2018 Sustainable urban systems symposium

The SUS Symposium is an annual celebration of exemplary work by students, researchers, faculty, and external partners in the past academic year under the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, and an opportunity to explore new ideas and future collaborations within the broader community.

The 2018 Symposium will take place on Thursday, June 7, 2018, from 8am-5pm, in Room 292A, Y2E2 Building (473 Via Ortega). Seating is limited, so please register for a free ticket at our Eventbrite page below. 


PROGRAM at a glance*

  • 8:00am - Light Breakfast
  • 8:30am - Welcome
  • 8:45am - Coastal Flood Risk in the Bay Area
    • Moderator: Dr. Jao Surakitbanharn, Executive Director, Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative
    • Darcy Forsell, Planner, City of San Mateo
    • Jasneet Sharma, Climate Resiliency Specialist, Office of Sustainability, San Mateo County
    • Len Materman, Executive Director, San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority
    • Jack Hogan, Engineer, Arup
  • 10:00am - Affordable Housing in East Palo Alto
    • Moderator: David Garcia, Policy Director, Terner Center, UC Berkeley
    • Cari Chen, Acting Executive Director, Rebuilding Together Peninsula
    • Stewart Hyland, Community Organizer, Faith in Action Bay Area
    • Tameeka Bennett, Executive Director, Youth United for Community Action
    • Pamela Dorr, Program Director, Blocks, Soup
  • 11:00am - District Planning in San Francisco
    • Jon Swae, SF Planning
    • Michael Webster, SF Planning
  • 12:00pm - Lunch
  • 1:00pm - Data-Driven Urban Design and Community Development
    • Moderator: Dr. Ronita Bardhan, Assistant Professor, Centre for Urban Science & Engineering, IIT Bombay
    • Dr. Jonathan Reichental, Chief Information Officer, City of Palo Alto
    • Noah Yonack, Data Scientist, Safegraph
  • 2:00pm - Sustainability Planning in Silicon Valley
    • Dr. Susan Gilbert-Miller, Director, Office of Sustainability, Office of the County Executive, County of Santa Clara
    • Eric Yurkovich, Senior Associate, Raimi + Associates
  • 3:00pm - Special Guest: Sichuan University
  • 4:00pm - Poster Reception

*Program details still in development.


coastal flood risk in the bay area


Students in the SUS year-long project-based service-learning course have worked on a coastal flood risk assessment framework with local, county, and regional partners. Their work has yielded valuable methodologies and insights towards regional-scale, evidence-based adaptation planning in the Bay Area. This session will start with a presentation by the students, followed by a panel of partners from public and private sectors who have engaged with the student work and will discuss the implications of the co-production model.


Moderator: Dr. Chittayong (Jao) Surakitbanharn is the Executive Director of the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative (SURI). One of Jao’s current research streams focuses on how disaster and emergency information can be better communicated between emergency managers and community members to create more resilient communities. Previously, he has been funded by the US, Australian, Chinese, Japanese governments to research the role of aviation for the resilience of rural communities. As part of this work, he spent four of the last five years working with international researchers and local stakeholders to improve safety and resilience in flood-prone areas in Australia, volcanic areas in Indonesia, and better understand the role of subsidizing critical infrastructure following the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami in Japan. In 2017, he and his team supported the US Coast Guard in deploying novel social media software to aid in search and rescue for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

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Darcy Forsell is the Zoning Administrator/Principal Planner at the City of San Mateo. She has over 20 years of San Francisco Bay Area urban planning experience focusing on local land use entitlement of infill and large scale sustainable mixed-use transit-oriented developments. For over a decade, she has served as the City of San Mateo’s overall project manager for the 84-acre Bay Meadows Transit Village near the Hillsdale Caltrain Station. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Science in Earth Systems with a focus in Land Systems from Stanford University. 


Jasneet Sharma 



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Len Materman is the Executive Director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, a regional government agency named after the physical feature that divides and unites cities and counties in the heart of Silicon Valley. Serving a Board of elected officials from five jurisdictions, Len leads the agency’s projects, operations, finances, and communications. With its staff of four, and the support of consultants and the staff at SFCJPA member agencies, the Authority plans, designs, and implements regional projects to reduce a proven flood threat, enhance ecosystems, create recreational opportunities, and improve disaster response.

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Jack Hogan recently joined Arup's San Francisco office as a Climate Change Risk and Resilience Consultant. Prior to working with Arup, he was a hydraulic engineer for the US Army Corps of Engineers. He received a Masters in Civil Engineering from the Stanford University and completed a Fulbright Fellowship in the Netherlands focused on flood risk analysis and adaptation strategies for sea level rise.



affordable housing in east palo alto


Students in the SUS Initiative have worked with community and government partners in the City of East Palo Alto on affordable housing development at two scales: from the small backyard unit to the high-density, mixed-use development. The city, and many other places like it with a concentration of low-income, minority residents, will need to build strong multi-sector partnerships and explore evidence-based interventions across the whole spectrum of housing strategies in order to prevent displacement and empower socioeconomic mobility. After a short demonstration of student projects, a panel of local nonprofit leaders will provide a grassroots perspective on these challenges and opportunities.


