Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Wise

Nov 8, 2021

Drafted and Edited by Amy Uthenpong (she/they)

Cal Poly alumni, Lisa Wise AICP, finds great fulfillment in working with the new generation of planners. After graduating from the MCRP program in 2001, she established Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. (LWC) in 2006. Since then, the firm has grown to nineteen employees with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and headquarters in San Luis Obispo. LWC’s core services focus on development codes and zoning ordinances, long-range planning, and land use economics. The range of projects vary from code audits, housing element updates, market analysis, and testing the financial feasibility in housing and mixed-use prototypes. LWC’s client base is primarily public sector (cities, counties, ports and harbor districts) with some private developer work.

Lisa attributes much of her firm’s success to the close relationship with Cal Poly. The first LWC employees were hired from the BSCRP and MCRP programs. Currently, there are seven Mustangs employed, including the Business Manager. Several of LWC’s top performers began as interns and later advanced to senior management and project management positions. Lisa reveals that Cal Poly students are eager to learn how to address real-world planning tasks while working closely with the team. She elaborates that Cal Poly students “effectively communicate and illustrate ideas”, which are skills fostered in the studios and valued in her team. Lisa has also maintained a close relationship with the Cal Poly community as a part-time lecturer in Construction Management and City and Regional Planning courses for the past twenty years.

The firm is intentional with the projects they pursue, focusing on what the clients want and if it would be a good fit. Lisa’s favorite part of her job is to “work with clients who are committed to making their city a better place and have the capacity for real change.” The LWC team is made up of “smart, problem solving people, who thrive on collaboration to develop the best approaches and solutions.” The staff have a variety of backgrounds from thirty-year professionals to interns making the first career moves. LWC also leverages the team’s public sector experience, business management skills, and technical expertise in economics, geography, and architecture.

Lisa Wise Consulting operates best when collaborating with clients to build more resilient, equitable communities. Nationally, LWC is working throughout California to improve housing production and modernize development codes. LWC is also leading code audit and update projects in Las Vegas NV, Fargo ND and Columbus OH, where the key question is “how can we better incorporate equity practices into every step of the planning process?” Internationally, LWC is working on its third code project in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aimed at more walkable, less car-centric neighborhoods.Her firm is unraveling complex equity and resiliency questions like “how do we leverage the code to incentivize a more walkable city, and how do we make the streets safer for pedestrians and more vibrant for businesses?”

Lisa did not always know she wanted to work in the planning field. In fact, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing, followed by a master’s in accountancy and worked as an auditor in the securities and commodities industry. After ten years, Lisa realized she wanted to make a more positive impact. After some time off to travel, she decided to attend Cal Poly’s Master’s Program in City and Regional Planning. To this day, Lisa reflects that the change was the right choice personally and professionally. Upon reflection, Lisa extends advice to the next generation of planners to “be open to opportunities that favor your strengths, there are many possible paths to success, especially within the planning world.”

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CRP Design Studios apply Learn-by-Doing Principles during the Pandemic

Oct 6, 2021

By Amy Uthenpong (she/they)  

During the Spring of 2020, two studios in Cal Poly’s City and Regional Planning program put the Learn-by-Doing principle to the test during unprecedented circumstances. During the COVID-19 pandemic, studio professors Dr. Dandekar and Dr. del Rio oversaw twelve MCRP and thirty-eight BSCRP students who collaborated with Santa Clara County and the unincorporated area of San Martin. The objective was to compose a Strategic Development Plan and Urban Design Visions. This project has received two awards from American Planning Association California chapters: an Academic Award for Excellence from the Central Coast Section; and an Empowerment Award of Excellence from the Northern Section. However, it first began under humble, resilient circumstances: a shortened nine-week quarter, shelter in place regulations, and remote work during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

When Santa Clara County’s Department of Planning and Development contacted Cal Poly, the objective was to brainstorm future long-range planning concepts and scenarios for the San Martin community. San Martin, a community 30 miles south of San Jose, is known for its rich agricultural industry and rural history. San Martin faces threats of urban encroachment and local displacement due to rippling housing impacts from the Bay Area tech industry. Within the past 30 years, a housing surge led to 21,171 acres of farm and range land being lost. Without intervention, numerous consequences could ensue: diminished regional climate resiliency, depleted local food resources, and displacement of locals and farmland. 

