Celebrating Downtown Taft

Community Planning Assistance Team Report



The City of Taft in the Central Valley of California requested assistance from the CPAT program to assess its downtown and provide recommendations for a downtown revitalization strategy.

Recommendations are divided into three sections:

  1. Opportunities for Success
  2. Framework for Investment
  3. Action Plan

Section One looks at the market context of Taft, changing demographics and projections, and associated implications. Growth is occurring in the region and the report offers ways Taft can capture its proportional share. Strategies, all of which will require a proactive approach, include increasing the diversity of housing, taking steps to recruit and retain businesses, investing in placemaking that helps businesses thrive, and bolstering human capital to increase capacity for downtown programming and events.

Section Two describes a framework that builds on strengths and capitalizes on existing opportunities to achieve the vision for downtown. Managing downtown through the Downtown Merchants Association with the city as an active partner is a critical step. Also included are identified opportunities and representative ideas to transform spaces, many of which could be accomplished at little cost.

Section Three provides an action plan that sequences efforts and responsibilities.

Meet the Team

Team Leader

Bruce Race, PhD, FAICP, FAIA

Bruce Race is the principal and founder of RACESTUDIO and is responsible for all aspects of project planning, design, and delivery. Since founding RACESTUDIO in Berkeley, California, in 1994, his projects have received 32 design and planning awards including national awards from APA, the American Institute of Architects, Environmental Protection Agency, Association of Environmental Professionals, Local Government Commission, and Society for College and University Planning. In 2015, Race joined the Gerald D. Hines School of Architecture as Director of University of Houston's newly created Center for Sustainability and Resilience. Race was on the founding Board of Directors for the Great Valley Center, an organization that strives to enhance the economic, social, and environmental well-being of California's Central Valley.

Team Member

Susan Harden, FAICP, LEED AP, CNU-A

Susan Harden is an independent planning consultant specializing in community engagement and revitalization. She is also an adjunct faculty member in UCI's Urban Planning and Public Policy department where she teaches a graduate practicum focused on healthy neighborhoods. She is also on the NeighborWorks America Training Institute faculty where she teaches courses focused on community revitalization, engagement, mobility, and place. She is the co-author of a PAS report entitled Placemaking on a Budget. Harden also serves on the board of directors for Jamboree Housing, an affordable housing provider. As an educator, author, and presenter, she is committed to empowering communities to create positive and meaningful change.

team member

Ed Starkie

Ed Starkie is a principal at Urban Advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Starkie has experience in real estate that includes moving complex projects from conception and feasibility analysis to financing and development strategies. A particular career focus has been the economic structure of vital urban places, of downtowns and neighborhoods that are pedestrian and transit-oriented environments. Starkie is a financial advisor for private and public development who brings a unique, pragmatic approach that results in projects that are feasible, profitable, and contribute to community livability. He also has also served on the faculty of the University of Oregon Urban Architecture Program and team-teaches urban design at the Portland State University Nohad Toulan School of Urban Planning.

team member

Matthew Taecker, AICP, AIA

Matt Taecker provides a range of urban planning and design services through his firm, Taecker Planning & Design. He has directed and managed hundreds of projects and led dozens of community-focused planning efforts. His work emphasizes livable places, environmental sustainability, and paths to implementation with a particular focus on the revitalization of downtowns and aging corridors. Taecker is also managing principal for Corridor Planning that focuses on the integration of transportation, land use, and urban design. He also lectures extensively in the U.S. and internationally, and has taught urban design at Sonoma State University, USC, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.


Page Count
Date Published
July 10, 2019
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents

The Purpose of the CPAT Program

Executive Summary

Introduction and Background
Brief History
Existing Plans for Downtown CPAT Process


Section 1: Opportunities for Success

1.1 Building on Taft’s Rich History
1.2 Market Context
1.3 Opportunities for Early Investment

Section 2: Framework for Investment

2.1 Programming
2.2 Authentic Taft
2.3 Community and Downtown Framework
2.4 Catalyst Projects
2.5 Railyard Sites


Section 3: Action Plan

3.1 Phasing and Priorities
3.2 Administrative/Organizational
3.3 Regulatory
3.4 Development
3.5 Financial
3.6 Potential Funding Sources

Appendix A: Meet the Team
Appendix B: Picture Gallery
Appendix C: Visual Examples of Programmatic Opportunities
Appendix D: Visual Examples of Placemaking Ideas