Attend the Sustainable Urban Systems Seminar at Stanford

The SUS Seminar series features speakers from academia, practice, industry, and government who are on the forefront of research and innovation in sustainable urban systems. The SUS Seminar is open to the public; students have the option of obtaining 1 unit of course credit. Limited lunch will be provided. 

spring quarter series

More information on our Spring Quarter Series will be published here as it is finalized! 10 speakers on Thursdays, 12-1:20pm @ Y2E2 382 (473 Via Ortega).

Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton
April 10, 2017, 11:15-11:45am @ Y2E2 270: "From the Farm to City Hall"

Michael Tubbs is the first African-American Mayor of Stockton, California, and the youngest mayor in American history of a city of more than 100,000 people. Before being elected Mayor in November 2016, Michael served as the City Councilmember representing Council District 6, the district where he grew up. He is the youngest elected official in Stockton’s history and one of the youngest elected officials in the nation.

Born and raised in Stockton, Michael attended Hamilton Middle School and graduated with the International Baccalaureate diploma from Franklin High School. After Franklin, Michael attended Stanford University graduating with a Master's degree in Policy, Leadership and Organization Studies, plus a Bachelor's degree with honors; he is a Truman Scholar and a recipient of the highest university award, the Dinkelspiel.

While in university, he began to advocate for students and founded The Phoenix Scholars and the Summer Success and Leadership Academy at the University of the Pacific to increase access to higher education for underrepresented students.  

As a Councilmember, he championed the creation of the City's Office of Violence Prevention, founded the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition, and led the South Stockton Promise Zone planning efforts. Tubbs also served as a college course instructor for Aspire Langston Hughes Academy and as a fellow and lecturer at the Design School at Stanford University.

As Mayor, he plans to work tirelessly to reinvent Stockton into a community of opportunity for everyone by focusing on violent crime, economic development, collective impact strategies, and partnering with school districts to improve education.

Readings: Stockton General Plan“There’s No Better Test for Millennials than the American City”

Sarah Jo Szambelan, Research Manager, SPUR
April 13, 2017, 12:00-1:20pm @ Y2E2 382
: "Climate policy leadership in California and the Bay Area"

Sarah Jo's research career began in applying taxes and other market-based tools to achieve climate policy goals. Her work was implemented in the design of California’s groundbreaking cap-and-trade program to limit greenhouse gas pollution. Sarah Jo’s research has also spanned other ares of economics and public policy. Her work has contributed to what California knows about the range in conditions of its public school buildings, and how the design of municipal finance policies affects the services California cities can provide. She currently brings an economic lens to SPUR’s research and oversees SPUR’s data science and GIS work. 

Readings: Fossil Free Bay Area, “California Extends the Most Ambitious Climate Change Law in the United States”

Leslie Norford, Professor, Director, Building Technology Group, MIT
April 20, 2017, 12:00-1:20pm @ Y2E2 38
2: “Interactions of Buildings with the Urban Environment and Electricity Grid"

Leslie Norford is the George Macomber (1948) Professor in Construction Management in the Department of Architecture at MIT. His research focuses on reducing building energy use and associated resource consumption and carbon emissions and his teaching includes project-based efforts to improve schools in developing countries and promote the use of simulation-enhanced building design workflows. He has developed fault detection and optimal control strategies for HVAC equipment and conducted measurement campaigns and numerical analyses of building energy consumption in Russia, China, Pakistan, the UK and Norway. The ongoing research of his group in the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) includes measurements and models of urban microclimates, with a focus on identifying strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect and improve urban air quality. Working with mechanical and electrical engineering students at MIT, he is identifying how control of HVAC systems can help electric utilities mitigate the impact of power fluctuations associated with wind and PV systems through provision of such services as power reserves and frequency regulation.

Readings: “The urban water generator”, “Demonstration of HVAC chiller control for power grid frequency regulation” part 1 and part 2

Lisa Fisher, Sustainable City Team Lead, San Francisco Planning Department
April 27, 2017, 12:00-1:20pm @ Y2E2 270: 
“Amplifying Sustainability at the Neighborhood Scale”

Lisa Fisher leads the Sustainable City Team at the San Francisco Planning Department – fostering a vibrant, regenerative, and adaptive urban environment through bold efforts at the building, neighborhood, and citywide scale. Although focused on “environmental” sustainability (climate, ecology, resources, et al), the initiative also seeks to embed a more comprehensive sustainability lens into Department-wide efforts (e.g., neighborhood plans, land use, housing, and transportation policies; public space and urban design; community engagement, et al). Currently, Lisa is developing sustainability policies and implementation measures for several of the City’s Sustainability Districts, including Central SoMa and three major waterfront developments. This work is also informing a next-generation neighborhood-scale sustainability framework, targeted for roll out later this year. She also co-leads the City’s biodiversity work and district-scale utility explorations, and helped author the City’s Sea Level Rise Action Plan.