The undergraduate students were tasked to develop Urban Design Visions for San Martin’s village core using planning outcome guidelines. The goals were to protect the historical rural sense of place, support agriculture and the diversification of the economy, and uplift the anticipated growth of tourism. From April to June, the project was divided into phases: (1) background research and site assessment, (2) concept development, and (3) project development. Prior to the pandemic, the studio had class field trips to the site, laboratory studio formats, and extensive community interactions. 

With a mere two week notice of the virtual class requirement, professors and students sought creative ways to conduct site assessment and community engagement. BSCRP student Christabel Soria Mendoza explained, “the project was unlike the others because we were in a virtual setting where we could not visit the site as a class, lean over our studio tables and brainstorm or raise our hand and ask for our professors to walk over. The most difficult part was splitting the work evenly through Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. We solved the issue by assigning people to specific roles and they would fulfill the tasks in that role throughout the project.”

Simultaneously, the graduate studio students focused on a holistic Strategic Development Plan with emphasis on rural culture, agricultural preservation, and small-scale agro-tourism. The project consisted of transitional phases: (1) interview members of the community, execute site-specific studies, and review relevant plans and documents; (2) develop concept plans around rural character, agricultural preservation, agro-tourism; (3) develop seven strategies of change. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the process required rethinking traditional ways of the development process.  Ayla-Louise Mateo, MCRP student, was initially concerned about making a difference to this community because of the online setting, wanting to protect “low-income residents affected by home and rental costs.” MCRP student Josie Buchanan adds that “at many times it was difficult to focus on work with many students having personal health and familial issues come up at this time.” 

With resilient teamwork and innovative problem-solving skills, the students utilized Google Maps and Zoom for touring San Martin and phones for stakeholder telephone interviews. Josie reflects that she was able to discover different ways to engage with the community as “people who typically would have a hard time coming to community forums because of work schedules or disabilities were able to have their voices heard.” With the help of student solidarity as well as support from professors and county officials, the graduate students presented their findings and strategies to the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee (SMPAC).

Despite the unforeseen challenges, the students produced two comprehensive reports: “San Martin Strategic Development Plan” and “Urban Design Visions for San Martin.” Soon after, the graduate students presented their findings to the Santa Clara County Planning Commission and the San Martin Advisory Committee. These two public hearings provided profound experience in public speaking, answering questions, and communicating with various publics. With the help of Cal Poly, the community of San Martin now moves forward with developing policies in the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan. 

Cal Poly press release:


BSCRP Students Involved: Willie Amaya, Ryan Anderson, Nate Antepanko, Ida Araghieyan, Amelia Cane, David Choy, Jack Combs, Reid Crandell, Liam Crowley, Carlos Espinoza, Dominic Ferrari, Samuel Fluhman, Isaac Golf, Benjamin Ip, Will Jarrett

Nishita Kandikuppa, Vinson Kwan, Aidan Lebow, Ian Madrigal, Courtney Marchi, Tim McBirney, Henry McKay, Christabel Soria Mendoza, Eliza Meyers, Meredith Milam, Connor Miller, Abby Miramontes, Chris Murphy, Justin Nelms, Michael Pham, Peyton Ratto, Jessica Romero, Bailey Sullivan, Trisha Tran, Jack Wanner, Mitchell Wexler, Cameron Wilson, Wesley Wong

MCRP Students Involved: Saba Asghary, Cameron Bauer, Josephine Buchanan, Gabriela Cortez, Henry Eckold, Owen Goode, Christopher Hamma, Bryce Haney,

