Tag Archives: Environmental Planning

MURP Students and Faculty Head to 2017 APA Colorado Conference

October 12, 2017

This year’s American Planning Association (APA) Colorado conference was held in beautiful Telluride, Colorado, October 4 – 6, 2017. More than twenty MURP students, as well as several faculty members, attended the conference, which held sessions, workshops, mobile tours and receptions that addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the planning profession in Colorado.

APAS Student Representative Meghan Boydston said, “The students that attended, myself included, enjoyed hearing presentations from speakers from all over the world. We also love the opportunity to meet professionals with a variety of types of planning careers, all while appreciating the natural beauty of Telluride.”

The opening plenary featured Elizabeth Garner, who serves as the state demographer for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). At DOLA, the State Demography office produces population and economic estimates and forecasts for use by state agencies and local governments. During her talk, Garner discussed Colorado’s “demographic transition,” including how Colorado is economically and demographically maturing, as well as how the state is hosting an aging population that will continue to bring a demand for new workers.

Similarly, the conference’s other keynote speaker, Alan Mallach of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, talked with conference participants about today’s pressing affordable housing challenges due to changing demographics, economic conditions and housing costs. In addition to the keynotes, an awards ceremony and reception was held on Thursday evening to kick off Community Planning Month.

At this year’s conference, several CU Denver MURP faculty and adjuncts, including Assistant Professor CTT Ken Schroeppel and lecturer Donald Elliott, led sessions on topics such as table and chart design, form-based codes and housing. The sessions at the conference covered the gamut of planning-related topics, including on authentic community engagement; the common ground between public and private sector planners; rural downtown investment strategies; transportation challenges; recreational programming and public lands, and more.

Mobile tour workshops were also held, including walking tours on Historic Downtown Telluride, Planning for Healthy Forests, New Technologies in Ski Manufacturing, Telluride Cultural Arts District, and Telluride Affordable Housing.

Visit here for more information on this year’s APA Colorado Conference, and to read the full schedule of workshops, events and presentations.

MURP Chair Presents on Green Infrastructure Research

In early March 2017, MURP Chair and Professor Austin Troy, PhD, gave a presentation on “Research on the Benefits of Urban Green Infrastructure,” which looked at his current and past work regarding the benefits of urban trees and other vegetation for heat island mitigation, shading, increases in property values and crime reduction.

Dr. Troy discussed how in one study, he looked at the relationship between tree canopy and crime index in the greater Baltimore region, and found that a 10% increase in tree cover equates to a 11.8% decrease in crime, with the effect 37% greater for public than private land trees. While the relationship between crime and trees varied spatially—as did the relationship between private trees and crime—the relationship between crime and public trees did not. Similarly, in another study that also used Baltimore as a case study, Dr. Troy looked at the impact of residential yard landscaping practices on block level crime.

Dr. Troy also spent time discussing the idea of causality versus association in research and within green infrastructure studies. For instance, while the association between green infrastructure and crime is well-established, can it be said that vegetation’s association with crime is causal?

Given the few studies currently available on this topic, Dr. Troy conducted another study—looking at San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City—to examine whether crime actually drops more than it would otherwise after green investments have already been made. The results generated, he says, are mixed but promising, with tests within each study area suggesting likely causality.

Dr. Troy also discussed green infrastructure and urban heat, including how different surfaces’ absorptivity, reflectivity, transmissivity and emissivity can generate more or less heat in an urban environment. Dr. Troy has mapped urban heat in Denver, and examined the role of trees in mitigating its effects.

The presentation concluded with Dr. Troy previewing his current work, where he is looking at planning issues related to trees and water in the Denver area. His research questions center on how climate change, water supply and urban growth are affected by the high need for irrigation in the Colorado climate.

Each year, the urban and regional planning program within the College of Architecture and Planning, alongside CU Denver’s American Planning Association Student Chapter, host numerous lectures with faculty to discuss their current research.