Moderator: David Garcia is the Policy Director for the Terner Center. He leads the center’s engagement in local, state and federal housing policy and supports the generation of research-driven policy ideas, proposals, and papers. Prior to joining the Terner Center, David worked as the Chief Operating Officer for Ten Space, a real estate development company in Stockton, California focused exclusively on infill projects in the downtown neighborhood. As COO, David managed various aspects of the development process, including development agreements, environmental review, and project design. During his tenure, Ten Space won several awards for their projects, including the American Planning Association’s Award of Excellence in Urban Design for their California chapter. David has also worked as an advocate in the Central Valley, serving on numerous boards and commissions related to a wide array of planning issues such as increasing cycling infrastructure, implementing smart growth policies, and developing incentives for infill growth. Prior to his work with Ten Space, David was a Research Analyst at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, DC. At the GAO, David conducted evaluations and analyses of several different federal programs using a variety of methods, both quantitative and qualitative. These reports helped inform various policy debates at the national level. David holds a Bachelors of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles as well as a Master's in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies in Baltimore, Maryland.


Cari Chen joined Rebuilding Together Peninsula (RTP) in August 2008, currently serving as the Acting Executive Director. Cari has worked for a variety of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations since 1993, including Team-Up for Youth, the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, The San Francisco Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i. Building relationships and leveraging resources to improve the quality of life in local communities has been a constant theme in her career, which drew her to the mission and work of RTP.  She continues to be an active community volunteer, and was honored by California State Senator Jerry Hill in May 2014 with a "Community Champion" Award for the 13th Senate District. The award was given in recognition of her work with Rebuilding Together Peninsula, Friends of Mandarin Scholars in San Mateo Foster City School District, and the Sterling Downs Neighborhood Association. She currently serves on The San Francisco Foundation's Koshland Committee, as well as the Vestry and Social Ministry Committee of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Redwood City.  Cari has a BA in Urban Studies/Community Organizations and a MA in Education/Policy Analysis & Evaluation from Stanford University. A Peninsula resident, Cari lives in Belmont with her husband and two children.


Tameeka Bennett, Executive Director of Youth United for Community Action, is an experienced organizer and lifelong East Palo Alto resident. Growing up in EPA gave her a strong sense of self, something she wishes to pass on to the youth she works with today, "People hear EPA and the first thing they do is think of all the negative things associated with who we WERE. EPA has made so many strides! We are a strong community. Filled with beautiful stories of resiliency and hard working families.  My city taught me to never give up, to strive after what I want, go after my dreams. I want to pass all of that goodness onto the youth I work with everyday." Tameeka joined the YUCA family in 2011. She formerly co-coordinated all leadership development activities with our environmental justice and affordable housing campaign. Tameeka formerly sat on the East Palo Alto Planning Commission. She is a graduate of the 2015 Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute (hosted by Urban Habitat). She also sits on a host of Commissions, Committees and Boards geared at making a difference in the areas of climate change, social & environmental justice, affordable housing, youth leadership development and racial justice.

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Stewart Hyland




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Pamela Dorr, Director at Soup, uses design and technology to tackle tough social problems including the Bay Area housing crisis. As a Bay Area native she brings fresh energy to affordable housing. Small backyard cottages are an idea solution to create scattered site housing for all and Soup is making changes one backyard at a time. Clusters of cottages can also create affordable rental and home-ownership solutions to ensure low-income families have innovative housing solutions. (See San Jose Mercury News Article on Soup) Before joining Soup, Pam worked with the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization, Inc. (HERO) to create community development, economic and affordable housing solutions for underserved areas in Alabama. Notable projects include the Housing Resource Center at HERO, PieLab, HERObike, and Habitat for Humanity, Hale County Inc. (See CBS News on Pam DorrNew York Times on PieLab20.0k House) Pam is a design thinker and entrepreneur known for innovative affordable housing and economic development projects that build stronger communities. Contact Pam at pam@soup.is


Creating Sustainable Neighborhoods in San Francisco

The City of San Francisco has some of the nation’s most ambitious sustainability goals including greenhouse gas reduction targets, high-performance building mandates and zero waste requirements. But how do bold citywide targets translate into action at the neighborhood level? This session will discuss the Planning Department’s recent projects to create neighborhood-based sustainability strategies in collaboration with local communities.  The session will provide an overview of the Central SoMa and Sustainable Chinatown projects. Speakers will address how "open data" can be used to develop sustainability metrics to inform community priorities and how neighborhood environmental performance can be used to enhance equity.

