Planner Profile: Brian Wallace

September 11, 2006, 7:00 AM PDT

By Brian Wallace

An ongoing Planetizen series profiles professionals in planning, design, development and related fields. Learn what influenced people to enter the field, what work they have been doing, and what advice they have to offer others interested in planning and development.

Brian Wallace

Current position and affiliation:
Senior Project Associate, Moore Iacofano Goltsman (MIG), Inc.

Current location (City, State):
Pasadena, CA

Last position and organization:
Associate Regional Planner, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)

Last position location (City, State):
Los Angeles, CA

Brief description of a recent project:
Assisting the City of Lomita to determine specific ways to implement its mixed-use policies and revitalization efforts.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
People are naturally proud of their communities and only want the best -- striking a balance between the various players, interests, and opinions with sound planning principles is what makes the profession an art form.

What is the last planning (or other) book you read:
Greene and Greene: Creating A Style by Thomas A. Heinz and Randell Makinson

How did you get into the field?:
I've always had an affinity for cities - especially visiting and experiencing downtowns. I grew up in a Nashville suburb but made special trips downtown to visit museums, go to church, shop at department stores, and eat at the old restaurants (very few of the latter two are still there, of course). One day I asked if we could take the bus to do all that -- I think I was seven or eight -- which must have been the point I knew I was destined to be a planner!

Where did you go to school?:
University of Cincinnati School of Planning.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the field?:
Travel, explore, really read the city where you are (or go find new ones). Get out of your car and walk the streets. You cannot imagine how much more you will see, feel, and learn on your feet, walking by real people and real buildings on a real street.

Greatest challenge:
Managing growth and change. We are fortunate to live in an industrialized country that is still growing, but our strong economy and growing population continue to place pressures on existing communities, be they rural or urban. Planners must be on top of the situation and find ways to address the desires of current residents while balancing the needs of newcomers. Cities must be prepared to accept what growth can mean -- and frame it in a positive direction, so our cities become healthier and better balanced for future generations.

Two favorite cities:
As a resident fascinated by greater Los Angeles (a place dealing with nearly unprecedented growth and change), I must unfortunately exclude it from my list! London and Tokyo would have to be at the top. As great world mega-cities, both exhibit incredible qualities despite tumultuous 20th-century turmoil. Whereas many cities rebuilding after wartime destruction and economic slumps created new centers with little focus on the people using them (ala 1960s redevelopment), both of these cities retained much of their fine-grained, unique urban form but found ways to adapt to modern needs. Exploring these two cities on foot yields surprises in small alleys, lively but clean streets, multiple centers of activity, and civil but incredibly creative people. Their complex but efficient subway systems allow for movement to the widest possible range of neighborhoods - each with a center and purpose. Each city spreads in somewhat uniform fashion for miles and miles, providing almost endless opportunity for exploration and education!


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