Boyz N The Hood Turns 30

The Boyz N The Hood film and years of street reporting on NWA albums helped me become an urban planner in/for South Central LA.

I learned the word “gentrification” from Furious Styles’s speech on the street corner in Compton.

Voices of Equity and Embedded Planning

Recorded January 18, 2019 at American Planning Association HQ amidst our work on the national Social Equity Task Force. Since then, #EmbeddedPlanning has exploded onto the scene. And as my mentees will attest, I continue to big up Mike Davis’s City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990). Start with the Fortress LA chapter. It’s a groundbreaking critique of #HostileArchitecture ⚔️


Podcast: Embedded Planning in the Plains of Id

Excerpt of South Central LA Thick Map for “Flatlands: We Cannot Pod From Our Desks”

In November 2020, I was interviewed by grad students from the UCLA Urban Humanities Initiative. Their research methods seminar examined LA urban theory + praxis through the lens of Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971).

I spoke at length about @EmbeddedPlanning praxis, west coast hip hop origins, and South Central LA.

The group distilled our conversation into a dope podcast called, “Flatlands: We Cannot Pod From Our Desks.”

Listen to my podcast interview and view the companion Thick Map of South Central LA — portion of it is this post’s image. Check out all project podcasts and infographics.

Thank you to Samantha Solis, Miranda Hirujo-Rincon, Carrie Gammell, and Celia Sanchez Zelaya.

Interviewed for book set during 1992 LA Uprising

Yesterday I was interviewed by an author writing a novel set in the time of the 1992 LA Uprising. I shared memories of interpreting the unrest through my eyes at the time, a high school graffiti tagger in Montebello navigating the larger LA hip hop scene. I’ll share the book when it’s published.

Photo: California African American Museum exhibit, “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992.” https://caamuseum.org/exhibitions/2017/no-justice-no-peace-la-1992

Medina Family ADU talk returns to UC Irvine Urban Planning

Medina Family ADU talk at UCI, May 31, 2019

TODAY—I’m at @ucimurp delivering the Medina Family ADU Story in Prof. Lynda Hikichi’s class UPPP 275: Site Development. This is the 9th rendition of this public talk and the 2nd time UCI Urban Planning & Public Policy hosts it, thank you! If you’re on campus or nearby, come through: Room 3240 in the SBSG-Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway building, 11:30am—12:30pm.

ABSTRACT: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Through storytelling, reflection and #EmbeddedPlanning praxis, presenter Jonathan Pacheco Bell @c1typlann3r, a zoning enforcement planner in South Central #LosAngeles, presents the story of the Medina Family from the #SouthCentralLA community of @FlorenceFirestone, who built an informal backyard Accessory Dwelling Unit #ADU for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered inspection and eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. Jonathan himself ordered its removal. Attendees will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, and Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. To help himself cope emotionally and to spotlight this family’s housing struggle, Jonathan has turned the experience into a speaking tour offering takeaways for planning policy, practice, and pedagogy. Jonathan will explain the @EmbeddedPlanning approach at the story’s core. This talk will inspire emerging planners to adapt and respond to the problem of housing insecurity with empathetic, activist, street-level planning #praxis.

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at the SF Urban Film Fest

SFUFF-Medina ADU Talk-SPUR
Janelle represents the future of Los Angeles. This effort is for her. Photo courtesy of Amy Thomson at SPUR

People’s lives are at the heart of Planning. Planners: befriend the community, get to know constituents personally, invest your heart into bettering THEIR lives and you’ll always have a righteous mission.

I could not do this series of public talks on #InformalHousing without permission & support of the Medina Family. My regulatory responsibility resulted in the removal of their informal #ADU but ironically brought us closer together. Theirs was a hard first lesson in Planning & Zoning. They knew others endure the same struggle. The Medinas permitted my public talks because they knew sharing their experience would help other residents & Other Planners understand the street realities of informal housing in working-class communities of color. They entrusted me to tell their story. They granted me a righteous mission.

Planners! We must draw inspiration from The People we serve.

The Medina Family—Flora, Josefina, Maria, and Janelle—they inspire me. Janelle represents the future of #LosAngeles. THIS IS FOR HER ♥️

Gracias Fay Darmawi for including us in the 2018 SF Urban Film Fest, SPUR Urbanist for hosting us, & SPUR’s Amy Thomson for photographing this moment.

