute  insights that perhaps others might not have.”

In describing her unique contribution to the commission Professor Dandekar mused, “I think you always have to see what your position is on a team.  Collectively on the planning commission the seven of us try to address the various elements of the project which will have various implications for the city’s wellbeing in the long term.” Hemalata, or as she is more commonly known Hema, believes she serves best on the team of the Planning Commission in providing the perspective of an architect at the project level, and as a land use planner; she’s especially attentive to the guidelines  that projects need to conform to: the site layouts, the setbacks, height restrictions, the affordable housing components. Given her research on “workforce” housing in California, she is aware of  legislation, rules, and expectations. For almost two years Danadekar served on the City of San Luis Obispo’s Land Use and Circulation (LUCE) Advisory Committee and is uniquely prepared  to evaluate the urban design of a development and how it will fit into the larger plan for the city of San Luis Obispo.

Conversations about the urban design, density, and future of San Luis Obispo have been growing for years, but have gained momentum from state level policies and legislation. As a planning commissioner Hema is well versed in the community  concern about the control that the city can have on the future growth of San Luis Obispo. Because of the lack of housing in  California the State of California is increasingly dictating what aspects of housing development, density and growth city’s can control and what they can’t. The debate over local control pertaining to the scale of development has been preempted in certain cases, because the state seeks to increase  the production of housing, and specific kinds of housing, Dr. Dandekar explained.  She went on to say, “ I think the community is concerned about the impact this   is going to have  on parking, on crowding on density - sort of the quality of life parameters that they’ve taken a long time to nurture.”

When it comes to her opinion on the direction San Luis Obispo should go, she describes, “I think that quality of life in SLO is extremely high - its relatively easy to get around, air quality is good, traffic congestion I think is manageable, although some would contest that. But it’s not a very affordable community and high rents and prices make access to housing   difficult, especially for young people. I think the new legislation is trying to break through that but it’s not clear what the impacts are going to be on the city itself. And whether it will actually solve the situation. I think producing more and different kinds of housing is the solution, but the challenge is, can we manage that growth?” She continued,“That’s a normal challenge, the new challenge is what the state is mandating, and I think the evidence is not in as yet. Some of the projects that have been developed the community was not very happy with.  They are not what the neighborhood wanted. The Planning Commission asked the developer to make changes to  the projects in areas that were in their purview so physically are conforming.” But she adds, “We cannot control the rent that the developer asks for, they can ask for huge rents and it’s not within our capacity to control that. So one exercises whatever control one has - whether it’s on the design in terms of units and size and mix or the quality of the design in terms of its connection to the historic fabric, the kind of materials used, what happens in the commercial, the mix between commercial, residential, service, industry. One tries to push and regulate towards the direction that you think is good for the city overall, but there are limits to what one can actually make happen.”

When asked about the most important vote she has ever cast on the planning commission, she describes that it is difficult to find  just one. It is a series of votes, ones that make this city more equitable and affordable to everyone who currently and who may like to live here. Professor Dandekar has spent much of her career researching, learning about, and affecting housing, “A house,” she describes, “is what makes people feel like they have a home, and a home is a representation of a commitment to a place to a community to having a sense of security and feeling safe, feeling empowered.”

Professor Dandekar retired in the Summer of 2020 and will teach part time in the City and Regional Planning Department for the next five years and continue to Chair the Planning Commission of San Luis Obispo.  She hopes to now have time for other ventures such as books and articles from research that has been languishing in her files and a second extensively revised edition of her popular Indian cookbook.


Written by Josie Buchanan, MCRP ‘21

Democratic Planning and Design

Feb 4, 2021

Democratic Planning and Design

A zoom talk by Henry Sanoff, AIA

to CRP students and faculty


Thursday, January 28, 2021


Available in YouTube:


Henry Sanoff is Professor Emeritus at the College of Design, North Carolina State University. With over four decades of research and professional practice, he is specialized in participatory methods and democratic design. He is widely published and known for his many books, including Democratic Design, Community Participation Methods in Design and Planning, Integrating Programming, Evaluation and Participation in Design, Visual Research Methods in Design, and Methods of Architectural Programming --several of them published in other languages including Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

He has lectured in more than 85 institutions around the world and was a visiting scholar in universities such as the University of London, Oxford Polytechnic, Royal College of Art, Monterrey Technical Institute, Tokyo University, University of Sydney, Royal Danish Academy of Art, University of Thessaloniki, University of Hamburg, Seoul National University, Qatar University, and Warsaw and Lodz Universities in Polland.

Among Professor Sanoff’s many awards are the NCSU Holladay Medal of Excellence, Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Achievement Award, Sigma Iota Rho award for Distinguished International Service, ACSA Architecture Distinguished Professor, ACSA Community Design Award, Distinguished Fulbright Award, Fulbright Senior Specialists Award, the EDRA Honor and Service Awards, Progressive Architecture Design Awards, and Design Award and a Post Occupancy Evaluation Award from the School Construction News/Design Share Awards program.

