For Commissioner, Region 6 (2-year term)
Francisco Javier Contreras, AICP
- Innovation Manager / Innovation and Strategic Initiatives Manager, City of West Hollywood, CA
- Senior Planner / Associate Planner / Assistant Planner, City of West Hollywood, CA
- Associate Planner / Assistant Planner, City of Lomita, CA
- AICP Membership Standards Committee, Region VI Representative (2015-Present)
- AICP Knowledge-Based Governance Task Force, Chair (2019)
- Ethics Case of the Year, CA APA Conference, San Diego, CA (2018)
- APA LA Section Student Symposium (2017)
- APA National Planning Conference, National Delegate Assembly (2016)
- APA LA Section Awards Juror (2015)
- Co-Director of Awards, APA LA Section (2012-2014)
- APA National Planning Conference, Los Angeles Host Committee (2012)
- CA APA Conference, Hollywood, CA Mobile Workshop – Historic & Contemporary Courtyard Housing in West Hollywood (2008)
- Neighborhood Councilmember, Glassell Park, Los Angeles, CA (2014-2016)
- M.A. Urban Planning, UCLA
- M. Architecture, UCLA
- B.A. Urban Studies, Stanford University
It has been my privilege representing Region VI on the AICP Membership Standards Committee for the last 4 years and I would be honored to serve as your next AICP Commissioner.
I obtained my AICP certification after working two years in my first planning job in the City of Lomita, CA. I knew that obtaining certification was a big step in my career. I realized that the process would be demanding, but the payoff would give me a competitive edge, empower me to create my own future, and demonstrate my commitment to my profession and the community that I served. Over a decade later, this commitment is stronger than ever.
As an AICP Commissioner, I will continue to advocate for programs and policies that are inclusive and increase diversity within our membership. The AICP body should be reflective of the diversity of our organization and community at-large. I want to see more women, more people of color, more LBTQIA+ representation within our AICP and APA leadership. This is why I seized the opportunity to Chair the AICP Knowledge-Based Governance Task Force, a team of AICP members that is exploring how the changing demographics of members and the public affect how AICP provides value within the organization and the profession.
I will strive to elevate the value of the AICP credential to all members in all stages of their career, from students and beginning professionals to AICP Fellows and beyond. We must engage our seasoned and retired AICP professionals to help nurture our future generation of planners and planning leaders, and young planners can teach us about emerging issues, planning trends and new practices that are impacting our communities. We must support each other every step of the way as we establish, grow and excel in our careers.
This is why I vow to continue working diligently on improving the AICP certification process, including the AICP eligibility criteria, the Comprehensive Planning Examination itself, and the Certification Maintenance program, whereby reducing barriers to entry for all APA members.
As part of the AICP Membership Standards Committee, I assisted in the development of AICP Candidate Pilot Program that was adopted by the AICP Commission. Through the candidate program, qualified students and graduates now have the opportunity to participate in AICP much earlier in their careers. Through the pilot program, candidates are eligible to take the AICP exam early, connect with a mentor, begin earning CM credits and commit to the AICP Code of Ethics while they are completing their required years of professional experience — making AICP more accessible. And I hope to continue guiding development of this pilot and other inclusive programs in my role as AICP Commissioner.
Thank you for your vote and support!
What do you believe is the most important member service APA provides? Why? How would you propose strengthening this and other member services?
One of the most important member services that APA provides is the organization's professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). The AICP provides independent verification of planners' qualifications. In turn, certified planners pursue high standards of practice, ethics, and professional conduct, and continually pursue advanced professional education to keep their skills sharp and up to date.
While we are all committed to being the best at our professions, being certified by AICP highlights that commitment. Consider it a badge of honor for dedicating yourself to your planning studies, working those difficult projects other coworkers shied away from, and mastering the fine art of planning while serving your community in the best possible way.
Like many stalwart institutions, the AICP is in need of a reinvigoration — a shot of B-12 vitamins to enliven its membership and attract new young talent into its ranks. Which is why I was excited to participate in the development of the AICP Candidate program while serving on the AICP Membership Standards Committee. The program specifically targets emerging professionals to start their AICP journey early so the organization can start benefitting from their exuberance, bold ideas, and passion for community-building. And with a massive retirement of planning professionals in the coming years, it is even more important to start allocating a lot more resources to training and professionally developing our next generation of planning leaders. We need more of this "youthful injection" in AICP and in other member services.