William Kwon, Ayla-Louise Mateo, Simon Poon, Ethan Thomas

New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Dave Amos

Jun 9, 2021


Our newest member of the City and Regional Planning department, Dr. Dave Amos (he/they), is a planning professor by day and a planning YouTuber by night. Since his arrival to Cal Poly in Fall 2021, he has taught CRP 212, Introduction to City Planning, and CRP 410/411, the fourth-year comprehensive planning studios. Meanwhile, he also works on his YouTube channel, City Beautiful. When asked about the origins of his channel, Amos explains that when he was a planner, he “would often talk to advisory committee members or city councils and explain a concept like healthy communities or complete streets” to citizens who did not have a formal education in planning. He wished there were videos he could show them, but few existed.

Dave had that thought in the back of his mind when he taught an introductory planning course for his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. He realized his lectures could become great videos, so in January 2017, he produced his very first video that took four months to make titled, “Why do so Many U.S. Cities have Gridded Streets?” From his initial commitment to make one video every month, Dave Amos upholds the mission for the City Beautiful Channel: “to teach as many people as possible about the places they live in.” The channel strives to answer commonly-asked planning questions because “it’s taken for granted that the places we live in cities have everything we need to know. But often, we wonder why there’s housing here and businesses there...why cities are the way they are.” It is this same curiosity that garners an audience of 350,000 subscribers and 30 million channel-wide views, 60-65% being international. 

When asked about Cal Poly’s City and Regional Planning curriculum, Dr. Amos reveals he was impressed that the planning students possessed such advanced “technical skills and professional experience” such as knowledge of CAD, Adobe Creative, and the internship graduation requirement. With a hybrid of theory and practical work skills, Professor Amos says Cal Poly students “are the most prepared students [that] I’ve seen in my time in academia.” As a result, he adds that graduates leave with more tools in their tool belts than most planning programs. For example, the curriculum is designed to have second year undergraduate urban design studios and later more comprehensive, policy design studios with a real-world client later during the fourth year. When asked why he chose to teach at Cal Poly, he explains one of the driving forces was the great faculty that are expected to be excellent teachers.

Before Dave was a professor, he was in the same shoes many other students were in: seventeen years old and unknowing of what career he wanted to pursue. When his high school teacher gave him a book with a chapter in urban planning, Dave was captivated by how he  “could work in a community and see positive change.” Dave received his undergraduate degree in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell, worked in the non-profit sector, and later graduated with a Master of Architecture and a Master of Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon. After working as a consultant land use planner in Sacramento post-grad, he returned to academia and attended UC Berkeley for his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning.

Dr. Amos’ advice to undergraduate and graduate students is to “have a plan but be flexible.” He encourages people to explore the field through internships and trace the careers of inspiring planners to discover potential career paths. At the same time, Dave advises to embrace life’s curveballs and unconventional learning experiences that often occur organically outside of academia and working. For example, when asked how he travels within a new city, he tries to experience the unfamiliar environment just as a local would: using transit, avoiding tourist destinations, and getting into the neighborhoods by simply experiencing them. It is this same passion and curiosity that makes Dr. Dave Amos a fantastic YouTuber and addition to the Cal Poly faculty.

CRP Alumni

Jun 2, 2021

Map of CRP alumni. Keep us updated on your whereabouts at this link:

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Virtual Reality in Planning

Apr 26, 2021

Watch a video on CRP's experimentation with Virtual Reality Technology

“Planning Meets Virtual Reality: Student Research Team Uses VR to Improve the Design Process”

By Amy Uthenpong (she/they)

At the start of 2021, City and Regional Planning professor Dr. Amir Hajrasouliha gathered a group of students to conduct research on how virtual reality could be implemented in the design and planning process. Virtual reality utilizes computer simulations to generate experiences that are alike or different to the real world, mostly used in video games and educational training. The students were eager to pioneer this experimental research, as third-year student Kristie Woo explains she had always been interested in VR gaming but did not consider VR in the planning world. Each student tested different VR applications then evaluated how the software could be integrated in the planning process. The team also explored the opportunities and limitations of the programs and its digital literacy range.  The final outcome was a new design process that integrated virtual reality into three stages of urban design: organization, ideation, and presentation. This workflow was applied to Cal Poly’s urban design studio in a project for the City of Gilroy, California. 