Previously, as an Associate Principal with AECOM (EDAW) for ten years, she managed complex urban regeneration projects in Latin and North America. Favorites include the 45-block Nova Luz neighborhood in central São Paulo, 35-acre Pier 70 in San Francisco, and a 350-acre mixed-use waterfront vision for North Vancouver. Lisa holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University and serves on the Board of Directors for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the City’s largest advocacy organization.

Readings: Central SoMa Plan (Intro, Goal 6) and Implementation Matrix

Wendy Tao, Intelligent Traffic Systems, Mobility Division, Siemens
May 4, 2017, 12:00-1:20pm @ Y2E2 382: "
Real Transportation Solutions for Smarter Sustainable Cities"

The confluence of increasing urbanization, global concern about climate and energy, and ever- tightening budgets to finance infrastructure development is driving the need for new models in transportation and traffic management. Although much media attention here in Silicon Valley is focused on Uber and Google’s self-driving cars and Elon Musks’ Hyperloop concept that are decades into the future, many smart transportation solutions have already been deployed today using Siemens technology – and they are done in partnership with the public sector. This talk will provide real life examples of smart traffic solutions - from adaptive signal technologies used in many US cities, the first Connected Vehicle test bed in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a large deployment in Tampa, Florida, dynamic tolling in Israel, a traffic management center that includes an integrated mobility platform and mobility monitor in Berlin, and low emission zone traffic enforcement in London.

Wendy Tao leads business development and strategy efforts in the Intelligent Transportation Systems group at Siemens Mobility. She works with partners and city and regional agencies on Siemens Smart City solutions, connected vehicle applications, active and adaptive traffic management and the emerging field of mobility as a service. She has spent the last 15 years working on transportation, energy and climate change issues in the Bay Area, nationally and internationally. While in Germany on a Robert Bosch fellowship in 2013, she joined Siemens to bring new insights and new technologies deployed in Europe and elsewhere to the US.

Readings: GAO Report, “The Economic Case for Connected Vehicle Infrastructure”, “Ann Arbor SCOOT Mobility Study”, WIRED Article

Lydia Tan, Senior Vice President, Head of Development, Bentall Kennedy
May 25, 2017, 12:00-1:20pm @ Y2E2 382: "Real Estate Development and Investment in the Urban Environment"

Lydia Tan is Senior Vice President, Head of Development of Bentall Kennedy in the United States, overseeing real estate development activity for the company, which is comprised of a variety of asset types throughout the U.S. Lydia also serves on the U.S. Management Committee. 

Prior to joining Bentall Kennedy in 2014, Lydia was EVP, Director of Northern California Operations at Related California where she spearheaded the development of a $2 billion pipeline of mixed income, mixed use projects. Prior to that, she was EVP in charge of Development at BRIDGE Housing Corporation, where she oversaw the production of $2.4 billion in assets, participated as part of the executive management team, and co-led an investment partnership with CalPERS. With more than 30 years’ experience, she has had key involvement in conceptualizing, entitling, financing and constructing several large-scale public/private redevelopment efforts in the Western U.S. 

Lydia holds an AB Architecture degree from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford University, and is a registered Architect in California.  She is a member of the Stanford Real Estate Council and ULI, and serves on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity Greater SF, SPUR, and the S.H. Cowell Foundation.


Past Speakers

Gil Friend, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Palo Alto
January 12, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104: "The Path To A Carbon Neutral City"

Gil is charged to "develop a world class sustainability strategy for the city, and manage the activities that will lead Palo Alto be being the greenest city in America." He is widely considered one of the founders of the sustainable business movement. Gil is a named inaugural member of the Sustainability Hall of Fame (along with Amory Lovins, Karl-Henrik Robert, Bob Willard and the late Ray Anderson) by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, and "one of the 10 most influential sustainability voices in America" by The Guardian.