Jon Swae is a Senior Planner with the San Francisco Planning Department’s Citywide Policy division. Over the past ten years his work has focused on integrating environmental sustainability into land use planning and policy. Recent projects include the San Francisco Urban Forest Master Plan and sustainability districts in Central SoMa and Chinatown.



Michael Webster has a B.A. and M.A in Geography from San Francisco State University. He is the cartographer and GIS analyst for the Citywide Policy section of the San Francisco Planning Department where he has worked for over ten years.



data-driven urban design and community development

Moderator: Dr. Ronita Bardhan is Assistant Professor at the Center for Urban Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India and Associate Faculty at the Interdisciplinary Programme (IDP) in Climate Studies in the same institute. She also holds the Shimizu Chair Visiting Professorship at Stanford University, USA. Ronita is an architect and urban planner by training, with a PhD in Urban Engineering as a Monbukagakusho (MEXT)Scholar from The University of Tokyo, Japan. Her work has centred around sustainable urban planning for low-income settlements in Indian megacities. In short time, she was able to demonstrate the need for a data-driven design pathway for low-income settlements like slums in Mumbai to facilitate a better quality of life among the women and children. She engages deeply in mixed-method research and believes in the full integration of various stakeholders in the policy-making process for sustainable low-income housing. Her research mostly evolves from the practical needs of the community and is interpreted through the lenses of the state-of-the-art urban modelling toolkits. The transdisciplinary nature of her research transverses across the improvement of indoor air quality in slums and tenement housing to the assessment of energy security in such resource-constrained settlements. She is the recipient of The Building Energy Efficiency Higher & Advanced Network (BHAVAN) Fellowship 2016-2017 in recognition of her work in building energy efficiency for low-income communities and was awarded the Young Researcher Award 2012 for her innovative contribution in the field of Sustainable Urban Regeneration in Japan.

Dr. Jonathan Reichental, currently the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Palo Alto, is a multiple award-winning technology leader whose 25-year career has spanned both the private and public sectors. In 2017, he was named one of the top 100 CIOs in the world and in 2016 he was named one of the top 20 most influential CIO’s in the United States. Dr. Reichental is also recognized as a global thought leader on a number of emerging trends including urban innovation and blockchain technology. In 2013 he was recognized as one of the 25 doers, dreamers, and drivers in government in America. He also won a best CIO in Silicon Valley award and a national IT leadership prize. His innovative work in government has also been recognized by the White House. Dr. Reichental works with his teams to apply technology innovation in organizations to create new value and to enable work to be more meaningful and fun. He is a popular writer, including recently co-authoring The Apps Challenge Playbook and he is a frequent public speaker on a wide range of technology and business-related topics. He co-hosts the popular podcast, Drinking Wine Talking Tech.

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Noah Yonack





Sustainability planning in silicon valley

As the City of San Jose rolls out its new Climate Smart San Jose Plan to meet GHG reduction targets under the Paris Climate agreement and demonstrate leadership in localizing the Sustainable Development Goals, and as the County of Santa Clara begins to develop a Sustainability Master Plan, all eyes are on the Silicon Valley's public, private, and social sectors for new models of collaborative, evidence-based governance. After a short demo of a SDG local reporting platform by an SUS project team, this panel will outline the progress to date and explore the opportunities that lie ahead. 

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Dr. Susan Gilbert-Miller




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Eric Yurkovich, Senior Associate at Raimi + Associates, has over fifteen years of experience as a community planner focused on issues of sustainability and climate change. He specializes in developing citywide comprehensive plans, small area plans, climate action and adaptation plans, vulnerability assessments, and sustainability plans. He brings a strong technical background to support policy and plan development.


2017 SUStainable urban systems Symposium

The 2017 Stanford Sustainable Urban Systems Symposium took place on June 8. See highlights and details below; recordings of the talks are coming soon.