In addition, we must explore ways to diversify membership within AICP and in all other areas of the organization. Recommendations for these efforts are included in the answers below.
How could APA improve and strengthen the relationship among APA and its components (AICP, Chapters, Divisions, SRC)?
APA is a large, national organization with multi-state regional representation that can leave some components feeling disenfranchised or at worst, forgotten. While the goal of having a unified voice across the organization is indispensable, it is also illusive. Consideration should be given to shifting our regional electoral representation model to one where each state has a representative that participates or serves on the APA Board of Directors. That could help provide direct communication from all states and its various components about the issues that are critical to them within the national organization. This can be structured in several ways, including having representatives participate in Board meetings with or without voting privileges. This can help improve communication as relying on regional Directors to communicate activities of the Board to multiple regions can be unreliable.
Now that the Planning for Equity Policy Guide has been adopted, how should APA use this guide to shape itself organizationally?
The Planning for Equity Policy Guide calls for dismantling policies, planning practices, and regulations that disproportionately impact certain segments of the population over others. Several recommendations come to mind to truly capitalize on the guide's effort to be a catalyst for change across the organization:
Develop equity and inclusion metrics. Because you cannot improve what you cannot measure, APA should use this guide to develop concrete measurable goals towards achieving the policies and strategies found in the policy document. As it stands, the equity policy guide does not include any recommended performance indicators to achieve the desired outcomes. If equity is a true goal, we should be able to measure our success at achieving this goal within a recommended time-frame, with established baselines, and to allow for refinements as time goes by.
Equity data dashboard. The equity performance data should be included on an online dashboard or incorporated within the existing APA Dashboard that includes critical organizational data such as membership numbers, revenue, and expense data.
National advisory committees. APA can establish national advisory committees to address each of the issues identified in the equity policy guide and possibly develop the aforementioned corresponding performance indicators.
Director of Diversity and Inclusion. APA can also establish a senior staff position, such as a Director of Diversity and Inclusion that will be tasked with the job of making sure that the initiatives that address diversity issues are communicated, accepted, and executed throughout the organization.
Fund equity programming. Important programs and priorities cost money, so funds need to be directed in order to achieve these organizational diversity and inclusion goals. The APA budget should highlight resources allocated for the implementation of diversity and equity programs across the organization.
AICP equity requirement. In addition, a diversity and inclusion requirement should be considered as part of the AICP Certification Maintenance program. This requirement, similar to the minimum 1.5 CM credits for ethics and planning law will help establish equity and diversity as a professional development standard applicable to all AICP members.
Equity policy guide updates. The Equity Policy Guide should be revisited at least biannually to be updated with results achieved to-date and to highlight lessons learned between reporting periods. This will help keep the organization focused on its equity efforts.
What is the biggest challenge facing the planning profession, and how should APA address it?
One of the biggest challenges facing the planning profession is equity, diversity, and inclusion within its own membership.
According to the APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide, "demographics within the planning profession have not kept pace with the demographic changes happening in the communities we serve." It continues to highlight that in 2016, less than 30% of APA planners with 20 or more years of experience were women, and 7% were minorities. Yet, planners entering the field within the last five years are more diverse at 45% women and 15% minorities.
While the Planning for Equity Policy Guide and APA's Diversity and Inclusion Strategy can serve as a great reference and starting points, these recommended next steps can help focus APA's efforts towards a more inclusive profession:
Enhanced demographics. APA should obtain more detailed demographic information about its membership. This can include but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, class, age, gender, sexual orientation, ability, educational attainment, religion, and veteran status. With this data in hand, APA can measure the success of its diversity efforts and refine programs and policies as it progresses.
Celebrate firms. APA should highlight firms who are successfully implementing diversity practices in APA newsletters and in presentations at APA conferences.
Planning in STEAM. APA should raise awareness of the planning profession among students of all ages and demographics. A lot of focus is given to college students while very little resources are directed at K-12 students. APA should advocate for planning to be part of the STEAM fields of study that include science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
More scholarships. APA should develop more bridge programs, grants and scholarships to attract and keep underserved populations in planning school.
Assist with reentry. APA should provide membership discounts and other support for professionals reentering planning after taking family leave. This can help all parents, but especially women.
Mixed conference panels. APA should mandate that all panels at APA conferences include women.
Feedback from within and beyond. This is a small list of items to tackle an incredibly important issue. APA should continue to seek feedback from across the organization and equity leaders in other fields and business sectors to learn from their best practices in building more equitable and diverse professions.