Professor Sanoff’s article Multiple Views of Participatory Design, published in CRP’s FOCUS vol. 8, is available at

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In Memoriam - Professor Bill Howard

Oct 26, 2020

 This Fall we lost Professor Emeritus and former Department Head, Bill Howard. You can read the obituary below to learn about Bill’s wonderful life and legacy. Bill’s wife, Professor Zeljka Howard, has established a scholarship in his name. You can donate here:       

In Memoriam - Professor William "Bill" Howard

William (Bill) Howard, 88, Cal Poly Professor Emeritus passed away on August 29th, 2020 surrounded by family and friends at his home in San Luis Obispo. Bill was a witty, intellectually inquisitive, funny man who was never short on jokes and observations in his characteristically curmudgeonly outlook of the world. He was also a caring father, husband, grandfather and educator who genuinely relished the opportunity to broaden the horizons of university students throughout his entire career. Upon graduating from high school in his hometown of Pink Hill, North Carolina, Bill joined the Air Force and served his country stateside during the Korean War. After serving 4 years in the military Bill went on to graduate from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in history and philosophy and a master’s degree in Geography, prior to receiving his PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in Geography and Urban Planning.

After returning to the United States from Scotland he followed his calling in life, which was to be an educator. He started his teaching career during his graduate studies at the University of Denver and the University of Edinburgh, and continued rising in academic ranks with positions at the University of Denver, the University of Colorado Denver, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and lastly California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where he was hired to be the first permanent full-time Head of the City and Regional Planning Department in 1980. Bill strongly believed that both educators and students should be actively involved in their chosen profession. To that end he was continuously engaged in local and national planning issues through consulting with private and public planning agencies and serving on various advisory boards.  Bill used his endless energy to enrich students’ planning education and preparedness for the “real world” by finding ways in which they can work with communities and assist them in their planning efforts. To the end Bill was passionate about city planning and helping communities become more holistic in their thinking about the ways that they could be better for the people living within them. He used his sabbatical from Cal Poly to do just that for the City of East Palo Alto, CA serving as the Community Development Director for two years. His post retirement years were dedicated to seeking innovative ideas and projects addressing housing issues. He was a ferocious reader and at any given time could have two or three books going at the same time. Ironically, he was fond of Mark Twain’s timeless expression … “I have never let schooling interfere with my education.”

Bill is survived by his loving and devoted wife Zeljka, his children Wade Howard (Brenda) of Newbury Park, CA and Lori Howard (Josh) of Westminster, CO, his stepchildren Amy Bilbija (Jeff) of Cambria, CA and Dushan Bilbija (Robin) of Novato, CA, his grandson Connor, and his step granddaughters Katherine, Ella, Jelena, and Ana, two sisters Bette Smith (Albert) of Emerald Isle, NC, and Nancy Gladson of Kinston, NC, and a brother Cecil Howard (Ruth) of Panama Beach, FL. He will forever be in our hearts for the laughter, love and joy that he brought to our lives as well as all the students who went on to touch the world with the ideas that they learned from Bill Howard.

A celebration of life will be held at a future time, when the world regains some sense of normalcy. In honor of Bill’s legacy, a scholarship in his name has been established at Cal Poly. This scholarship supports graduate students in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Contributions can be made by online ( or by sending a check to: City and Regional Planning, 1 Grand Avenue, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0283. If sending a check, please reference the “William Howard Scholarship” in the memo line.

CRP's Spring 2020 ZOOM Series of International Speakers

Jul 7, 2020

Over the Spring 2020 quarter, the CRP Department hosted a series of Zoom speakers. Click here to view video's of the speakers and the following subjects:

  • Engendering Cities: Designing Sustainable Urban Spaces for All
  • The Urban Land and Affordable Housing Global Crisis
  • Place Marketing and Destination Branding
  • Sustainable Urban Design in a Post COFID-19 Era

Support CRP students through the Cal Poly Scholars scholarship program

Jul 6, 2020

The Cal Poly Scholars program aims to recruit and retain high-achieving students with financial need from California high schools and community colleges. Click here to learn more about this scholarship program.

Alumni Profile: Claire Fliesler, BSCRP '10

Nov 13, 2019

Alumni Profile: Claire Fliesler, BSCRP ‘10

By Josie Buchanan, MCRP ‘21


“Do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and let the decision-makers be the ones to say no. Be brave enough to have the conversation.” This is the best career advice that Claire Fliesler has ever been given. Now a Transportation Planner for the City of Santa Cruz, Claire Fliesler graduated with a Bachelor of Science in City and Regional Planning from Cal Poly in 2010. After her time at Cal Poly, Claire immediately pursued her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning with an emphasis in Transportation and Land Use at San Jose State, balancing this program with a part-time position at the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transportation District doing public transportation work that included: transit planning, grant writing, legislative analysis, and land surveyance.