program Agenda

  • 8:00am - Light Breakfast
  • 8:30am - Welcome 
    • Lynn Hildemann, Department Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering
    • Jim Leckie, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
    • Bruce Cain, Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West
  • 9:00am - Panel Discussion: Resilience
    • Christine Thomson, AICP, LEED AP, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
    • Laszlo Varga, Architect, Sherwood Design Engineers
    • Rob Best, Engineer, Arup
    • Jim Stickley, ASLA, LEED AP, Principal, WRT
    • Moderator: Jack Baker, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • 10:30am - Panel Discussion: Sustainability 
    • Gil Friend, Chief Sustainability Officer, Palo Alto
    • Peter Pirnejad, Development Services Director, Palo Alto
    • Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director, SPUR
    • Melissa Lunden, Chief Scientist, Aclima
    • Rishee Jain, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
    • Moderator: Michael Lepech, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • 12:00pm - Lunch 
  • 1:00pm - Panel Discussion: Well-Being 
    • Jesus Andrade, Councilmember, District 6, Stockton
    • Fred Sheil, Executive Director, STAND Affordable Housing
    • Dana Harvey, Executive Director, Mandela Marketplace
    • Nancy Huante, Parent/Family Organizing Director, South Stockton Schools Initiative
    • Hector Lara, Director, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition
    • Moderator: Michelle Anderson, Professor, Law School
  • 2:30pm - Student Presentation: Sichuan University, China 
  • 3:30pm - Student Presentation: Monterrey, Mexico 
  • 4:30pm - Poster Reception 

featured speakers

Dr. Lynn Hildemann, Department Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Stanford

Lynn Hildemann's current research areas include the sources and dispersion of indoor aerosols, the physicochemical properties of organic aerosols, and assessment of human exposure to PM.  Prof. Hildemann received BS, MS, and PhD degrees in environmental engineering science from the California Institute of Technology. She is an author on >80 peer-reviewed publications, including three with over 700 citations each, and another 16 with over 100 citations each. She has been honored with Young Investigator Awards from NSF and ONR, the Kenneth T. Whitby Award from the AAAR (1998), and Stanford's Gores Award for Teaching Excellence (2013); she also was a co-recipient of Atmospheric Environment’s Haagen-Smit Outstanding Paper Award (2001). She has served on advisory committees for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and for the California Air Resources Board. She has been an Associate Editor for Environmental Science & Technology, and Aerosol Science and Technology. She currently is on the advisory board for the journal Environmental Science & Technology. At Stanford, Prof. Hildemann is currently chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. She has chaired the School of Engineering Library Committee and the University Committee on Judicial Affairs, and serves as an elected member of the University Faculty Senate.

Dr. James Leckie, Director, Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness, Stanford

Professor James O. Leckie is the C.L. Peck, Class of 1906, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geological and Environmental Sciences (by courtesy) at Stanford University. He is also Director of the Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness and Director of the Stanford Environmental & Water Studies Summer Program. His research interests include computational intelligence for smart physical and social infrastructure, using computational learning and optimization tools to (1) better design smart physical infrastructure (transportation systems, urban water systems), and (2) facilitate a class of social services such as knowledge management for social innovation, to integrate social functionality into urban communities. Dr. Leckie has led the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative for the last two years.

Dr. Bruce Cain, Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford

The distinguished political scientist Bruce E. Cain is the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences. Professor Cain succeeded the Center's founding faculty co-director, David M. Kennedy, and is tasked with carrying on the Center's study of the past, present and future of the American West. Professor Cain brings a wealth of experience in U.S. and California politics. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a well-known expert on elections, term limits, polling, and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. He is a frequently cited source in media coverage of politics. 

Christine Thomson, AICP, LEED AP, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Christine Scott Thomas, AICP, LEED AP, is a senior urban planner in SOM’s San Francisco office providing management, planning and design assistance on a variety of projects including waterfront redevelopment, river corridors, campus and community, and urban districts with a focus on sustainability. She has over twenty years of environmental planning and design experience leading community planning and urban revitalization projects, and she specializes in identifying opportunities to use green site design and building strategies in planning projects. Christine is a Certified Planner, a LEED accredited professional and a member of the American Planning Association. She is also a regular presenter at Local and National green building conferences specializing in the topic of sustainable communities. Christine has been recognized as a member of the 2011 team of finalists in the Kaiser Permanente Small Hospital, Big Idea Design Competition and 2004 winning team of the USGBC International Design Competition.

Laszlo Varga, Architect, Sherwood Design Engineers

László Varga is an architect, urbanist and entrepreneur based in the Bay Area, California. He has held the post of Campus Architect at Google in its Mountain View headquarters in California with responsibility for strategic developments of Google’s real estate portfolio from 2014 to 2016. László has worked with some leading European architectural practices and has been involved in a leading capacity on a wide range of urban, masterplanning and architectural projects across Europe and the US, including Google’s Dublin Headquarters, Waze’s Tel Aviv offices and Publicis’ new London Headquarters. He has been a lecturer and guest critic at the University of East London, the University of Nottingham, University of Westminster, The Bartlett UCL, London Metropolitan University and Columbia University.