First stage: Interact in VR with partners to organize information 

Software programs Spatial and vSpatial were used to explore the communication potential in virtual reality meetings. The applications are immersive workspaces that simulate in-person meetings. Spatial utilizes avatars that sync mouth movements with user audio and features collaboration boards where people can share drawings and 3D objects. Up to thirty people can be within the same Spatial room with only one person needing a VR headset, whereas vSpatial requires everyone to have a headset. Both of the applications allow 3D models like libraries or park benches to be imported, so participants can see the object in different perspectives. Third-year student Trevor Winnard describes how interacting with others using Spatial allowed him to “take a step back from using zoom, which dominated our academic experience, and look at a different option.” These two work applications have potential to be used in desk critiques and stakeholder engagements without being in the same physical space.

Second stage: View and Edit conceptual models in VR 

VR SketchUp and Sketchup Viewer allow multiple people in the same Sketchup file to view, create, and edit 3D models. With VR SketchUp, multiple people can have human scale interactions in proposed buildings and spaces. In fact, undergraduate student James Schireman was able to import a SketchUp file of Downtown San Luis Obispo and walk through its streets using a virtual reality headset. The biggest advantages are getting an immersive experience at the early stages of design and having multiple people work in the same file at once. With VR SketchUp, planners can edit models in real time and share site plans through the cloud. This has potential to make the design process more collaborative and immersive.

Third stage: Presenting multiple design scenarios in VR 

The team used GIS (geographic information system) files with different 3D modeling programs to create a virtual reality experience. Students Eric Wang, Alex Lopez, and Trevor Winnard explored City Engine with ArcGIS Urban and Unreal Engine. City Engine utilizes coding procedures to generate interactive 3D models on a large scale and make them VR compatible. Winnard used coding procedures in City Engine to generate 3D buildings on a city scale in rapid time instead of designing buildings one by one. Another program, ArcGIS Urban, uses 3D modeling to display different zoning and land use codes more effectively. ArcGIS Urban and City Engine, both ESRI products, can be synced together in the modeling process. Finally, Unreal Engine transfers the model into a virtual reality format. 

Communicating ideas to those unfamiliar with planning can be done in a more unified and expressive way. As Eric explains, these programs can “communicate physically while virtually” by creating instantaneous scenario switching across the same project. For example, with a proposed development, it is possible to generate and display various VR options (scenarios) for comparison. A person with a headset could compare one development scenario with landscaping, interact with it, then switch to another scenario with no landscaping. Kristie explains that community outreach in the planning field could be improved with virtual reality because “it’s hard to look at a master plan or map to see what a [proposed building] will look like but with VR you can walk through it and see exactly how the proposed building will look like.”

After experimenting with various virtual reality software, the team produced tutorials for other students to use and implemented the new process in a Cal Poly urban design studio. In CRP 341, Urban Design Studio III, the class partnered with the City of Gilroy to develop four different design scenarios in a commercial space. Students created an immersive experience for all four scenarios that could be used in the public engagement process and the final presentation.  

Virtual Reality has the potential to change the status quo of planning, influencing the design and community engagement process. From the ideation, design, and community outreach phases, a new generation of planners are exploring how technology could offer a new way of collaboration and design in planning.


A special appreciation to Dr. Amir Hajrasouliha (he/him), The City of Gilroy, CRP 341 (Urban Design Studio III) Spring 2021, and CAED Dean’s Leadership for funding the project.

Students Involved: Alex Lopez (he/him), James Schireman (he/him), Eric Wang (he/him), Trevor Winnard (he/him), Kristie Woo (she/her)

More Resources:

Youtube “Incorporating Virtual Reality in Urban Design Process”

Youtube Video Link 2: “City and Regional Planning Presentation”

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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 and Professor Kenneth Topping

Oct 26, 2020

 In Fall of 2020, 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.