MURP Chair Visits U.S. Forest Service New York Research Station

In late April 2017, College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) professor and master of urban and regional planning department chair Austin Troy traveled to New York as part of a delegation from the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station to visit the New York Urban Field Station.

The New York Urban Field Station is a facility in Fort Totten, Queens that is managed in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and serves as a hub for research, outreach and programs related to urban environmental stewardship.

The delegation that attended this site visit also included personnel from the University of Denver, as well as the U.S. Forest Service in Fort Collins and Golden. While in New York, the group met with various local and federal officials—including New York City’s Chief of Horticulture, Forestry and Natural Resources—and toured numerous parks and natural areas currently under restoration, as well as participated in a tree planting.

Troy’s travel delegation to New York was made possible by a U.S. Forest Service grant to the College of Architecture and Planning that seeks to facilitate the planning and development of a similar urban field station in the Denver area. The planning group that is working on establishing the Denver station includes representatives from the City of Denver’s Parks and Recreation, the U.S. Geological Survey, Colorado State University, Trust for Public Land, Davey Trees and others. The New York field visit will aid the planning group in establishing priorities and developing partnerships that will be critical for the success of the future field station.

PhotoTroy (left), members of the delegation, and New York field station staff at a tree planting at Marine Park in Brooklyn, New York.

MURP Alumni Meet with Current Students On Capstone Projects

March 5, 2017

On February 23, the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association hosted its first Capstone, Cookies and Coffee, which is an opportunity for current MURP students working on their capstone projects to discuss their specific topic of exploration and progress with MURP alumni working in the urban and regional planning field.

The event was hosted at the College of Architecture and Planning, and was organized by specific urban planning-related topic areas and skill sets so that students could find alumni who best paired up with their interests and own work.

To become part of the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association’s annual schedule of activities, 2017 was the kick-off year for such an event that allows students to network with professionals in the field that also went through urban planning education at the same institution.

At this year’s event, approximately ten MURP students, eight alumni and three faculty attended, with the goal of providing alumni an opportunity to offer students advice on their capstone methods, approaches, data sources, contacts and case studies that may be useful in their research and work. Alumni also agreed to review students’ ongoing progress to provide feedback as requested.

Deemed a success, the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association plans to hold this event each spring as a way to support current students in completing these final projects; better integrate alumni into current happenings of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning; and provide increased occasions for alumni to interact with students for mentorship and networking opportunities.

Assistant Professor Carrie Makarewicz, the faculty liaison for the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association, and CU Denver MURP Alumni Association President Eric Ross were present to assist in facilitating the event.

Picture featured includes second-year MURP student Bryan Sullivan; Alumni Faculty Liaison and Assistant Professor Carrie Makarewicz; and Kevin Patterson, a dual-degree MURP and Master of Public Affairs Alumni who is the current director of the Colorado Health Exchange and former director within the City and County of Denver.

College of Architecture and Planning Announces Spring 2017 Lecture Series

Each semester, University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning brings distinguished speakers to campus to discuss current trends, research and issues related to the fields of architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture and urban design.

Each lecture takes place at 5:00 PM (unless otherwise noted) on the second floor of the College of Architecture and Planning, located at 1250 14th Street in downtown Denver.

February 27, 2017
Bon Ku, MD, MPP
Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University
How Doctors and Architects Can Work Together to Design Healthier Communities

March 13, 2017
Laurel Raines, ASLA
Founding Principal, DIG Studio
Landscape in Practice

March 27, 2017
Michael Murphy
Co-Founder and Executive Director, MASS Design Group

April 4, 2017
Nick Dawson
Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Sibley Innovation Hub; Chair, Executive Board Medicine X, Stanford University
Co-designing with Patients

April 10, 2017
Rolf Pendall, PhD
Co-Director, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center, Urban Institute
Building Inclusion into the Millennial City