Dr. Rob Best, Engineer, Arup

Rob Best has a Ph.D in Sustainable Design and Construction from the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Stanford University and currently works at Arup. His research focused on network planning, integration, and optimization of urban infrastructure systems. He has a B.S. in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford. He was the Design and Construction Manager for the Stanford Solar Decathlon Team, a student-driven project to build a net-zero energy home. In 2010-2011, as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Rob researched the socioeconomic and political conditions that foster eco-city development worldwide. He also has experience as a consultant modeling the energy consumption of buildings and urban developments and evaluating the long-term impacts of pollution and hazardous industries.

Jim Stickley, ASLA, LEED AP, Principal, WRT

Jim Stickley is a landscape architect and urban designer with over 30 years of experience in community design and planning. His work on a number of complex projects has spanned the full spectrum from large-scale urban and campus planning assignments to detailed design and implementation of campuses, streets, parks, and urban landscapes. Jim has extensive experience in developing plans to enhance urban districts, public open space and campus environments. His work strives to help communities balance socio-economic, cultural and ecological factors to create unique places, rooted in the community’s cultural identity and ecological realities.

Dr. Jack Baker, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Stanford

Prof. Baker joined the Stanford faulty in 2006 from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), where he was a visiting researcher in the Department of Structural Engineering. He has degrees in Structural Engineering (Stanford, M.S. 2002, Ph.D. 2005), Statistics (Stanford, M.S. 2004) and Mathematics/Physics (Whitman College, B.A. 2000). He has industry experience in seismic hazard assessment, ground motion selection, probabilistic risk assessment, and modeling of catastrophe losses for insurance and reinsurance companies. He is a co-founder and technical advisor for Haselton Baker Risk Group, LLC.

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Gil Friend, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Palo Alto

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. 


Peter Pirnejad, Development Services Director, City of Palo Alto

Dr. Peter Pirnejad is Development Services Director at the City of Palo Alto. He is an award winning community development professional with over 18 years of experience in local government related to land use and is best known for leadership in civic technology, performance measurements, civic-engagement, leading policies around green and energy efficient buildings, implementation of data-driven lean government practices, and an ability to foster cross-jurisdictional teams with a focus on collaborative governance. Peter also serves in, and was formerly the president of, the League of California Cities Planning Department. Prior to Palo Alto, his career included work in the cities of Daly City (San Mateo County), Lodi (San Joaquin County), and Westlake Village (Los Angeles County). Peter currently holds a Doctorate in Planning, Policy, and Development and a Masters in Planning and Development Services both from the University of Southern California; his dissertation was on Collaborative Governance.

Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director, SPUR

Egon Terplan is SPUR's regional planning director. He is a specialist in economic development, land use, transportation, government reform and regional policy. He has authored or co-authored dozens of reports and policy studies, including the first-ever report on the Northern California megaregion, a report on land use planning and high speed rail, a strategy for improving economic opportunity and upward mobility in the Bay Area, and strategies for the future of downtown Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco. Egon is a frequent speaker and lecturer and also teaches in the Urban Affairs graduate program at the University of San Francisco.

Dr. Melissa Lunden, Chief Scientist, Aclima

Dr. Melissa Lunden is an Atmospheric Scientist and Chief Scientist at Aclima. She received her Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology with an emphasis on aerosol formation and structure. Previously she worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory directing investigations of environmental processes across a wide variety of locations including the Sierra Nevada forests, traffic tunnels, and the Washington, D.C and Boston subway systems.


Dr. Rishee Jain, Assistant Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Professor Jain's research focuses on the development of data-driven and socio-technical solutions to sustainability problems facing the urban built environment. His work lies at the intersection of civil engineering, data analytics and social science. Recently, his research has focused on understanding the socio-spatial dynamics of commercial building energy usage, conducting data-driven benchmarking and sustainability planning of urban buildings and characterizing the coupled dynamics of urban systems using data science and micro-experimentation. For more information, see the active projects on the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab website.

Dr. Michael Lepech, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Professor Lepech's research focuses on the integration of sustainability indicators into engineering design, ranging from materials design, structural design, system design, to operations management. Such sustainability indicators include a comprehensive set of environmental, economic, and social costs. Recently his research has focused on the design of sustainable high performance fiber-reinforced cementitious composites (HPFRCCs) and fiber-reinforced polymers (FRPs), the impacts of sustainable materials on building and infrastructure design and operation, and the development of new life cycle assessment (LCA) applications for building systems, transportation systems, water systems, consumer products. Along with this he is studying the effects that slowly diffusing sustainable civil engineering innovations, and the social networks they diffuse through, can have on achieving long term sustainability goals.

Jesús Andrade, District 6 Councilmember, City of Stockton

Jesús Andrade was recently elected to represent the 6th District on the Stockton City Council. Jesús's goals are to create new economic development opportunities for low-income and middle class residents in his district, and to work with the Mayor's office to improve K-12 literacy rates and college-going rates across the city. 