In Memoriam - Professor Kenneth "Ken" Topping

In Spring of 2021, we lost Professor Emeritus Kenneth Topping. You can read the obituary below to learn about Ken’s wonderful life and legacy.

Kenneth Clarke Topping passed away peacefully on March 5, 2021 at the age of 85 from complications of Parkinson’s disease at his residence at San Clemente Villas by the Sea, San Clemente, California. He is survived by his wife, Phyllis Topping, his sons, David and Bruce Topping, David’s wife Jody, grandchildren Ryan Topping and Erika Hoffman, great-grandchildren Anderson and Paige Topping, nephews Richard Fridell and Bayete Henderson, niece Nancy Acosta, and many others in their respective extended families.

Born on April 28, 1935 in Kobe, Japan to Willard and Evelyn Topping (American Baptist missionaries), Ken had two siblings, Barbara Fridell, and Henry Topping (died in infancy). Ken spent the first five years of his life in Himeji, Japan. Just before World War II broke out, his family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, then to Boulder, CO for several years, eventually returning to post-war Japan where Ken attended Yokohama American High School. He moved to Redlands, CA to attend the University of Redlands, where he majored in Sociology, performed in the Drama Trio, and met the love of his life, Phyllis Brewer. Shortly after graduation in 1956, they married in Redlands and began their wonderful 64-year collaboration.

Ken and Phyl spent their first year together at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where Ken pursued post-baccalaureate studies. They then returned to California, settling in Covina, where Phyl’s parents and sister resided. In the first three years of their marriage, they were blessed with their two sons, and Ken diverted from his intended career as a marriage counselor and worked for LA County in downtown Los Angeles as a regional planner from 1957 to 1973. He left his position at LA County to become the Director of Planning for San Bernardino County and then the Deputy Administrator for Environmental Public Works, while living once again in Redlands. Ken was appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley in 1986 as Director of City Planning for Los Angeles, where he had an influential role in projects that included the Getty Museum, Hollywood Community Plan, routing for the Metro Red Line subway to Universal City, and the city’s first zoning update using GIS (geographic information systems).

Later in his career, Ken served as General Manager for the Cambria Community Services District, Visiting Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute of Kyoto University in Japan, and lecturer in City and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State, San Luis Obispo. His work also included numerous consulting, research, and advisory roles, along with serving on commissions, including the Planning Commission for San Luis Obispo County. He is recognized internationally for his work on earthquake and other disaster resiliency issues including advisory work after Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, and the Kobe earthquake. He authored and coordinated many significant articles, studies, and books.
Ken had a vision for the role of planning in guiding communities to solve environmental and hazard problems and had unique skills for implementing this vision. His consistent voice, persistent persuasion, application of emotional intelligence, ability to build bridges across agencies and disciplines, and vision of safer cities through applications of environmental and climate science led to Ken’s career being highlighted in a session entitled “At the Forefront: Work of a Resilience Planning Pioneer” at the 2019 conference of the California chapter of the American Planning Association in what could be considered a well-deserved lifetime achievement award.

Ken’s non-vocational interests included sailing, hiking & camping, walking, and both making and enjoying different types of music. A self-taught guitarist, he shared his life-long love of music passionately with his family, including forming a family folk music group, leading to both his sons pursuing successful careers in music teaching and performance. His gentle nature, compassion for others, dedication to his profession, perseverance, and intelligence are just some of the many wonderful attributes that will live on in the memories of his family, colleagues, and friends all over the world.

In lieu of making donations to a specific charity in memory of Kenneth Topping, the family asks only that people make conscious efforts to be respectful, caring, and loving of one another and the environment, attributes exemplified by his life in helping to create a more peaceful and sustainable world for future generations. A celebration of Ken’s life will be held at a time and place to be determined by the family.

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.


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