Urban Planning is Not Boring

By Samantha Ellman and Natalie Ikhrata

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Passionate about climate change mitigation, finding equitable solutions to the housing crisis, and more, Sam Ellman and Natalie Ikhrata dive into various topics related to the field of urban planning that are anything but boring!

Episode Date
The Finale of the USC MUP Program: Capstone

Sam and Nat sit down to discuss all things Capstone! With graduation right around the corner, the capstone project is a pivotal element of the MUP graduate program at USC. This episode dives into the project’s components and all the ups and downs Sam and Nat faced during the process of writing their reports! 

Mar 20, 2023
Disaster Planning and Community Engagement with Dr. Santina Contreras

This week, we are so lucky to have Dr. Santina Contreras a researcher and adjunct professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy. Santina's work focuses largely on environmental justice, disaster planning, and community engagement. With a background in structural engineering, Dr. Contreras has a unique subset of skills in the planning field, and we dive into how her background and passions have led her to where she is today. Listen to here more!  

Build Change - "Our mission is to greatly reduce deaths, injuries, and economic losses caused by housing and school collapses due to earthquakes, extreme weather and fires." Donate today at buildchange.org/give-today/

Ready.Gov Check out her local hazards and risks, and get prepared! If you're in California, make sure to get your earthquake preparedness kit!! 

About Dr. Contreras: Santina Contreras is an Assistant Professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. Her research and teaching focus on the intersection of environmental hazards, international development, and community development planning. The overarching goal of her research is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the planning of communities vulnerable to environmental hazards and broader development concerns in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In her work, she takes an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding relationships between local communities and external stakeholders surrounding natural hazard events, environmental planning efforts, and international development projects.

Contreras has extensive experience working in the private and nonprofit sectors on the design and implementation of environmental planning and development projects. This has included engaging with diverse communities vulnerable to hazard risks in California, Ohio, Mexico, Haiti, and Indonesia. Prior to joining the faculty at USC, Contreras worked as an Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning at Ohio State University and as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Contreras holds a BS (University of California, San Diego) and a MS (University of California, Berkeley) in Structural Engineering. She received her Ph.D. in Planning, Policy, and Design from the University of California, Irvine.

Mar 06, 2023
Gendered Experiences on Transit with Meghna Khanna

"The role of transit in shaping urban form is as important as its role in meeting transportation needs." - Meghna Khanna

In this episode, Sam and Nat chat with the amazing Meghna Khanna, a Senior Director at Los Angeles Metro. After seeing Meghna's keynote address at the APA Los Angeles Awards Ceremony, we knew that we wanted her to come on the podcast to talk about the work that she and her team at LA Metro have done pertaining to gendered experiences on transit. LA Metro has done amazing work in completing the comprehensive study Understanding How Women Traveldeveloping the Gender Action Plan as a result of this study, and forming the LA Metro Women & Girls Governing Council. Listen to hear more about these initiatives at LA Metro!

About Meghna:

As a transit planner, Meghna has been primarily focused on managing Transit Corridor Planning, Environmental and Design, Station Area Plans, TOD Planning and Transit Policy and advancing plans to incorporate women's travel needs on transit. She currently works for LA Metro as the Senior Director, Systemwide Team, Mobility Corridors. She received her Master in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.

For more information about the Downtown Women's Center, please check out their website and consider supporting their mission serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women.

Feb 27, 2023
Let's talk about Placemaking with Dee Powell

Desiree (Dee) Powell does it ALL! From working with full-time with Congress for the New Urbanism, starting her own planning and placemaking group Do Right By The Streets (DRBTS), heading up the Sunny South Dallas Food Park activation and community space, and founding the Black Planner Collective, we quite frankly don’t know how she manages it all! But somehow, this incredible woman does! 


Listen to this episode to learn more about Dee Powell, a Texas-based planner and placemaker who believes above all else in economic mobility, community development, and turning temporary spaces into permanent ones for communities to enjoy. She believes in finding underutilized spaces in communities and transforming these spaces into ones that fill a community need - whether that be alleviating food insecurity or providing outdoor recreation space. We are so inspired after our conversation with Dee, and we hope that you are too!!


Do Right by the Streets – Planning Group (https://www.drbtsurbanplanning.com/)

Sunny South Dallas Food Park – Next Event on March 26!

Donate to DRBTS!