Gil is a systems ecologist and business strategist with over 40 years experience in business & policy innovation. As founder & CEO of Natural Logic Inc, he helped companies in a wide range of industries design, implement and measure profitable sustainability strategies. Gil's work combines broad business experience in management consulting, business strategy, systems ecology, economic development, management cybernetics, and public policy. 

"Natures' ecosystems have nearly 4 billion years of experience in the development of efficient, adaptive, resilient, and sustainable systems. Why should companies reinvent the wheel, when the R&D has already been done?" (Gil Friend, 1991)


Rashmi Sahai, Assessments Program Manager, Office of Sustainability, Stanford University
January 19, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104: "Climate Action at Stanford"

Rashmi Sahai currently manages the sustainability assessments program at Stanford University. She leads the tracking and reporting of Stanford’s sustainability metrics, and heads Stanford’s Green Labs and Sustainable IT programs. Prior to her role at Stanford, Rashmi served as the Sustainability Specialist at the University of California (UC) Office of the President, where she supported implementation of the UC Sustainable Practices Policy across the ten UC campuses. Rashmi is a certified energy manager and received her M.S. in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley and her B.S. in Environmental Science from UCLA.

Talk Abstract: Situated on 8,180 acres, Stanford requires a significant amount of energy to support its academic mission and the research functions housed within more than 1,000 campus buildings. Efficiently managing energy supply and demand, as well as the corresponding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, is therefore critical to the university’s future. Since the 1980s, Stanford has employed best practices to minimize the cost and environmental impact of its operations. However, given that climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions is the greatest environmental and socioeconomic challenge and opportunity of our time, Stanford accepted the challenge to go beyond these efforts and raise the bar through a program known as Stanford Energy System Innovations (SESI). SESI represents a transformation of university energy supply from 100 percent fossil-fuel-based combined heat and power plant to grid-sourced electricity and a more efficient electric heat recovery system. This new system, along with Stanford’s solar procurement, reduces campus emissions approximately 68% below peak levels, and saves 18% of campus potable water. In her talk, Rashmi will provide an overview of climate action planning at Stanford, framing it within the international context of climate policy. She will share what it took to implement SESI, from inception to completion, and how the university measures its sustainability performance on an ongoing basis.


Ronita Bardhan, Visiting Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
January 26, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104: "The 3P’s of Design: Is design a product, process or philosophy?"

Dr. Ronita Bardhan, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab (UIL) and Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering. She is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India and has been awarded the Building Energy Efficiency Higher & Advanced Network Fellowship supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) for her research in the field of Sustainable Built Environment. She has a PhD from University of Tokyo, Japan where she was a MEXT Scholar in the Environmental Systems Lab at the Department of Urban Engineering. She holds a Master in City Planning from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and a BArch from Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology.


Allison Albericci, AIA Associate, Skidmore Owings & Merrill
February 2, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104: "Deconstructing Density"

Allison Albericci is an Associate with the City Design Practice in the San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP, where her recent projects include India Basin, the Broadway Corridor Framework Plan, and the Alameda Point Town Center, among others. With over a decade of professional, research and teaching experience, Allison’s work focuses on the design of complex, mixed-use, hybrid, campus, and transit-oriented development projects in urban centers worldwide. A passionate proponent of sustainable urbanism, she brings an integrated and holistic approach to optimizing performance at all scales. Allison earned Masters Degrees in Architecture Studies and in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she helped teach multiple courses on Urban Design and Planning, and guest-lectured on the subject of sustainable urbanism. Allison also holds a Master of Architecture degree from Tulane University, and a Post-graduate Diploma of Urban Design from Oxford Brookes University. Allison is a registered Architect, a certified Planner, and a LEED Accredited Professional.

Talk Abstract: As city planners across the US and abroad advance development models to spur economic growth, fund infrastructure enhancements, improve quality of life and restore environmental integrity, Density has emerged as a critical planning tool. Yet communities are often wary of development intensification – for many, the very word “density” conveys connotations of “Manhattanization.” This session will explore the complex and often controversial topic of density, using pioneering research and case studies from the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere to demonstrate how trends in mixed-use, multi-family, transit-oriented neighborhood development are shaping more sustainable and livable communities. Participants will gain an understanding of the role density can play in achieving neighborhood goals (such as affordability) and the thresholds necessary to support amenities and services. They will also discover strategies to re-focus development conversations on community needs and benefits, and develop indirect means of addressing the issue, in situations where it is too contentious to tackle head-on.

