Category Archives: Uncategorized

Teacher of record: PLAN 247

When I first signed up to teach PLAN 247: Solving Urban Problems it was the Fall of 2019. It was a simpler time, Covid was not yet a household name, classes occurred on campus, and, while racial tensions were brewing beneath the surface, they had yet to spill out into the streets in the form of protests through most of our major cities.

I had expected to teach in one of the familiar classrooms in our familiar department building on our familiar campus. Instead, the first class I taught was online, first from an office set up in a spare room of my parents house, and, later, in an office nook set up in my own home. While I have been training, in some sense or another, to teach a class in person through a series of TAships, I came to the online classroom with very little experience in how to make this work.

That said, I’m a millennial, and I had a few ideas up my sleeves that I wanted to trial out.

I made google slides the backbone of my course lecture style. I invited all the students to join the document and gave them permission to edit, leaving open spots where they were explicitly required to do so. I broke up my slide decks a couple of different ways.

First, I had traditional lectures. In these, I went through different concepts and then assigned them discussion questions that highlighted key takeaways and invited them to write down and later explain their positions to the class:

Second, I had case studies. In these, I presented controversial planning solutions and showed multiple sides of the argument for or against them, using 5-10 different perspectives.


Afterwards, I asked them to take opposing, argumentative positions (even if they didn’t agree with them!), and led small debates on different features of the issue at hand.


Finally, I created a range of activities. These classes began with a lecture on the issue at large, then broke out into parallel exercises that students put together live. I left blank slides for them to fill in, with directions on what sort of pictures they should include, what questions they should answer, and links to relevant resources. Each student had an assigned city that they followed throughout the class. To keep time, and to show without having to go into a overload of detail, I went through the exercise myself with my own city.

Overall, I think it ended up being very successful. The students were wonderfully engaged for such a rough time of the year, and for such a complicated shift in their learning structure. They participated in class, talked to each other, and, in the end, presented policy recommendations to solve urban problems in their case study city. It was an odd first go around of teaching, but I honestly enjoyed it more than expected, and look forward to finding new ways to engage students in the future.

Article under Revise and Resubmit

I came from a very different corner of the academic universe than the social sciences – Architecture. Anecdotally, it’s the sort of field where smart, quirky people who never learned the difference between their/there and those with severe dyslexia can end up and find success through a potent mix of projected confidence and all-nighters. It takes hard work, iterative work, and just about zero publications.

As a result, this is my first round through the peer-reviewed publication process, and I am double-dipping to catch up. In the past week and a half I have received two revise and resubmits from two different journals on two different articles (on work produced from just one survey, while we’re counting).

There is a lot of discussions out there on how academic publishing, and it’s importance to the success of a career in academia, are part of a broken cycle in a deteriorating system. There’s certainly some credence to that, and people a lot smarter than me with a lot more experience have written extensively about it. But, for the time being, I’m pretty stoked on these results; I’m happy-anxious about the feedback, and excited to get it wrapped up and accepted.

Also, I got the second notice on my 30th birthday, it would have been a real bummer if that had turned out to be a flat out rejection.

Passed Comprehensive Exams

Today, I finished a new milestone in working towards my PhD: passing comprehensive exams. The way that our department structures comprehensive exams is split into two sections. In the first section, I completed five written exams over a seven day period: three four hour exams for Theory, Research Design, and Research Methods; and two six hour exams for my focus areas: Migration and Disasters.

After a brief review period and feedback from my committee members, I entered the oral exam segment. In this portion, I sit with all of my five committee members as they take turns asking me questions about the responses to my written exams, and whatever else they wanted to query me on. Once that was done, I left the room so they could deliberate, and returned to hear that I had passed my comprehensive exams!

Next step: dissertation proposal.

Carolina Planning Journal: Published Book Review

For the most recent Carolina Planning Journal: Changing Ways, Making Change Volume 44, 2019, I wrote a review on The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy, by Anna Clark. An excerpt is included below:

Possibly because the Flint water crisis does not have one true cause, The Poisoned City does not have one true narrative. Clark’s account follows multiple historic arcs that range from the founding of the city to the rise and fall of leaded gasoline to power vehicles… [Taken together] Clark’s story, and the anecdotes that fill the pages, is enough to make you want to buy a water filter and test your taps.

First Prize: ASFPM Student Paper Competition

This is an update to my earlier post on being named a semi-finalist for the ASFPM 2019 Conference Student Paper Competition.  I wrote a paper with Jordan Branham entitled “Disaster Exposure and Migration: The Impact of Major and Minor Flood Events on Population Loss.” I presented the paper on Tuesday, and, today, was awarded first place for this work.

See more about the final paper here!

