Community & Regional Planning

At the core of any successful comprehensive planning process is a meaningful public involvement process, whereby community members and other stakeholders see their fingerprints in the final recommendations and implementation.

Kearns & West brings valued expertise in formulating, implementing and facilitating meaningful public involvement for essential planning processes. Understanding the intersections of land use, environmental resources, mobility, community identity, economics, public health and development helps to substantively facilitate dialogues that lead to viable policy outcomes.

Kearns & West specializes in:

Sample Projects

      Bay Area Air Quality Management District - Public Participation Plan


      The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) is tasked with regulating stationary sources of air pollution in the nine-county Bay Area, which includes communicating and partnering with more than 7 million residents and thousands of businesses that reside in the Bay Area. Prior to 2011, the Air District did not have clearly defined policies or a plan to foster meaningful public participation, and Kearns & West was hired to respond to the need. The Public Participation Plan was designed to build capacity within the Air District to anticipate, coordinate, communicate and collaborate when identifying and addressing public and stakeholder needs and concerns; and enable and encourage diverse stakeholders to understand and engage in Air District decisions including plans, permits, and enforcement. Kearns & West led the development of a Public Participation Plan that identified principles, policies and implementation protocols for conducting the agency’s air quality mandate. The plan includes guidance on conducting outreach to limited-English-proficiency residents as well as low-income communities with significant air quality challenges. Kearns & West facilitated a 25-person Stakeholder Advisory Task Force and supported a series of regional public workshops to identify community priorities and evaluate the potential application of best practices. Adopted in 2015, the Public Participation Plan is now used as a guiding document to ensure Bay Area residents are engagement meaningfully in the Air District’s various plans and programs.

      California Energy Commission - The Oakland EcoBlock


      The Oakland EcoBlock is an applied research program, funded by the California Energy Commission, which aims to test the hypothesis that block-scale retrofitting of residential neighborhoods is more efficient than the individual house-scale. Kearns & West is working with a team of urban designers, engineers, social scientists and policy experts from Berkeley, Stanford, Lawrence Berkeley Labs and NASA Ames Research Center to identify the most feasible approach to highly-efficient, affordable neighborhood block-scale energy, water, and wastewater treatment-and-reuse platforms. The program also seeks to design a replicable process for the benefit of communities across California. This pilot project is located in Oakland’s rapidly changing Golden Gate neighborhood, providing a complex landscape for community engagement around EcoBlock retrofits, which may impact home values. Kearns & West is helping the project team to work collaboratively with residents to identify key issues and decision points along the way to EcoBlock implementation. The engagement toolkit for this project includes community meetings, living room conversations, site tours and participant interviews.

      California High Speed Rail Authority - California High Speed Rail, San Francisco to San Jose and San Jose to Merced Project Sections


      The California High-Speed Rail Authority is responsible for planning, designing, building and operating the first high-speed rail in the nation. Kearns & West currently leads stakeholder engagement and outreach efforts to support environmental review of two sections of the High-Speed Rail Project: San Francisco to San Jose and San Jose to Merced. Combined, the project sections make up over 130 miles of proposed high-speed rail and contain a diverse array of stakeholders including numerous local governments and state entities, agricultural interests, neighborhood associations, and the business community. Kearns & West designs and implements a variety of engagement activities including public workshops and open houses, community and technical working group meetings, targeted outreach to environmental justice communities, coordinating with landowners on the project’s permission to enter process, and developing outreach and information materials. To date Kearns & West has developed environmental justice outreach plans for both projects, designed and facilitated multiple rounds of public open houses and community working group meetings, and created a variety of additional opportunities for community members to learn and provide input on the project.

      California Strategic Growth Council - Community-Based Planning for a Sustainable California


      The State of California’s Sustainable Communities Grant and Incentives Program was established to help local and regional government to establish local solutions to meet the statewide greenhouse gas reduction mandates. The program, administered by the California Strategic Growth Council, directed $66 million into 125 planning projects. Recognizing that the numbers themselves do not convey the program’s accomplishments, the Strategic Growth Council enlisted Kearns & West to screen the planning projects and create a brochure showcasing highlights. Kearns & West formulated a methodology to select 14 planning projects for the brochure that reflect the geographic and cultural diversity of the state and policies and implementation programs with exemplary multi-sustainability benefits, community engagement and stakeholder collaborations, integration of unique local strengths and needs. The brochure, Community-Based Planning for a Sustainable California, weaves together narrative, photos, maps, and illustrations to tell the story in a compelling, enjoyable tone, geared towards elected officials, community leaders, and stakeholder organizations.

      Mission Viejo - Civic Core Vision Plan


      The City of Mission Viejo was undergoing a visioning process for the civic/commercial core of the city. The City Council wanted to involve the full cross-section of Mission Viejo communities in exploring possibilities for new places, experiences, mobility options, and land use changes. Working closely with the team of urban designers and economists, Kearns & West formulated a strategic plan to explore options for widening the circle of involvement in community dialogue, and then implemented popup outreach, a series of community workshops, website and social media communications, property owner meetings, and youth visioning workshops in coordination with the city library and cultural arts staff. Integrating community art activities into the popup outreach resulted in a higher and engaged level of involvement – and many new and forward-thinking ideas – from people who traditionally been not been involved in community planning discussions in Mission Viejo. The team has successfully completed the series of three community workshops, each with attendance nearing 100, and the City Council approved the Vision Plan in Spring 2017. The 5-0 vote reflected the City Council’s confidence in the inclusiveness of the public involvement program.

      Oregon Metro - Reserves Steering Committee Process


      The Reserves Steering Committee is a group of stakeholders and elected officials from three counties and Metro, a regional government that oversees land-use planning and maintains the urban growth boundary in compliance with state law, whose mission was to identify how to best implement a new state law requiring agreement on urban and rural reserve designations for regional land-use planning over the next 40 to 50 years. Kearns & West provided the process design, consultation, and facilitation/mediation for the Reserves Steering Committee.

      Riverside - Northside Specific Plan


      The Northside is one of Riverside, California’s initial communities, situated north of downtown and adjacent to the Santa Ana River and open spaces. It contains established neighborhoods, a commercial corridor with many local businesses, and both older and newer light industrial uses as well as the historic Trujillo Adobe, dating back to the Spanish Trail. The launch of the Specific Plan has been awaited for many years by residents, property owners and the City of Riverside, to address how to best use several large opportunity areas (including a centrally-located closed golf course), address community needs for better local shopping and safer mobility conditions, and reinforcing community connections with its history and environment. The community involvement program, led by Kearns & West, is based on objectives for broad participation by the diverse communities in the Northside, transparency, and integration with previous neighborhood visioning. The multi-pronged program includes traditional engagement methods, including a series of community workshops, balanced with other methods to involve people typically underrepresented in public process, such as school open houses, booths at community events, office hours with the planning team in the Northside, and partnering with local organizations. Nearly 20 organizations provided input on the community involvement plan itself.

      Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation- North Bethany Land Use Ordinance


      Washington County’s Department of Land Use & Transportation was charged with developing a Land Use Ordinance for North Bethany. Kearns & West led the facilitation team providing neutral process support to the multi-party approach in drafting a mutually acceptable ordinance. The process involved mediation with numerous parties along with facilitating a Coordinating Committee and three Workgroups, which are charged with addressing the financing and implementation of a new method of planning and developing a community.