Claire accredits Cal Poly’s emphasis on a ‘learn-by-doing model’ that enabled her to immediately jump in and work alongside other seasoned planners to represent the $55 Million agency. Claire also gives a lot of credit to her professor and mentor Dr. Cornelius Nuworsoo, who was responsible for her attending her first transportation planning conference which led to her first internship at Fehr and Peers, things that solidified her passion for the field of transportation planning. After earning two planning degrees and with over ten years of active planning experience, Claire is passionate to the point of giddiness to work for the City of Santa Cruz, which is the city she grew up in. Claire moved into her current role as a transportation planner for the city after working with the Santa Cruz Metropolitan District for almost five years.


Claire has made significant contributions to the small coastal city in the realm of active and multimodal transportation. Her self-declared proudest accomplishment as a planner was the implementation of a bike-share program; a partnership between the city and JUMP Bikes. The program, which costs the city nothing to implement, was an incredible feat facing obstacles of neighborhood opposition and the fact the company had never signed on a city so small. Claire persevered standing firmly in her belief that “These are a public benefit, they can improve the public's experience in the public realm. This isn’t about the individual, this is about the entire community.” Signing on to a bike-share system levels the playing field of mobility for everyone in the community, something that is stated directly in the City’s general plan and climate action plan. 


The implementation of e-transportation has been incredibly successful in Santa Cruz. In the city JUMP bikes are ridden an average of 5 times a day and have clocked over half a million miles ridden in the last 18 months - numbers that challenge cities with populations that dwarf the coastal college town. The success of this program and others led to the launch of a Transit Demand Management (TDM) program for downtown employees--a district that includes 4,000 employers and a known parking shortage. The TDM Program includes things like discounted JUMP bike memberships, free bus passes, and subsidized bike locker cards. With Claire Fliesler steering the way, the City of Santa Cruz is challenging its residents to rethink their commute. Claire’s next goal? Reduce Santa Cruz’s drive-alone rate from the existing 56% to below 50% an achievement that would bring them closer to America’s #1 bicycle commuter city - they are currently second behind Davis, CA. 

So, Why be a planner? “Because every day is interesting.” Claire’s passion for her work comes through in every word she says, but never more than this: “You’re never doing the same things, every day there’s something different, projects to work on, areas to improve, and new and emerging tools. It’s exciting, fun, not monotonous, and always keeps you curious.” Claire is grateful for her time at Cal Poly, she cites that it was this program that oriented and engaged her in what it is to build good cities, and is especially grateful for the studios and practical experience she received, as well as the network and lifelong friendships she made along the way. A proud Mustang, Claire Fliesler would urge any member of the Cal Poly City and Regional Planning Department to consider Transportation Planning and to reach out to her anytime.


Joe Horwedel Memorial Scholarship Fundraiser

Oct 24, 2019

The Cal Poly City and Regional Planning Advisory Council is hosting a fundraising event on Thursday, November 7, to benefit the Joe Horwedel Memorial Scholarship. In honor of his memory, the family created the scholarship fund to provide educational assistance for Cal Poly students. Click here for more details and to RSVP.

CRP Professors Publish Books

Sep 26, 2019

Professors from the City and Regional Planning Department have recently published books.

Climate Action Planning: A Guide to Creating Low-Carbon, Resilient Communities

Authors: CRP Professor Michael R. Boswell, CRP Professor Adrienne I. Greve, and Tammy L. Seale

Climate change continues to impact our health and safety, the economy, and natural systems.  With climate-related protections and programs under attack at the federal level, it is critical for cities to address climate impacts locally. Every day there are new examples of cities approaching the challenge of climate change in creative and innovative ways—from rethinking transportation, to greening city buildings, to protecting against sea-level rise.   
Climate Action Planning is designed to help planners, municipal staff and officials, citizens and others working at local levels to develop and implement plans to mitigate a community's greenhouse gas emissions and increase the resilience of communities against climate change impacts. This fully revised and expanded edition goes well beyond climate action plans to examine the mix of policy and planning instruments available to every community. Boswell, Greve, and Seale also look at process and communication: How does a community bring diverse voices to the table? What do recent examples and research tell us about successful communication strategies?

Click here to read more about this book.

The Planner's Use of Information

Author: Professor Hemalata C. Dandekar

This completely revised and updated third edition of this popular book will serve the new generation of planners who work in a world where social media, cell phones, community embedded development, and a changing population have revolutionized the practice of planning. Edited again by Hemalata C. Dandekar, with chapters by leading experts in data collection, analysis, presentation, and management, The Planner's Use of Information empowers practitioners to use and address the impacts of twenty-first century technologies. The Planner's Use of Information offers a range of methods for addressing many kinds of information needs in myriad situations.

Click here to read more about this book.


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