Climate Change Adaptation Panel: Moderator

Today, I had the privilege of moderating a great panel, Climate Change Adaptation: Communities at a Crossroad, for the 6th annual Climate Change and Resilience Symposium hosted by UNC’s school of public health. A quick description of the panel is below:

“With the Communities at a Crossroad panel, we will hear from academics and practitioners engaged with planning for hazards and climate change in North Carolina. These panelists have diverse experience in academia, planning consultancy firms, and local governments; their work to support local communities offers valuable lessons learned for communities facing a shifting environment in the era of climate change.”


ASFPM Foundation 9th Annual Collegiate Student Paper Competition: Semifinalist

Recently, the abstract for a paper that I wrote with a fellow PhD student, Jordan Branham, was accepted as a semi-finalist for the ASFPM Foundation’s 9th  Annual Collegiate Student Paper Competition. We will be editing the paper for submission in April, and presenting on the topic in May; after which the first, second, and third place entries will be selected. The abstract is included below:


The effects of sea level rise and an increased propensity for major precipitation events caused by global climate change are expected to drive a dramatic reduction in the availability of habitable coastal land and induce population migrations away from particularly vulnerable areas (Allen et al. 2018; R. A. McLeman 2011). However, there is little understanding of how changing risk exposure influences individual decisions to relocate or the thresholds at which these decisions are made (Black, Adger, and Arnell 2013; Bardsley and Hugo 2010). In this paper, we seek to understand how the interaction of different scales of hazard events impact population change over time. To do this, we focus on exposure and vulnerability to flooding events. These events can range from repetitive ‘nuisance’ flooding caused by light weather to storm surges and severe rainfall precipitated by major hurricanes.

We address this research question by examining how minor and major floods between 1990 and 2016 impacted population movements during the same time period in North Carolina. Our study area is home to both coastal and riverine flood hazard areas, affording us the opportunity to tease out the marginal effects of flood vulnerability, exposure to disaster in the form of hurricanes, and the combination of these two factors on population change. Specifically, we use disaster declarations to quantify exposure to major disasters and define a census tract’s vulnerability based on the proportion of buildings within floodplains. Our analysis employs multiple regression with an interaction term in order to assess how our key explanatory variables individually and collectively influence population growth, while controlling for a number of mediating factors such as demographics, economic indicators, geography, and population trajectories.

Our findings suggest that populations have differential responses to environmental risks based on geography, particularly when compounded by joint exposure to both major and repetitive events. More specifically, while coastal communities have experienced significant population growth despite high levels of flood vulnerability, those subareas that are exposed to multiple disasters possess a negative relationship with population growth, suggesting that major disasters can act as focusing events that trigger population shifts (Birkland 1997). Comparatively, it appears that areas subjected to riverine-based flood risk are inclined to population loss in reaction to moderate risk, but less reactive to major events. We expect that these risk-responses will become more pronounced in the era of climate change as both major and minor flood events become more common and out-migration becomes self-supporting. Further, as population loss leads to reduced community resilience, the potential for the rise of non-linear migration exoduses will continue to increase (R. McLeman and Smit 2006; Massey et al. 1993). Therefore, while this study produces important initial findings, it is also presents a methodology that can continue to be used for a more rigorous longitudinal review that will be possible with future Census data.

What You Need to Know About the California Camp Fire: Blog Post

I recently authored a blog post for Carolina Angles on the ongoing California Camp Fire. An excerpt is included below:

The Camp Fire, named after Camp Creek Road near where it originated, has been burning since November 8, 2018. It is the worst wildfire in California’s history; this is not simply a state tragedy, but a national one. Furthermore, it is one that speaks to the unmeasured cost of climate change, which includes damage to environmental resources, expenditure of emergency resources, loss of built capital, loss of lives, and adverse impacts to long-term health.

The Camp Fire is the deadliest California wildfire on record, with over 70 individuals confirmed dead, and hundreds still missing. The next deadliest wildfire in California history was in 1933 and saw the loss of 29 lives. It has also been the most destructive wildfire in California’s history, with the loss of over 15,000 structures so far. The next most destructive wildfire saw the destruction of 5,636 structures. Over 100,000 people have been displaced.

Read more at Carolina Angles

Honorable Mention for DesignWeek: Group Member


DesignWeek is an annual, studio-based project hosted by NC State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture. DesignWeek 2018 focused on the Neuse River Watershed, broken into three sub regions: the Upper Neuse, the Middle Neuse, and the Lower Neuse. The goal was to develop a project that would envision the future of the sub-region of the river basin, with an emphasis on the impact of the climate change and the projections of increased repetitive flood events. Each sub-region was assigned four project teams. I was on a project team with five other students, all of whom were Masters students in NC State’s Landscape Architecture program, assigned to the Upper Neuse region. Our project won an honorable mention as the best project in that region.