Desiree’s LinkedIn

Desiree’s Instagram (@thedee_p)

Sunny South Dallas Food Park Instagram (@sunnysouthdallasfoodpark)

Feb 13, 2023
Affordable Housing Development with Peter Enzminger

In today’s episode we are joined by Peter Enzminger to discuss all things affordable housing! This episode's discussion focuses on the different elements of affordable housing development and the ways in which it is both similar and different from market-rate housing development. Peter addresses many unique aspects involved in affordable housing development, including the historical significance of affordable housing that permeates into planning and policy today. Listen to learn more! 

Feb 06, 2023
Sitting Down with Kristen Jeffers (@blackurbanist)

On this episode Sam and Nat sat down with Kristen Jeffers, MPA, who is an author, speaker, podcaster and analyst to talk about their experience in the field of Urban Planning. These experiences are what ultimately led to her authoring the book titled A Black Urbanist Journey to a Queer Feminist Future which will be published soon! Her insights are fascinating and touch upon the intersectionality of planning through the lens of lived experience. Listen to today’s episode to learn more!


View The Principles of Black Queer Feminist Urbansim on Kristen’s website and support their platform by joining Patreon on a monthly or annual basis, contributing to their 2022 capital campaign powered by GoFundMe, invest in the currency of your choice via PayPal or send a little something via Cash.App or Venmo.


Kristen Jeffers can be found at:

Instagram: @blackurbanist

Twitter: @blackurbanist

LinkedIn: Kristen Jeffers



Jan 30, 2023
What is Critical Cartography? A Conversation with Dr. Annette Kim

Have you ever heard of critical cartography? After taking Dr. Kim’s course “Critical Cartography and Urban Spatial Ethnography”, Sam knew that we needed to have Dr. Kim on the show. In this course, USC students have the opportunity to consider mapping conventions and peoples, phenomena, patterns, behaviors, etc. that traditional mapping leaves out. Join us for an amazing conversation with Dr. Annette Kim about the importance of critical thinking and nuance in policy and planning as well as her background and research interests and experiences.  


About Dr. Kim: Annette M. Kim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor at the Sol Price School of Public Policy. She is also the Director of SLAB, the newly formed spatial analysis laboratory at Price that advances the visualization of the social sciences for public service through teaching, research, and public engagement.


Her research experiments with ways to recover data of overlooked peoples and phenomenon by incorporating fieldwork and humanities knowledge into spatial analysis. She utilizes critical cartography and spatial ethnography to re-conceptualize contemporary urbanism and find more inclusive and humane ways to design and govern the 21st century city. She has also researched the development of real estate markets and the reformation of property rights in transition countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. Her books include Sidewalk City: Re-Mapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and Learning to be Capitalists: Entrepreneurs in Vietnam’s Transition Economy (Oxford University Press, 2008).


Previously, Dr. Kim was Associate Professor at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. She received her Ph.D. in city and regional planning and masters of visual studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her masters in public policy and urban planning from Harvard University and her B.A. in architecture and studio art from Wellesley College. She is a native of southern California.


Dr. Kim USC Profile

Jan 23, 2023
You Asked, We Answered

Since starting this podcast, we’ve received a lot of questions about various urban planning topics, careers in the field, ways to be involved without a degree, and our personal journeys. We decided to answer some of these questions that we got on Instagram - everything from how we feel about expanding Fastrak lanes to if we ride bikes! Listen to find out more!


For more information regarding professional opportunities in urban planning, listen to our episode with Kristy Kilbourne, aka @passionateplannning on Instagram! 


To get involved in planning, consider joining your local APA Chapter

Jan 16, 2023
Resolutions for the New Year!

Welcome back to Urban Planning is Not Boring! We are starting off the year with an episode that is a bit different from our typical content - a lighthearted discussion about our resolutions for 2023 and our goals for the podcast this upcoming year. 

We have already started planning for amazing guests, new topics, and more listener/supporter engagement, so get ready for more urban planning knowledge!!

And last but not least, with the new year, we just wanted to say thank you so much to everyone who listens and supports the show. We are just two students who wanted to create a platform and community, and each new follower and listener makes this possible for us! 

Jan 09, 2023
Let's talk about CEQA

If you live in California, you’ve probably heard of CEQA aka the California Environmental Quality Act. In this episode, Sam and Nat give a very high-level introduction of the CEQA process, its purpose, and opportunities for CEQA streamlining for various housing and multi-use developments. 