#EmbeddedPlanning

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology

A Matter of Necessity-Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning-UCI Urban Planning and Public Policy-25Oct2018
“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning at UCI School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, 25 October 2018

I’m honored to serve as UCI MURP Planning Visions Guest Speaker delivering my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning & Public Policy, Thursday, Oct 25th, 11:30a-1:00p. The event is made possible through the initiative of 2nd year MURP candidate Irene Aceituno. She will introduce me as speaker, discuss UCI’s Diversity in Planning Fellows program, & emphasize the value of mentorships in planning. The talk is Free & Open To All. RSVP at Eventbrite.

SUMMARY: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Jonathan Pacheco Bell, a zoning enforcement planner in Los Angeles County, will tell the story of the Medina Family from the South Central L.A. community of Florence-Firestone, who built an informal backyard dwelling for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered an inspection & eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. It was Jonathan himself who ordered its removal. Audience members will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, & Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. Key takeaways for planning policy, practice & pedagogy will be offered. This talk demonstrates that the rules we enforce can have unintended consequences, especially in working class communities of color.

BIO: Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) is a public sector Urban Planner in Los Angeles County with over 12 years of experience in zoning enforcement. He is a fierce advocate for the unincorporated areas of South Central Los Angeles. On any given day you will find him in the unincorporated community of Florence-Firestone partnering with stakeholders to improve quality of life.

A field-based planner, Bell researches, writes, & speaks about informal housing, unorthodox community outreach, and South Central L.A. history from his unique, on the ground perspective. He calls his praxis Embedded Planning.

A product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school, Bell holds an MAUP from UCLA Luskin & an MLIS from SJSU iSchool.

“We Cannot Plan From Our Desks”, my op-ed on Embedded Planning praxis published in APA’s Planning Magazine, October 2018

Consider this page 1 of my #manifesto nailed to the Planning Department’s door.

Read my op-ed, “We Cannot Plan From Our Desks”, in APA’s Planning Magazine #PlanMag October 2018 issue. Just in time for #PlanningMonth.

In this editorial I outline the tenets and benefits of #EmbeddedPlanning. This is my opening salvo to the planning field arguing for Embedded Planning praxis, what I describe as planning in the streets, over orthodox, desk-bound practice.

I ground Embedded Planning in the real life example of the Medina Family ADU Saga in the South Central Los Angeles community of Florence-Firestone. In my current speaking tour, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, I’m sharing the family’s difficult first lesson in Planning and Zoning, and my inner conflict with the outcome. I can tell the Medinas’ story because I earned their trust, at their doorstep.

We Cannot Plan From Our Desks.
“We Cannot Plan From Our Desks.” My op-ed on Embedded Planning praxis published in APA’s Planning Magazine, October 2018.

Eureka moment for Embedded Planning

Medina Family ADU talk at UCLA Luskin, May 2018
Delivering the Medina Family ADU talk in the “Informal Cities” seminar at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, May 2018. Photo courtesy of Joshua Baum, MURP ’18

I’m writing an invited op-ed on Embedded Planning. It’s a challenging but rewarding exercise. This has been an amorphous idea swirling in my head for years. I knew what it was intuitively, but I hadn’t defined it. This op-ed is pushing me to define, outline, & explain the benefits of my #EmbeddedPlanning praxis. 

The piece draws on my ideas developed over 12 years doing urban planning on-the-ground, from my #MLIS experience in which I regularly wrote about librarians breaking free from the reference desk to do LIS work out in the neighborhood, & from my speaking tour on the Medina Family #ADU saga.

My most fruitful thinking on this op-ed has been away from a desk. On Thursday morning, stuck in #LosAngeles traffic, I had a eureka! moment about the title of my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Storytelling. The reason I can tell the Medina Family story is because I earned their trust, at their doorstep, through my Embedded Planning praxis.

Thus far I’ve delivered the Medina Family ADU talk at CSUN, Woodbury University, Cal Poly Pomona, UCLA Luskin, & the American Planning Association #NPC18 Conference in New Orleans under the “Storytelling” title. It’s high time for an update. It’s time to revise my title to underscore that the lessons learned result from Embedded Planning.