Fred Sheil, Executive Director, STAND Affordable Housing

Fred is the Administrator for STAND, a 25 year old Southeast Stockton neighborhood based nonprofit that works on Community Policing, Affordable Housing and Neighborhood Activities. Fred has studied and worked in international and community development for 38 years. Many like to believe that poverty and crime causes blighted neighborhoods. Wrong. The true cause is municipal neglect in the form of weak code enforcement, absent legal action against slumlords, and lack of public investment in housing in these areas. Our mission is to reverse this decline.

Dana Harvey, Executive Director, Mandela MarketPlace

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.

Dr. Nancy Huante-Tzintzun, Parent/Family Organizing Director, South Stockton Schools Initiative

Nancy Huante-Tzintzun was born in Zacapu, Michoacan Mexico but grew up in Stockton, California. With the encouragement of family and mentors, she got into Sacramento State University where she studied Ethnic Studies and Sociology. Passionate about social justice education, Chicana/o Latina/o history, and teaching she decided to pursue graduate school to become a college professor in Ethic Studies and Education. She received her MA in Chican@ Studies from San Diego State University. Her research interests include but are not limited to Chicana Feminist Epistemologies, Decolonial Feminist Theory, Curandera Praxis, U.S. Third World Feminisms, Community-based learning, Ethnic Studies curriculum, race and schooling. With the support from family, friends, and mentors she received her PhD in Education at the University of Utah in 2016. Now she is a lecturer at Sacramento State University where she teaches Chican@ Studies courses. She also is the director of parent/family organizing for South Stockton Schools Initiative in Stockton, California.

Hector Lara, Executive Director, Reinvent South Stockton Coalition

Hector is a social worker by training who has spent 16 years as a professional in the non-profit sector in the fields of civic engagement, community development, health, youth development, behavioral health, policy, program development, and social services administration in communities throughout California and in Massachusetts. Hector was born in Mexico but grew up in California’s Central Valley in Atwater. He currently serves as the Executive Director for the Reinvent South Stockton Coalition and the South Stockton Promise Zone, a role he has held for nearly 3 years. Hector holds a Masters of Social Work and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Southern California (USC) and a BA in Comparative Politics from U.C. San Diego.

Dr. Michelle Anderson, Professor, School of Law, Stanford

Michelle Wilde Anderson is a public law scholar and practitioner focused on state and local government, including urban policy, city planning, local democracy, and public finance. Her work combines legal analysis with the details of human experience to understand the local governance of high poverty areas, both urban and rural, and the legal causes of concentrated poverty and fiscal crisis. Her current research explores legal restructuring (such as bankruptcy, disincorporation, and receiverships) for cities and counties in distress—issues that affect not only Rust Belt capitals such as Detroit, but also post-industrial cities in California, rural areas in Oregon, and small towns across the Northeast and South. These issues are examined in her recent publications including “The New Minimal Cities,” Yale Law Journal (2014); “Detroit: What a City Owes its Residents,” Los Angeles Times (2013); “Making a Regional School District: Memphis City Schools Dissolves into its Suburbs,” Columbia Law Review Sidebar (2012); and “Dissolving Cities,” Yale Law Journal (2012). Prior to joining Stanford Law School in 2014, Anderson was an assistant professor of law at Berkeley Law School. Additionally, she has been a research fellow at the European Commission’s Urban Policy Unit in Brussels, an environmental law fellow at Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger, and a member of the faculty executive committee of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at Berkeley Law. She clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Anderson is a member of the board of directors of the National Housing Law Project and the East Bay Community Law Center.

2016 Sustainable Urban Systems Symposium

Today’s urban challenges, including extraordinary population growth projected by 2050, presents a unique opportunity to re-envision and re-engineer urban environments for the future so that people and the planet flourish.

In support of this vision, Stanford’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Department has embarked on a Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative to facilitate cross-school conversations, collaborations, and education on urban sustainability.

The Initiative hosted its inaugural Sustainable Urban Systems Symposium at Stanford on June 1, 2016. The Symposium celebrated and showcased the pioneering work produced by students, researchers, and faculty in the past academic year under the broad theme of Sustainable Urban Systems, and sparked conversations and future collaborations within the broader community. Themes covered in the Symposium included:

  1. Sustainability, resilience, and livability in cities

  2. Next-generation infrastructure systems, including the food-water-energy nexus and transportation networks

  3. Project-based learning connecting research, education, and practice in the Bay Area and beyond

Photos and information about the symposium can be viewed below. Slides and posters can be viewed here.

