City and Regional Planning Students Work to Shape California Communities

by Ryan Meller 

CRP 554 studio presents its final plan to the DESERT HOT SPRINGS city council and stakeholders

Over the past several months, the graduate Community and Regional Planning Studio (CRP 552/554) and the undergraduate Community Planning Lab (CRP 410/411) have immersed themselves in the communities of Desert Hot Springs and King City. 

Under the direction of faculty member Dr. Dave Amos, 15 second-year graduate students worked closely with the City of Desert Hot Springs to create a rehabilitation plan for the downtown core. Their plans have emphasized economic development and improving the pedestrian landscape.  

CRP 554 studio outreach in Desert Hot Springs, CA

Their first visit in November 2022 focused on understanding the existing conditions of downtown Desert Hot Springs. Students set up tables at local stores and asked residents for feedback. The second visit took place in January, where students led a community workshop and a youth outreach event at the local high school focused on initial concepts for revitalization. 

The final plan provided a blueprint for future downtown development and revitalization and was presented to the city council and stakeholders on March 2023. The recommendations included revising the zoning code, implementing key pedestrian upgrades and establishing new city programs to spur economic activity. 

CRP 410/411 outreach in King City, CA

The 18 fourth-year students, led by faculty member Dr. Kelly Main, collaborated with King City to develop recommendations for upcoming amendments to the city's comprehensive plan. The city has a strong agricultural background, historic downtown and diverse cultural traditions. 

The studio visited King City four times over the six-month project to develop recommendations that reflect the needs of community members. Two bilingual Cal Poly students accompanied the lab to allow the Spanish-speaking community to participate. 

During these visits, the students conducted outreach activities involving collaborative mapping and focus group meetings with high school students. They also participated in local events like the Halloween "Trunk or Treat" and marched in the annual holiday parade. Additionally, students interviewed and surveyed passersby at local grocery stores and asked them to prioritize actions and strategies using “priority posters.” 

The students have developed over 150 recommendations for a strategic plan focused on health, equity and sustainability. These include projects that are relatively easy, quick and inexpensive for King City to achieve but still consider the preservation of the city's small-town atmosphere and sense of community.  

The lab will present its final plan to the King City Planning Commission and City Council during the spring quarter. 

Although the city of Desert Hot Springs funded their respective studio, the King City studio was funded by the Errett Fisher Foundation Student Educational Enhancement Fund. This means economically disadvantaged communities that desperately need quality planning services may be unable to afford the minimal fee the City and Regional Planning Department charges to cover the costs of supplies and student travel.

The department aims to expand its reach to underprivileged communities by securing more funding to enhance its urban design and community planning studios. To support studios in providing a meaningful experience for students and the communities they serve, consider donating by clicking Give Now below.


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