Henceforth the title of my talk on the Medina Family ADU story is:

“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning

Only through Embedded Planning do we arrive at my thesis: “Behind every informal unit there’s a story to tell, a human dimension that needs light.”

Designing Housing Solutions workshop @ #APACA2017

California’s housing crisis is at a breaking point. We need new ideas and strategies — now! Planners, urbanists, policymakers, designers, students: you’re invited to this innovative workshop where we’ll tap into your memories and experiences to design new housing solutions.

Designing Housing Solutions

2017 APA CA Conference Sacramento

Tuesday, Sept 26, 2017

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/311978272598475

OVERVIEW: The workshop will tap into the diverse experience and expertise of attending planners to collaborate and design comprehensive housing solutions. The facilitated exercise will bring together a diversity of perspectives to explore new housing typologies that expand choice, encourage affordability, and specifically address the risk of informal dwelling units.

ABSTRACT: The lack of affordable housing in California has reached crisis levels. Among the many consequences is the rash of hazardous incidents happening in unpermitted dwellings. As the tragic warehouse fire in Oakland recently illustrated, unpermitted housing happens across the State at various scales. With no sign of housing demand softening, there is an urgent need to investigate housing supply. While Los Angeles’ recent Proposition JJJ creates a de facto inclusionary zoning policy, no blanket approach exists to address the regulatory, cultural, design, and financing issues associated with housing policy.

The Designing Housing Solutions workshop will facilitate two interactive engagement activities where professionals design and prototype new and diverse housing typologies (co-housing, farm worker housing, artist housing, garage conversions, senior housing, ADUs, etc). The workshop creates a safe space for attending planners to nurture ideas, communicate through storytelling and collaborate. Participants will engage through memory, art and play to better understand themselves and the State’s housing assets, needs and challenges.
This input will launch a conversation that will inform future research, as well as generate ideas that address spatial values impacting housing’s urban design, zoning and planning. The workshop will consider how shared ideas can help create more inclusive spaces.

FACILITATORS:
◦ Gunnar Hand, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, LLP

◦ Jonathan P. Bell, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ James Rojas, Place It! & Latino Urban Forum

◦ Fay Darmawi, Affordable Housing Finance and Consulting

◦ Connie Chung, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ Cathy E. Creswell, Creswell Consulting

#APACA2017

The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began 25 years ago today

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising.

I urge everyone to experience the immersive exhibits “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992” at the California African American Museum.

The exhibits took me back to 1992, seeing the smoke plumes and ash from mom’s house in Montebello, thinking NWA had warned us this was coming again.

Today, some things are better in South Central L.A. Our SCLA unincorporated communities are rising through strong partnerships and civic engagement. But far too many structural inequalities throughout South Central remain.

Will history repeat a third time in L.A.?

The invisibility of code enforcement in planning praxis: The case of informal housing in Southern California

FOCUS article.JPG

Pretty cool to be published old school style: in print!

Read the latest from me and Jake Wegmann on #InformalHousing in Los Angeles: “The Invisibility of Code Enforcement in Planning Praxis: The Case of Informal Housing in Southern California,” (2016) FOCUS Journal, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dept of City & Regional Planning

Abstract: More and better engagement with working class neighborhoods and communities of color are urgent imperatives for the planning profession as the United States transitions to a “majority minority” population. Code enforcement personnel are already doing much of this work, normally in a much more collaborative and less heavy-handed manner than the name of their profession would suggest. However, at present the planning profession largely holds code enforcement at arms’ length. Using the example of the informal housing market in Southern California—managed on a daily basis by code enforcement officers, yet largely unaddressed by planners—we draw on survey and interview data and our own professional experiences to make four propositions about code enforcement work. These are that code enforcement work is unusually cumbersome; it is chronically understaffed; its personnel cope by working reactively rather than proactively; and the profession suffers low prestige as a result. We argue that ending the estrangement between code enforcement and planning would offer numerous benefits to the latter, including inculcating cultural competence in planners through “learning by doing” and working at street level, and injecting sorely needed “community data” into efforts to address vexing issues such as housing unaffordability.