About Me

At Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park. Photo by Colin Peeples.

Hi. I received my Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Development at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California and am a part-time faculty member of California State University Northridge’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, as well as Scholar-in-Residence at USC’s Bedrosian Center on Governance. There I’ve produced a limited series podcast, Los Angeles Hashtags Itself, an interview-based look at how people use digital communications for urban and social placemaking. I’ll talk with cultural producers, community organizations, real estate developers, transportation experts, and gig economy representatives. This podcast underscores my broad research agenda. That is, I look at how people can and do use media arts to foster community engagement and participatory planning, as well as how real estate developers use websites, social networks, and the constituent media for marketing or to reinforce power.

I believe emergent media hold promise in that they engage with such planning phenomena as identity, participation, and process, and uphold context as a decisive factor in all. But just as we extol the virtues of the information age, we planners must not forget planning’s complicated history owes in part to its uncritically technophilic tendencies. Thus, I am both optimistic and circumspect about technology in planning. We must recall the causes and implications of the digital divide and power generally, and shape our participatory processes accordingly. In support of my research, I study community planning, the cultural economy, cultural landscapes, digital media, media arts, public space, the public realm, and comparative urbanism.

I came to LA in 2008 after years in arts fundraising to get my Masters in Planning at USC. I realized at once that the only thing I want to do with the rest of my life is study urban planning and its implications for healthy communities. In addition to my doctoral fellowship, I received a 2014 National Endowment for the Arts Research: Art Works Grant, as well as the 2016 John Dyckman Award for Best Dissertation, and the  California Planning Foundation Academic Achievement and Promise for Graduating Master of Planning Student awards in 2010. For more information about my research, publications, and presentations, please see my CV.

I am an unabashed plannerd. Beyond my official interests, I love any conversation involving public transit, the ports, the built environment — anything plannerly — and rejoice that travel is research eo ipso. Finally, while my love for all cities is assured,  I still think Los Angeles might be the greatest city going. Greater still, maybe, for all its complexities and contradictions. Oh, and I wish the Out the Window project ran forever and my husband, son, daughter, and I are always waiting for the next CicLAvia.

All header images by me, except those of me. They’re by Colin Peeples.

6 responses to “About Me

  1. What a fantastic idea for a thesis! Good luck!

  2. Hey Brettany,
    Great site. Lets talk.

    Check out my recent work in NYC. It was incredible to use public space as a planning tool. Their is so much going on their that may work caught on like wild fire. I facilitated 14 workshops in 5 weeks. To bad LA is so unresponsive to my approach to planning!

    Re-Imaging New York City, One Hair Roller at a Time: Lessons Learned
    By James Rojas

    For the past 5 weeks New York and hundreds of New Yorkers were my guinea pigs as they embraced my innovative planning process. From Wall Street to the South Bronx I engaged NYC’s multi-cultural population with my interactive planning. From children to adults, from Spanish speaking immigrates to professionals everyone had an opportunity to listen, learn, and inspire each other with their urban visions.

    By word of mouth I was able to collaborate with artists, planners, and urban enthusiasts to create public interventions and venues. These venues engaged, educated and empower residents to self reflect on the built environment around them and in some cases examine some of NYC’s pressing urban issues.

    NYC was a great platform to experiment with by practice. I facilitated twelve workshops in various locations from indoor to outdoor, public to private, intimate to large audiences. These workshops allow me to push the limits on how we as planner do community engagement. All were workshops were transformative for the participants and in addition provided valuable planning data for the various groups.

    New York City is about the experience, communication and public space. Everyone senses are challenge with the vibrant clutter of humanity. Everyone is in constant contact with each other visually or verbally. Everyone uses the city’s public spaces. My innovative planning practice allowed participants to build, articulate and share their urban visions in parks, laudromats or indoor spaces. The workshops tapped into the city’s three elements that made them extremely popular with New Yorkers.

    Through facilitating the twelve workshops I have learned a great deal about this city, and was able to go far beyond conventional planning practices to tap into people memories, and experiences of place. Hopefully I made planning fun, memorable, and helped in shaping NYC’s future by giving people a platform to share their ideas and create a vision.

    Lessoned learned from New York City:
    Urban planning meeting should be an hour. As planners we should not waste the public time.
    Urban planning public meeting should be facilitated on site or in public space. People have a hard time reading maps. Many times people do not know the site in question. It’s important for people to experience the site.
    We need to take advantage of every opportunity to engage people in urban planning. Meeting should tap into people habits and force them to meetings.
    We need to ask the right questions to stir people’s imaginations and responsive.
    For initial meeting we need to avoid power points, the experts, maps, pictures and solicit the public unbridle thoughts.
    Everyone regardless of race, profession, language, and age need to participate. People need to interactive, listen and learn from each other to promote consensus.

    Below is a list of my venues:

    1. Occupy Town Square Bushwick


    2. Project for Public Spaces Workshop


    3. Hasting on Hudson


    4. Occupy Town Square: Jackson Heights


    5. Architecture Design Basics and Toy Design Class


    6. Tompkins Square Park Interactive Planning


    7. Power of Place: Walking Experience Interactive Workshop


    8. Bronx Laundromat Community Engagement!


    9. City as Play: Lower Eastside Community Visioning Interactive Diorama

    First Street Green

    10. Williamsburg Bridge Park Community Visioning interactive Workshop


    11. ARUP Noon Workshop


    12. Play Date with Tomas

    • James, congratulations on your NYC trip — it looks like it was more than amazing! I’m taking my quals next week (hence, all these annotated bibliographies), but I’d love to hear more about your experiences afterward.

  3. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different web address and thought
    I should check things out. I like what I see so now i am following
    you. Look forward to looking at your web page repeatedly.

  4. michaelbduignan

    Really like the sound of your work Brettany, lots of overlap with my own work on the entrepreneurial city, and mega-events


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s