Alan Lewis, Open Space Practice Leader, Skidmore Owings & Merrill
February 9, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104: "Look Both Ways", a series of project case studies that examines the creation of urban resiliency in public realm design

Alan Lewis is a licensed Architect and the firm-wide Open Space Practice Leader for Skidmore Owings & Merrill in San Francisco. He has over 30 years of experience in the design and construction of large scale projects and has lectured extensively on the interdisciplinary issues fusing architecture and sustainability with urban and landscape design in both professional and academic venues. Much of his work maintains a concentrated focus on the improvement of the public realm and urban environments while addressing integrated flood management and the role of open space and landscape systems in response to growing climatic threats.

As a practicing Architect at the New Orleans firm of Eskew Dumez Ripple, Alan led the Reinventing the Crescent Riverfront Master Plan project which addressed the strategy of re-inhabiting the river’s edge following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. During that time he was also a co-founder and the Director of the Tulane City Center at the Tulane School of Architecture where he assisted the University in its response to the recovery after the storm.

Following these first hand experiences of testing urban and landscape resiliency, he has provided leadership working with SOM for several award-winning master plans of waterfront parks and ecologically challenged urban districts. These include the Jinan CBD Central Park network, the Tianjin Haihe Ribbon Park, the San Jose Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant Master Plan and Houston’s Kingwood Marina. Through these unique experiences of working in flood prone districts in the US and Asia, Alan focuses much of his energy towards illustrating how landscape and public realm forward approaches and responses can play a critical role in project development, flood control and protection and resource conservation strategies.

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Eric Klinenberg, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University
February 16, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104:
"Cities and Social Infrastructure"

Eric Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone (The Penguin Press, 2012), Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media (Metropolitan Books, 2007), and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2002), as well as the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age and of the journal Public Culture. His scholarly work has been published in journals including the American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Ethnography, and he has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The Washington Post, Slate, Le Monde Diplomatique, The London Review of Books, and the radio program, This American Life.

Talk Abstract: When someone asks what makes a city work we usually think of hard infrastructure: roads, bridges, airports, and train stations; electrical grids and communications networks; supply chains for food and fuel; underground systems for water and waste. All of this is necessary for a functioning city, let alone a flourishing one. But so, too, is the social infrastructure: the network of sidewalks, parks, commercial corridors, public spaces, civic organizations, and neighborhood institutions that, when robust, promote social interaction and community-building activities or, when flimsy or degraded, discourage interaction and leave families to fend for themselves. It’s urgent that we understand this: Today the United States is primed to make a massive investment in rebuilding infrastructure for the 21st century. If we fail to recognize the value of social infrastructure, we will miss a historic opportunity to strengthen our collective life.

** CANCELED ** Kip Harkness, Deputy City Manager, City of San Jose
February 23, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104

Kip's purpose is to Awaken talented people to the spark of their full potential, and enable them to change themselves and the world, by creating spaces for people to gain insight and make wise decisions, experiences that challenge people to achieve real success, and practices which guide people to enduring happiness. His career journey has taken him from Timbuktu to Silicon Valley. Along the way Kip has advised farmers on the edge of the Sahara, created the national award winning Strong Neighborhoods Initiative, managed complex real-estate deals, and led a network of top technology leaders.

Kip is an accomplished change agent transforming communities and organizations by creating opportunities for people to have autonomy over their work and lives in connection with a greater purpose. He is a master facilitator with proven ability to connect diverse leaders in crafting wise agreements on complex, politically charged, issues. He is a proven implementer with over $300 M+ portfolio of successful projects ranging from pocket parks to residential high-rise. He is an inspiring leader and exceptional communicator with the ability to retain and attract talent needed to build capacity and sustain complex initiatives. He is married to the fantastic Anne Ehresman, Executive Director of Project Cornerstone, and together they are the parents of two emerging leaders; Anya (age 16) – motto “think, paint, touché”, and Finn (age 12) “What if I was the god of Mathematics?”.