Project Background

Like many cities in the United States, Durham is facing multiple trends that deter sustainable development, which risks the stability and vitality of the future to meet the demands of the present. On one hand, Durham is experiencing a population boom. In the decade from 2000-2010, the population increased 22%, and the City anticipates that it will continue to increase steadily for the foreseeable future (Durham City-County 2017). On the other hand, many decisions made in the City’s past have led to existing conditions that hinder resiliency and places citizens at risk. Fortunately, the County has produced a proactive Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Goals Map to guide future development (Durham City-County Planning Department 2017a). Our proposal, the Five Parks District Plan, will help Durham meet its goals and increase its resiliency while ameliorating some of the problems experienced in existing neighborhoods.



The development of the Five Parks District Plan began with a parallel, two-pronged analysis from ecological, social, and economic perspectives: one aimed at identifying civic and community aspirations, and one aimed at identifying concerns. We reviewed the City of Durham’s plans and current priorities, so that our concept would complement Durham’s long-term goals.

Durham’s Future Land Use Map, projecting desired development patterns for the City and County, shows that the target area primarily consists of land coded as Recreation / Open Space, particularly along the Eno River, Teer Quarry, and the undeveloped land directly east of the quarry (Durham City-County Planning Department 2017b), which is within the 100-year floodplain (North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program (NCFMP), n.d.). The majority of the remaining area is coded as Low-Medium Density (defined as 4-8 Dwelling Units per acre) (Durham City-County Planning Department 2017b), which is denser than existing conditions (City of Durham 2018). This indicates a preference for ‘Smart Densification’ to support the growing population without risking valuable public resources.

section aa

Our analysis continued with a comprehensive review of the existing natural features. The Eno River watershed is relatively healthy, however, a number of creeks feeding it have ‘degraded water quality.’ Additionally, the City of Durham Stormwater Services has identified a number of methods to ensure its continued integrity and future health (City of Durham and City of Durham Stormwater Services 2017). These areas are noted as Natural Heritage sites by the NC Natural Heritage Program for their high level of biodiversity (NC Natural Heritage Program 2018).

The Eno River is not without its risks. Due to the proximity of past development, a number of homes exist within the 100-year floodplain (North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program (NCFMP), n.d.). To ethically ameliorate this issue, we reviewed buy-outs initiated in other municipalities. These show that participants in such programs are at risk of increased social vulnerability, and that they often move to equally vulnerable areas (McGhee, Albright, and Binder 2017, 42–44). More successful methods combine buyouts with land swaps to direct the resettlement process (Nelson 2014, 428–29).

Finally, we reviewed the physical condition of the adjacent neighborhoods. Most are composed of single-family homes within cul-de-sac developments that lack sidewalks. While they are physically close to some of the best green space within the county, there are few points of access.

Goals and Objectives

The Five Park District proposal design proposes Smart Densification that would support neighborhood and community ties and increase the economic prospects while protecting the natural environment. We emphasized interventions that leveraged existing amenities, allowing simple changes to have an outsized impact with far-reaching benefits. We also focused on design choices that would create more intensive use of underutilized resources, creating economic benefits. Goals include:

  • Use land swaps and tax incentives to relocate 100% of households in the floodplain to safe lots within their neighborhood, protecting community ties.
  • Improve walkability by introducing sidewalks to existing neighborhoods and increase access opportunities into the park system. Street widths would support sidewalks along one side without changing traffic patterns.
  • Connect the largely disjointed parks by expanding and programming nearly 400 acres of underutilized green spaces to reduce fragmentation and isolation with a double loop of low-impact trails.
  • Introduce water retention and water quality mitigation methods to improve water quality and protect the Eno River and associated park areas against the pressures of future development. Provide tax incentives for homes to add raingardens; introduce bioswales at roadways to handle runoff; repair the riparian barrier and extend the bottomland hardwood forest to clean water contamination from tributary creeks (City of Durham and City of Durham Stormwater Services 2017).
  • Create partnerships with local investors to introduce mixed-use developments with 15% of housing reserved for households at or below 30% AMI (Area Median Income).
  • Build a magnet school focused on ecology, sustainability, and student health. Reduce childhood obesity through early intervention activities and resources (Spratt et al. 2015).


The Five Park District would be implemented in three phases. The first stage is a 2-year land acquisition and partnership phase. The county would begin discussions with households at-risk for flooding, though their relocation may be phased for later.

We would also begin to build partnerships beyond the area of design intervention. Lots owned by investment companies but not yet developed and zoned as low-density would be identified. The County would work with the companies to up-zone the lots to higher-density and mixed-use in exchange for the provision of affordable housing units (Calavita and Mallach 2009). Increasing the allowed density increases possible revenues and therefore the land-value, while the development of the park system will increase interest in investment in the surrounding areas, making affordable housing cost-neutral (Calavita and Wolfe 2014). Further tax-incentives, such as LIHTC (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit), will provide additional encouragement (Ellen, Horn, and O’Regan 2016; Nedwick and Burnett 2015).