For more info:


Other Sources:


The US Is Gently Discouraging States From Building New Highways



What are Exemptions Under CEQA and How Are They Used?.

Want to save nature? Get to know CEQA

CEQA Streamlining Opportunities

Dec 19, 2022
Freeway Expansion: It Won’t Solve Traffic Congestion!

Sam and Nat provided you with some historical information regarding freeway development and eminent domain in the last episode. Today they are bringing you the topic of freeway expansion and why it does not work to solve traffic congestion. Referencing a report written by Transportation for America, Sam and Nat give you an overview of what induced demand actually is and what it means when it comes to highway expansion and traffic congestion. Not only will you learn about induced demand and the nuances associated with urban sprawl and traffic related challenges,  but you will also hear about what can possibly be done about it! Listen to hear more. For more information regarding the complete report by Transportation for America visit the link below!

The Congestion Con


Other Resources:

How highways make traffic worse

What's Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse

Expanding highways and building more roads actually makes traffic worse

Dec 13, 2022
What the Freeway (WTF): Eminent Domain and the Interstate Highway System

Sam and Nat are beginning a mini-series to discuss all things freeway! Today they begin the series by diving into the history of the interstate highway system and provide some information regarding eminent domain and the role it played in freeway development across the country. Sam also provides some insights on a related case study in Santa Monica that she has been reviewing across this semester. This episode is anything but boring!



A Brief History Of How Racism Shaped Interstate Highways

Beneath The Santa Monica Freeway Lies The Erasure Of Sugar Hill

Below Market Housing Pilot

Santa Monica tries to repay historically displaced families

Santa Monica’s message to people evicted long ago for the 10 Freeway: Come home

Nov 21, 2022
What is Builder's Remedy?

Welcome back to another episode of Urban Planning is Not Boring! Sam and Nat took a couple of weeks off to focus on school, work, travel, etc., but we are BACK!

In this episode, we are talking about a relatively new phenomenon - builder's remedy. If you're from LA or living in LA currently, you've probably heard of the 4500 proposed units of housing in Santa Monica in response to builder's remedy. Why is there a sudden push to propose so much housing? Does builder's remedy have the potential to help us solve the housing crisis? We explore these questions and more in this week's episode!

For more information, check out these resources:

A Primer on California’s “Builder’s Remedy” for Housing-Element Noncompliance

Builder’s remedy could allow thousands of new homes in California

Santa Monica’s ‘builder’s remedy’ experiment holds lessons for the region

City leaders still hope to block 15 of 16 builder’s remedy projects


Nov 14, 2022
Career Coaching with Kristy Kilbourne

Sam and Natalie sit down with Kristy Kilbourne, also know as @passionateplanning on Instagram, to bring listeners advice on how to navigate a career in planning. Covering topics from what employers are looking for in a potential new hire to what a career in planning actually looks like, this episode is one you won’t want to miss!

If you’re an aspiring planner or an early-career planner, make sure you check out the free World Town Planning Day Student Event that the Canadian Institute of Planners is hosting online! Kristy will be delivering a keynote at the end of the day with her colleague Natalie Persaud RPP, MCIP. This event will be helpful for planners outside of Canada, as well!

Where to find Kristy:



Your Planning Career

About Kristy:

Kristy Kilbourne, MCIP, RPP, AICP (she/her) is a passionate urban planner, instructor, and career coach and mentor to planners.  

Her professional background includes working in a variety of roles in the local government and non-profit sectors, as well as an independent consultant. She is an active member and volunteer with organizations including the Canadian Institute of Planners, the American Planning Association, and the Urban Land Institute. As passionate about "the Planner" as the practice of planning, Kristy is also the founder of Your Planning Career, an organization that supports career development for planners. As a career coach, she cares deeply for planners and has had the privilege of supporting hundreds of planners and aspiring planners at all stages of their careers from across Canada, the U.S. and other parts of the world. 

Kristy holds a Master's of Environmental Studies (Urban and Regional Planning) Degree and is currently a Ph.D student in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, Canada. She is a military spouse and mom of 3 amazing sons.

Oct 24, 2022
What is a Planning Commissioner?? A Conversation with Elizabeth Pino

Welcome back to episode 15 of Urban Planning is Not Boring! This week, we have a very special guest on the podcast! Elizabeth Pino, a community engagement specialist and Planning Commissioner for the City of Torrance, speaks with Sam about everything from her role as a commissioner, how to get involved in public service, her experiences as a woman and mother, and the group that she helped found, Anti-Racist Moms (ARMs). 