Rich Gordon, Former California State Assemblymember
March 2, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Shriram 104

Rich Gordon has spent his life in service to others. First as a minister in the United Methodist Church and later in the nonprofit sector he worked with young people and families. He would eventually spend twenty-four years in elected office. From 2010 to 2016, Rich Gordon served as a member of the California State Assembly. As a member of the Assembly he held a leadership position, serving as Chair of the Rules Committee for three different Speakers. He saw 70% of the legislative ideas he pursued signed into law. He did significant work in the areas of the environment, election law and transparency, and water policy. Most significant was his work on sea-level rise that led to adaptation planning being recognized and funded as a state priority. As a member of the Assembly, Rich Gordon earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Prior to service in the Assembly, Rich Gordon served for thirteen years on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. As a County Supervisor, Gordon worked to achieve government accountability by leading in the development of the County’s outcome-based budgeting and was instrumental in the formation of regional partnerships including the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust. Gordon was actively involved in the creation of the Children’s Health Initiative that guarantees health care coverage for children. In 2008, Gordon served as the President of the California State Association of Counties, which represents all of California’s 58 counties.

Mr. Gordon also served as a member of the San Mateo County Board of Education for five years. Prior to public service his work was as a minister in the United Methodist Church and for twenty years he worked in the nonprofit sector where he was the founder and Executive Director of Youth and Family Assistance. Rich Gordon is a fourth generation Californian – born and raised in San Mateo County. He completed high school in Orange County and graduated from the University of Southern California. He has a Masters in Divinity from Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University. He resides in an unincorporated neighborhood in Menlo Park with his husband, Dr. Dennis McShane. Mr. Gordon and Dr. McShane have been in a committed relationship since 1982 and were married on August 16, 2008.

Juliana Gonzalez, Executive Director, The Watershed Project
March 9, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ Y2E2 180: "Greening Urban Watersheds: How can we partner to make our cities work like a forest.

Juliana became the Executive Director for The Watershed Project in January 2015, after serving as the Deputy Director for three years. Before taking the executive role Juliana managed the Watershed Project's Community Programs. Prior to joining the Watershed Project back in 2008, Juliana was the Watershed Coordinator for the San Pablo Watershed Neighbors and Education Society - SPAWNERS and a founding member of Groundwork Richmond. She holds a PhD in Geography from Kings College London and an M.S. in Environmental Sciences from the State University of New York. Juliana is originally from Colombia, where she worked on watershed planning and policy development for the Andes of South Western Colombia. Juliana has a passion for community based projects and is a true believer of the importance of education and community based stewardship. Juliana lives with her husband and her two children in the Baxter Creek Watershed in El Cerrito, CA.

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Dana Harvey, Executive Director, Mandela MarketPlace
March 16, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm @ 
Y2E2 180: "Food Systems as an entry point strategy in building community-driven inclusive social, health and economic systems" 

For over a decade Ms. Harvey has guided the development and growth of an award winning non-profit organization, Mandela MarketPlace, to create an alternative, community-driven food access and economic development model that integrates local entrepreneurship, business incubation, nutrition education, and access to healthy, fresh and affordable foods.

Under her direction and leadership, Mandela MarketPlace incubated a for-profit, worker-owned grocery retail, Mandela Foods Cooperative, a Healthy Retail Program, Zella’s Soulful Kitchen, Mandela Foods Distribution, and Ladder Up Finance Fund and Entrepreneurship training programs. These programs have generated over $5M in new revenue, distributed over 600,000 lbs of local, fresh produce into a community that previously had no access, created over 25 sustained jobs and business owners, and provide job and business training to tens of residents annually, and increased local farmer income by more than $250,000.

Ms. Harvey holds a B.S. Degree in Conservation Ecology and Natural Resource Economics, and an M.S. Degree in Soil Science/Sustainable Agriculture from UC Berkeley. She received the 2009 Women of Greatness Award from Mayor Dellums, 2010 Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader Award and was recognized by President Obama as a 2012 Champion of Change in Food Security. She attributes her systems thinking approach to her community, her education and a lifetime connection with nature.

Talk Abstract: From launching farmers markets and local produce stands to developing a worker-owned grocery co-op; from linking local farmers of color through their food distribution hub to incubating local businesses and investing in youth leadership development, Mandela MarketPlace has shown that it is possible to rebuild an entire food system with local residents driving its development, ownership, and sustainability. With time-tested infrastructure in place and an expanded network of innovative enterprises.

Mandela’s network of enterprises, programs, and partners has created important economic and health impacts, from jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities to access to healthy food for local residents. And yet, even with its rapid growth, the organization’s mission remains true to the plan the community laid out nearly fifteen years ago—now members are equipped with the tools and experience to achieve those goals. 

READ Transforming West Oakland: A Case Study Series on Mandela MarketPlace