The 5-year phase will focus on the physical connections of the Five Park District system. The plan will connect the West Point on the Eno, the River Forest Park, and Penny’s Bend, increase neighborhood access and program the land within the floodplain to develop further parkland. The largest land acquisition includes parcels zoned Industrial / Mining around the now defunct Teery Quarry. Five of these lots comprising nearly 250 acres, are owned by just two engineering and aggregate production companies. This land would be developed into the Teery Quarry park. A double-looped trail, featuring two additional bridges crossing the Eno River and multiple connections back to the community allows for a variety of experiences (NC Natural Heritage Program 2018). Ecological restoration activities would also occur in this phase, protecting the natural features and ameliorating any existing pollution concerns (City of Durham and City of Durham Stormwater Services 2017).

double looped

The final 10-year phase would see the development of community buildings. A simple park building will be placed at the center of the Five Parks District for recreational equipment rentals and summer camps. The lot housing the Kroger Grocery store, currently built too close to the river, will be acquired once the lease runs out. A land swap will ensure that the grocery remains within the area. In its place, a magnet school will be carefully built in respect to the Eno River, and its program will capitalize on the new amenities by focusing on STEM education with an ecological and sustainable focus.


The Five Park District focuses on the goals and interests of the City of Durham and finds innovative ways to achieve them to improve the Ecological condition of the Neuse Watershed, strengthen the existing Communities, and increase the Economic prospects within and beyond the target area. By emphasizing careful interventions that develops connectivity at key areas, this project leverages existing amenities and is able to have an outsized impact with far-reaching benefits. The beautiful park system that this project would develop would become a point of pride for the City as a whole.

NC State 3


American Rivers. “Full Report: Naturally Stronger: How Natural Water Infrastructure Can Save Money and Improve Lives,” 2017.

Calavita, Nico, and Allan Mallach. “Inclusionary Housing, Incentives, and Land Value Recapture.” Land Lines, no. January (2009): 15–21.

Calavita, Nico, and Marian Wolfe. “Public Benefit Zoning,” no. November (2014)

City of Durham. “City of Durham Capital Improvement Plan: Fiscal Year 2018-2023,” 2017

City of Durham. “Durham Interactive Maps: GoMaps Mobile,” n.d.

City of Durham, and City of Durham Stormwater Services. “Factsheet #2 About the Eno River Watershed Improvement Project,” 2017.

City of New Bern. “Stormwater Wetlands Informational Brochure,” n.d.

Durham City-County. “Demographics,” 2017.

Durham City-County Planning Department. “Future Land Use Map,” 2017

Durham City-County Planning Department. “Chapter 7 Conservation and Environment Element The Durham Comprehensive Plan.” In Durham Comprehensive Plan, 2017

Durham City-County Planning Department. “Mitigation Action Plan — City of Durham.” In Eno-Haw Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, 1–12, 2016

Durham County. “Durham Real Property Search.” Tax Administration Record Search, n.d.

Ellen, Ingrid G., Keren M. Horn, and Katherine M. O’Regan. “Poverty Concentration and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit: Effects of Siting and Tenant Composition.” Journal of Housing Economics 34 (2016): 49–59.

Google. “Google Earth,” n.d.

Lynn, Kevin A. “Who Defines ‘Whole’: an Urban Political Ecology of Flood Control and Community Relocation in Houston , Texas.” Journal of Political Ecology 24 (2017): 951–67

Mcghee, Devon, Elizabeth A Albright, and Sherri Brokopp Binder. “Were the Post-Sandy Staten Island Buyouts Successful in Reducing National Vulnerability?,” 2017

NC Natural Heritage Program. “North Carolina Natural Heritage Data Explorer.” Accessed January 15, 2018.

Nedwick, Todd, and Kimberly Burnett. “How Can the LIHTC Program Most Effectively Be Used to Provide Affordable Rental Housing Near Transit?” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 17, no. 2 (2015): 113–37.

Nelson, Marla. “Using Land Swaps to Concentrate Redevelopment and Expand Resettlement Options in Post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.” Journal of the American Planning Association 80, no. 4 (2014): 426–37.

North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program (NCFMP). “Flood Risk Information System,” n.d.

Simons, James D., and North Carolina Geological Survey. “Map of Northwest Durham Quadrangle.” Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Land Resources, 2010.

Spratt, Susan E., Bryan C. Batch, Lisa P. Davis, Ashley A. Dunham, Michele Easterling, Mark N. Feinglos, Bradi B. Granger, et al. “Methods and Initial Findings from the Durham Diabetes Coalition: Integrating Geospatial Health Technology and Community Interventions to Reduce Death and Disability.” Journal of Clinical and Translational Endocrinology 2, no. 1 (2015): 26–36.

USGS. “Gage Height: 02085070 Eno River Near Durham, NC,” 2018