About Elizabeth Pino:

Elizabeth Pino is a Latina immigrant, wife, proud mother, and passionate public servant.  

She currently serves as Planning Commissioner for the City of Torrance and as a community engagement specialist for Wider Circle - a community-based health organization that drives better health for older adults and other vulnerable communities. Born and raised in Cali, Colombia, during one of the darkest times in the country, known as "The Pablo Escobar Era." Elizabeth witnessed things a young child shouldn’t have to. The country was going through a volatile political era. This experience helped shape her perspective and fully understand how any country can fall apart without proper government control. These injustices motivated her to attend a four-year university, studying Political Science, and choose a career serving others. She also holds a Master’s in Public Administration with an emphasis on Nonprofits. 

During her first year in college, she interned at City Hall Los Angeles with Councilman Greig Smith. Where her love for public service evolved. After graduating from college, she co-founded a non-profit called Kiikas.org. Through this non-profit, Kiikas helped to educate young women on self-awareness techniques and provide tools to increase proactive participation in their health. 

Meet Elizabeth Pino

About Anti-Racist Moms (ARMs):

Bruce’s Beach Juneteenth celebration sheds light on Black history in Manhattan Beach

Oct 17, 2022
The California Legislature Has Been Busy: A Policy Recap

Hello everyone! We are back after a brief break with our 14th episode! As you may know, the California State Legislature has been busy lately. Consequently, there has been a lot of legislation signed into law by Governor Newsom, with a lot of these new laws relating to and impacting our work as planners. Tune in for a conversation about a select few laws that we wanted to highlight: CARB’s Advanced Clean Cars II rule, AB-2097, AB-2011*, and SB-886. We hope that we are having a nuanced conversation that can be fruitful to everyone listening, despite being a bit critical of the bills! 

However, there are SO many more bills that have been signed into law, so we wanted to provide some additional resources for those interested in learning more. 

Some other bills that we we did not have time to cover…

  • SB-1137: Would prohibit new oil and gas wells or extensive retrofitting of existing operations within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals
  • AB-2147: Decriminalizes safely crossing the street at non-intersections.
  • AB 1279Codifies California’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2045

CalMatters Legislation Tracker

Streets for All State Endorsements and Instagram page 

*Related to AB-2221

And last, but certainly not least, we wanted to acknowledge that we are both currently residing on and recording this podcast from Tongva land. We did not go into depth on the history of Indigenous Peoples Day and the horrific treatment of Native tribes and individuals in the United States; however, we wanted to provide some resources for further exploration and, as always, invite conversation and discussion about Indigenous planning and how Indigenous practices can be implemented into the field of urban planning. 


Oct 11, 2022
Embedded Planning Praxis with Jonathan Pacheco Bell

Sam and Nat have the pleasure of sitting down with Jonathan Pacheco Bell to discuss his Embedded Planning Praxis. We discuss the importance of moving from community engagement to community partnership in planning, focusing on the premise that planning does not happen from our desks! We have to plan in the spaces and places within the community. Listen to learn more about Jonathan and his Embedded Planning Praxis! 

Where can you find Jonathan Pacheco Bell?

Follow him on Instagram @c1typlann3r @embeddedplanning

Some of Jonathan’s Most Notable Work: 

To find more of his work, check out his Linktree and his blog

Shoutout of the episode: LA Neighborhood Land Trust

Sep 26, 2022
Public Housing and the Vote to Repeal Article 34

Join Sam as she discusses the history of public housing, how public housing came to have a poor reputation, and what repealing Article 34 would mean for California.



The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

California voters to decide on repeal of anti-public housing measure in 2024

Lawmakers Push to Repeal Anti-Black Housing Law in California Constitution

It’s Past Time to Repeal Article 34

Why it's been so hard to kill Article 34, California's 'racist' barrier to affordable housing

Article 34


Sep 13, 2022
Applying to Grad School? We got you.

Are you considering applying to grad school? Have you ever wondered what the process to apply to grad school is like? Look no further! Natalie and Sam answer your questions about the grad school application process. We cover everything from the letter of rec process to how to make your application stand out! We hope you enjoy! 

For more information about Water Drop LA, please find their website here.

To donate to Water Drop LA, click here.

Stay connected! 

Follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok!

Join our Slack workspace.