Program Agenda

  • 8:30am - Welcome from the School of Engineering and CEE Department
    • James Leckie, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • 9:00am - Presentations
    • John Rahaim, Planning Director, City and County of San Francisco
    • Laura Tam, Sustainable Development Policy Director, SPUR
    • Hilary Nixon, Director, Department of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University
  • 10:00am - Panel Discussion on “Connecting Research, Education, and Practice”
    • Rich Lechner, Managing Partner, The INSIGHT Group
    • Laura Tolkoff, San Jose Policy Director, SPUR
    • Hilary Nixon, Director, Department of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University
    • S. Bry Sarté, Founder, Sherwood Design Engineers
    • Mike Lepech, Moderator, Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • 11:30am - Lunch, Student Projects & Research Talks
  • 1:00pm - Closing Remarks
    • Bruce Cain, Director, Bill Lane Center for the American West
  • 1:30pm - Poster Reception in 1st floor Red Atrium


Featured Speakers

John S. Rahaim

Planning Director, San Francisco Planning Department
City and County of San Francisco

John Rahaim is the Planning Director for the City and County of San Francisco. Mr. Rahaim is responsible for overseeing long range city planning, development entitlements and environmental reviews for most physical development in San Francisco. He was appointed Planning Director in January 2008.

Since Mr. Rahaim’s arrival, the San Francisco Planning Department has completed several comprehensive neighborhood plans, several neighborhood historic resource surveys, and updates to the City’s general plan. Major initiatives completed under Mr. Rahaim’s direction include the Transit Center District Plan, enabling a new high density core for Downtown San Francisco and the Better Streets Plan, a comprehensive strategy to upgrade the quality of the city’s public realm.

The Planning Department also plays a key role in the city’s strategy to accommodate the state’s High Speed Rail Corridor and regional planning efforts to address the nine-county region’s Sustainable Community Strategy. The ongoing work of the department includes reviews for 8000 projects per year, of which nearly 2000 require detailed review and analysis, more than any city in the US.

Laura Tam

Sustainable Development Policy Director

Laura Tam coordinates SPUR's work in five major policy areas: green buildings, water supply, wastewater, energy and climate change. In this role since 2007, she works to improve climate resilience and reduce the environmental footprint of cities. As a thought leader on climate adaptation and water management, she has produced and participated in numerous public programs, citywide task forces, major research reports and advocacy recommending strategies for sea level rise, water efficiency and reuse, green infrastructure and reducing climate-change emissions. 

Laura currently serves on the board of directors of Friends of the Urban Forest, the board of the Green Infrastructure Foundation and the advisory council of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Prior to working at SPUR, she worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She has a Master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a BA in geography from Dartmouth College.

Laura Tolkoff

San Jose Policy Director

Laura Tolkoff coordinates SPUR’s planning and policy work in San Jose. Prior to joining SPUR, Laura was a senior planner for energy and the environment at Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonprofit research, planning and advocacy organization in the New York metropolitan area. There, she managed and led the organization’s energy program and coastal climate resilience portfolio. She co-authored a number of reports and policy studies on the transformation of the power sector, climate resilience and hazard mitigation. Prior to RPA, Laura coordinated a HUD-funded study of mixed-income housing at New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Laura earned a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and a bachelor’s degree in media studies from the University of California, Berkeley. 

Dr. Hilary Nixon

Chair, Department of Urban & Regional Planning
San José State University

Professor Nixon serves as chair of the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at San José State University. She specializes in environmental planning and policy, and also teaches courses on community planning, history and theory of planning, and policy analysis. Her teaching emphasizes the use of project-based, and community-based learning. Her research interests include household hazardous waste management, particularly electronic waste recycling, and the factors that influence pro-environmental behaviors. In addition, she serves as a Research Associate with the Mineta Transportation Institute where her work focuses primarily on the relationship between transportation and the environment. Dr. Nixon was recognized as “Advisor of the Year” by SJSU’s Student Involvement in 2009 and 2015. Dr. Nixon and her students have also received awards from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association for academic excellence.

Bry Sarté 

Sherwood Design Engineers

Bry Sarté is an author, professional engineer, academic and nonprofit founder. Fourteen years ago, he started Sherwood Design Engineers, which now has several offices in the United States and has worked on hundreds of leading national and international engineering projects. His work significantly influences contemporary global urban transformation around issues of infrastructure, urban design and ecological systems.  He regularly serves as a lecturer at top universities and conferences around the world, where he discusses applications of ecological engineering to planning, design, and construction. He currently serves on the faculty of Columbia University’s Architecture and Urban Design Program, where he teaches the graduate course, Infrastructure, Resiliency, and Public Space.

As engineer for hundreds of the world's leading sustainable engineering projects, Mr. Sarté’s work responds to global environmental issues addressing the intersection of infrastructure, ecological and urban design. Many of his projects have been the first-of-their kind in applying green infrastructure systems, strategies and concepts. From innovative planning projects on one end of the spectrum to implemented construction projects on the other, much of Sarté's work has been highly integrated, highly collaborative design developed in tandem with the world's leading architecture and landscape architecture firms.

