In April, the office of City Council Member David Ryu welcomed a new Senior Planning Deputy, Emma Howard, who will be responsible for working with neighbors, developers and city officials on a wide variety of planning and land use projects. Howard replaces Julia Duncan, who had been with Ryu’s staff since he took office, and who left in February to take a new position with the Planning Department.
The Buzz had a chance to chat with Howard recently, and learned that she was born in Rhode Island, and earned a Master’s degree in Community Development and Planning from Clark University, as well as a certification in Creative Placemaking from Ohio State University. (According to a statement from Ryu’s office, “Creative Placemaking is an emerging field in using the intersections of arts and the land use planning process to achieve outcomes that enhance communities physically, socially and creatively.”)
After finishing graduate school, Howard moved to Los Angeles – for the first time – in 2007, to work as a regional planner with Los Angeles County. She was involved in creating land use, hillside and ridgeline ordinances, as well as the Significant Ecological Areas Program, which give special designation to areas within LA County that have irreplaceable biological resources. Howard told the Buzz that she “fell in love with Los Angeles immediately,” and really enjoyed working in such a “hyper-urban” area “with massive access to outdoor spaces.”
In 2015, Howard moved back east, to New York, where she worked on that city’s very first Cultural Plan, combining zoning policy with cultural, artistic and historic priorities to create unique, community-oriented zones. It was a short-term contract, working mostly with underserved populations in East Brooklyn…and after the assignment ended, Howard said she was eager to return to L.A. and landed the position with Ryu’s office. “I’m delighted to be here,” she said.
Howard said that – like Duncan before her – she will be both fielding specific planning-related inquiries for CD4…and working on major policy and “big picture” planning. She said she would also like to bring in some of her New York experience to address the cultural components of city planning, especially the cultural ownership of neighborhoods. This is important, she said, because people are not really as interested in buildings as they are “worried about the fabric of the neighborhood.”
Howard said the goal in Los Angeles right now is to create “graduated density,” and she wants to help find ways for new buildings to fit into their neighborhoods, instead of simply creating new “huge towers.” “Our job as a community office is to help negotiate that process,” she said. She also said she would “prefer to be proactive rather than reactive” in planning new projects, and to help developers to take into account the unique character of individual neighborhoods from the very beginning.
In a statement about Howard’s hiring, Ryu’s office said:
“Council District Four needs a strong planning deputy – someone who not only understands the ins and outs of planning policy, but who has a real understanding of fostering place and building community,” Councilmember Ryu said. “Emma Howard is that person – I could not be more excited to have her on board.”
Howard’s official start date with Ryu’s office was April 9, so residents involved with various land use projects in the area may have already run into her at community meetings and city hearings. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org