April 17, 2017*
Mark Gelernter, PhD
A lecture by Dean Mark Gelernter and a reception honoring him as he retires
Speculations on the Future of Architectural Education: Looking Forward While Reflecting Back
*Reception, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., 2nd Floor Gallery; Lecture, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., Room 470

April 24, 2017
Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA
Founder and Principal, LOHA
Stanley H. and Theodora L. Feldberg Lecture in Honor of Donald R. Roark

January 2017: MURP Department, Faculty and Student Updates

MURP faculty are busy serving the planning profession, the community and our students through their leadership and participation in publications, presentations and media stories. Our students are also making great strides, with recent scholarship awards for their exemplary academic performance.

 Notable activities in January 2017 include:

Jeremy Németh, associate professor of urban and regional planning spoke at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture’s Annual Lecture Series. In the talk entitled, “Just Space: Why public space matters now more than ever,” Németh spoke about how public space performs three critical functions for an increasingly divided nation: housing protests, making the marginalized visible, and encouraging encounters between people that are very different from one another. For more information on the event, which was attended by 100 participants and took place on January 12 in the university’s Millennium Library, click here.


Austin Troy, professor and urban and regional planning and department chair, has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (Forest Service) to plan for an “urban field station” in Denver, which would host and help organize research and activities related to management of the urban environment and urban ecological systems. The Forest Service currently hosts four urban field stations in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, and the proposed Denver station would be the first official Forest Service field station in the West.

The proposed station is being developed in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as Denver Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Forestry. To help fund the project, Dr. Troy received a 2016 Forest Service grant to facilitate the planning and potential setup of this station, in addition to providing support for a meeting attended by representatives from the Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Forestry, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and academia. The grant also supports a trip by Dr. Troy and Forest Service personnel to tour the eastern urban field stations that will inform a startup strategy and business plan for the station.


Through the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), first year MURP student Meghan McCloskey Boydston was awarded the 2016-2017 WTS Leadership Legacy Scholarship award. Launched in 2007, the Leadership Legacy Scholarship provides financial aid to an exemplary woman pursuing graduate studies in a transportation-related field. This award furthers WTS’ mission to “build the transportation industry through the global advancement of women can be realized by encouraging women to further their careers as leaders in transportation.” The scholarship also focuses on advancing students interested in sustainable communities and public transit, and seeks to reward women who bring ideas, innovation and new approaches to U.S. and international transportation challenges. Congratulations Meghan!


Last year, CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning was written into an awarded $30 Million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the redevelopment of Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. The grant was awarded to Denver Housing Authority (DHA), with CU Denver’s to serve as the official data hub for the project. Austin Troy, professor and urban and regional planning and department chair, will coordinate CU Denver’s involvement in this project. To house the data, a server has been set up in conjunction with CityCraft Ventures, which now hosts a large database of publicly-available geographic information system (GIS) files for all of west Denver, the grant’s geographic area of focus. Ultimately, CU Denver will work with DHA and research partners at Colorado State University, Regis University, CU Boulder and University of Denver to develop a system of indicators that will be used to measure neighborhood well-being and health as the neighborhood transforms. The team will also conduct GIS analyses to quantify the natural and built environment of Sun Valley.

CAP Hosts Panel on Implications of Planning Decisions to Colorado’s Future

November 9, 2016

The College of Architecture and Planning and its urban and regional planning program hosted a panel in early November on the Future of Colorado: Major Implications of State, Regional and Local Decisions on Planning Issues. The panel featured three speakers—Doug Anderson, environmental planner, CH2M; David (DK) Kemp, senior transportation planner, City of Boulder; and MURP Assistant Professor Ken Schroeppel—and discussed questions related to housing, transportation, socioeconomics, and energy and the environment.

HousingWhat tactics or incentives can public officials employ to encourage the construction of more affordable housing and reduce development costs? 