Mr. Sarté has served as the principal in charge for projects that range from the largest private real estate development in the U.S., Hudson Yards in New York, to the award-winning San Francisco Better Streets Plan. Other notable projects include the revitalization of the iconic waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park, the award winning Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, and the 35 sq-km award-winning Baietan Urban Area Plan in the heart of Guangzhou, China. Additionally, he has led the engineering design for numerous completed construction projects that have changed the direction of how we build. The projects range from institutional buildings to civic infrastructure.

Mr. Sarté is the author of the published John Wiley & Sons book, Sustainable Infrastructure: The Guide to Green Engineering and Design, which serves as a comprehensive guide to integrating sustainable strategies into infrastructure planning and design with emphasis on water resource management, site design and land planning. Throughout the book Mr. Sarté highlights the central role that creative engineering integrated into collaborative design processes play in developing the complex solutions needed to affect a sustainable transformation of our built environment. He is currently working with Columbia University’s GSAPP Books on his second book Innovations in Urban Water Infrastructure. This book identifies recommendations for innovative approaches to dealing with water in an urban environment with at critical focus on the United Nations Habitat III.

As chair of the Sustainable Landscape and Engineering Committee at SPUR, (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research) Mr. Sarté works with participants from the Department of Public Works, SFPUC, Department of Parking and Traffic, Urban Forestry Council, Department of the Environment, Planning Department, Alliance for a Clean Waterfront, PG&E, Friends of the Urban Forrest, and other non-profit, designers and community groups. The outcome of their workshops and strategy sessions has helped to define priorities to integrate the stormwater management system, increase tree planting and landscaping, improve the pedestrian environment, improve San Francisco’s natural ecosystems, and increase public awareness of green living through eco-revelatory design.

Bry founded the Sherwood Institute in 2009. The institute is comprised of academic, professional, and government advisors from five countries directing research and innovation at the nexus of critical water and energy issues. The nonprofit’s mission is to safeguard and extend the availability and energy efficiency of the threatened vital fresh water resources in the six developed continents. He currently serves as the founder of this nonprofit.

For Four years, Mr. Sarte has served on the faculty board for Columbia University’s Architecture and Urban Design Program. He teaches the graduate course “Infrastructure, Resilience + Public Space”. This course explores critical issues that describe the role and responses of public space in major cities due to climate change. It provides strategies from both real projects and complementary visions of future development. In addition, Mr. Sarté is working with Columbia University’s GSAPP Books on publishing his second book Innovations in Urban Water Infrastructure. This book identifies recommendations for innovative approaches to dealing with water in an urban environment with at critical focus on the United Nations Habitat III.

Rich Lechner

Managing Partner

Rich Lechner has spent 30+ years helping organizations leverage technology to address critical business challenges and to change the way the world works. He was a serial entrepreneur and turnaround artist at IBM in a career that spanned the breadth of the IT industry from software to systems to services. He held senior executive positions in development, sales and marketing.

As vice president of Energy & Environment at IBM, he launched a business segment which grew to $4B across a portfolio that included energy efficient IT, intelligent buildings, smart urban infrastructure, and optimization of operations. He led IBM’s internal initiative that resulted in an estimated $180M in annual IT energy savings.

Rich was an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Earth Institute for Environmental Sustainability. Having relocated to San Francisco, he’ll be teaching a course on Smarter Cities at Stanford this summer as part of the Environmental & Water Studies Program.

Dr. James Leckie

C. L. Peck, Class of 1906, Professor of Environmental Engineering
Director, Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness

Stanford University

Professor James O. Leckie is the C.L. Peck, Class of 1906, Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geological and Environmental Sciences (by courtesy) at Stanford University. He is also Director of the Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness and Director of the Stanford Environmental & Water Studies Summer Program. His research interests include computational intelligence for smart physical and social infrastructure, using computational learning and optimization tools to (1) better design smart physical infrastructure (transportation systems, urban water systems), and (2) facilitate a class of social services such as knowledge management for social innovation, to integrate social functionality into urban communities.

Professor Leckie is chair of the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative and has been the faculty advisor for the Sustainable Urban Systems Project: San Jose, a three-quarter-long project-based-learning course which connects interdisciplinary teams of students with municipal partners for real-world urban problem solving.

Dr. Bruce Cain

Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West
Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences
Stanford University

The distinguished political scientist Bruce E. Cain is the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences. Professor Cain succeeded the Center's founding faculty co-director, David M. Kennedy, and is tasked with carrying on the Center's study of the past, present and future of the American West.

Professor Cain brings a wealth of experience in U.S. and California politics. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a well-known expert on elections, term limits, polling, and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. He is a frequently cited source in media coverage of politics.