Sep 05, 2022
The Math is Mathing: Pro-Forma Analysis with Ben Feingold

Sam and Natalie are joined by industry professional and amazing USC adjunct Professor, Ben Feingold. What are pro-formas? Why are they used in development projects? Ben Feingold takes us through the financial analysis behind various project types and gives his own perspective on what makes a project so successful.  Listen to learn more! 

Aug 29, 2022
A Heated Book Club - Color of Law Pt 1

In this episode, Nat and Sam discuss the first four chapters of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein...and it gets a bit heated. 

Aug 22, 2022
Grad School Survival Guide

In this episode, Nat and Sam go through some of their biggest tips for starting grad school! From finding your favorite study spots to being intentional, we chat about tips specific to beginning a Master of Urban Planning and any graduate program, more generally. 


If you have comments, questions, thoughts, etc. about our first book club book The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, feel free to reach out to us at urbanplanningisnotboringpod@gmail.com

Aug 15, 2022
Dear Zoning, You Suck

We often associate historical discussions with the past which leads us to believe there are no impacts on the present. Sam and Natalie explain exactly why not everything historical is left in the past. The co-hosts dive into the history of zoning ordinances, exclusionary zoning, redlining, and unpack how these practices continue to impact folks today. Listen to get the full story!


Urban Planning is Not Boring announces our BOOK CLUB! We are SO excited to launch our book club, and the first book that we will be reading is “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein. We invite you all to join us in reading this book; we will be reading Chapters 1 through 4 and discussing this first section in our episode that we will release August 22. If you have any comments, questions, observations, etc. from the book, we encourage you to DM us on Instagram @urbanplanningisnotboring or email us at urbanplanningisnotboringpod@gmail.com by August 19! We would love to chat about any listener comments/questions.


To listen to the NPR Code Switch video: Housing Segregation and Redlining in America: A Short History


To rent free ebooks and audiobooks with your library card, download the Libby App


Other Sources:

A Brief History of American Zoning

Understanding Exclusionary Zoning and Its Impact on Concentrated Poverty

For more information:

Down-Zoning and Exclusionary Zoning in California Law

America’s racist housing rules really can be fixed

Effective Zoning Reform Isn’t as Simple as It Seems

Aug 08, 2022
Zoning, RHNA, SB9…oh my!

Welcome back to Urban Planning is Not Boring! In this episode, we cover a topic that was requested via our Instagram Stories: Zoning. We begin by defining what zoning is, what is taken into consideration within zoning codes, and discuss how the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) and California Senate Bill 9 (SB9) relate to zoning. 




The court case brought up in the beginning of the episode is Village of Euclid vs Ambler Realty Company.


RHNA is currently on the 6th cycle, not the 8th. 




Abundant Housing LA’s Updated Guide to Zoning in Los Angeles 


LA City Planning Zoning Overview 




Senate Bill 9: Senate Housing Package 


Understanding the Zoning Code in the City of Los Angeles, Crest Real Estate

Aug 01, 2022
L.A. Mobility Culture with Gia Chinchilla

In this episode of Urban Planning is Not Boring, Sam is joined by her friend Gia Chinchilla. Sam and Gia met through Climate Action LAb, a collective that Gia founded in 2019 that aims to inform & empower Angelenos to tackle environmental justice and climate-related issues in our city. Since working at CLAb together, Sam and Gia have bonded over their shared passion for equitable and sustainable transportation solutions. Tune in to hear our conversation about Climate Action LAb, the LA Green New Deal, transit in LA, and the Urban Future conference. 


About Gia:

Gia (she/her) is an e-Mobility professional, carbon consultant, and writer based in Los Angeles and Paris. She is driven by the simple question: how can we create systems that sustain our well-being? With over five-years experience in clean technology and consulting, Gia has helped her clients reach innovative solutions to challenging decarbonization problems with a holistic “roadmap” to zero emissions technology. A natural storyteller, she has leveraged her experience in interpersonal communication as Founder of @climateactionlab by connecting members with the environmental movement in an approachable manner. Her work has been featured at the United Nations, the TED stage, and multiple global conferences. Outside of work, you can find Gia searching for inspiration by exploring her favorite cities via two-wheels, running trails, and her appetite


To keep up with Climate Action LAb, visit @climateactionlab and the website


To join the Climate Action LAb Club, visit the registration form


For more information about the LA Green New Deal, check out the pLAn


For more information about the Urban Future conference, visit their website


Jul 25, 2022