The panel discussed the issue of affordable living as a means to tackle housing issues, which could include combining housing and transportation costs, in addition to unbundling, or completely removing, municipal parking requirements. The panel also looked at the potential importance of increased density provisions, and used Boulder, Colorado as an example to suggest the need to counter current growth boundaries and height limitations. Other topics addressed regarding housing included housing cooperatives, accessory dwelling units and tiny homes, all as alternative forms of “affordable housing.”

Transportation: With less money dedicated to transportation improvements, how could the state alternatively address traffic congestion? Will FasTracks, Bustang, or other transportation services help reduce road traffic or is some other strategy needed?

The panel deliberated numerous topics, including the converting underused railroad tracks for future passenger rail, as well as the need for better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure as a way to encourage less drivers on the road. Other discussion included the advent of driverless cars, including that while it is currently unknown what their consequences to traffic congestion will be, the panel’s consensus was that driverless cars would likely reduce the frequency of commuting. Final topics of debate included the possibility of telecommuting more option to address traffic issues, and the impact the Colorado Department of Transportation could have by coordinating with municipalities on regional land use designations.

Socio-Economics: In what capacity should planners contribute to the needs of small towns and suburbs from an economic standpoint? From a cultural standpoint? How do you see changing demographics shaping the future of cities, suburbs and small towns in Colorado?

While numerous topics were discussed, the largest takeaway from this portion of the panel discussion was that professional planners to need better listen to the concerns of citizens, such as business owners, residents and customers. Ken Schroeppel provided an explanation of the pyramid method for community engagement, in which substantive, procedural and psychological needs must be met, in addition to urging attendees to look up the Google Earth street view of small towns across America to better understand the problems they are experiencing. Similarly, the panel also talked about the need for new economic development and policy measures that would help small towns transition to new industries. This was also echoed by the idea that planners have been neglecting infrastructure maintenance in rural American towns, and that plans should be put into place to update or re-purpose aging infrastructure.

Energy and the Environment:  How can planners use practices such as open space preservation, conservation easements, and land acquisition to prevent further decimation of the natural environment and encourage more sustainable forms of energy?

Doug Anderson began this portion of the panel discussion by stating that encouragement of sustainable forms of energy is not always complementary with good land use practices, such as clearing a significant number of acres for solar panels or wind farms, when in actuality, this does not help to preserve the natural features of the land. However, the panel did consider that practices such as the transfer of development rights may be useful for preserving natural spaces via conservation easement designations.

MURP Professor Lectures on International Planning in Asia

As part of its brown bag lunch lecture series, CU Denver’s American Planning Association Student Chapter (APAS) hosted College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) Assistant Professor Andrew Rumbach on October 11 to present a lecture on Marshes, Malls and Land Mafias: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Kolkata, India.

The presentation—which dovetails with Rumbach’s areas of research interest, including disasters and climate change, environmental risk, urban resilience, international planning, and small town and rural development—hosted about twenty students and faculty interested in learning more about his extensive work in south and southeast Asia.

During his lecture, Rumbach discussed how studying the root causes of flood risk in Asia drives his research, and examined three main sub-topics: how urbanization, flooding, and climate change affect Asian megacities; the specific case study of Kolkata in this context; and additional, in-depth information about the east Kolkata wetlands, which suffer from poor planning due to linkages between organized crime, local politics and real estate development.

Rumbach shared that by 2050, 6.4 billion people will live in cites, with 90% of this growth taking place in south Asia, southeast Asia, and Africa, which will contribute to the most radical shift in human settlement patterns in history. Due to this increasing global density, urbanization is becoming one of the main drivers of disaster likelihood in Asia, with the risk of environmental hazards—such as floods and storms—becoming more prevalent when a population’s level of vulnerability and exposure increases. Further, as urban governance through corrupt regimes plays a key role in the creation and distribution of resources critical to disaster risk reduction, much of the population often finds itself with unequal access to resources.

Rumbach further provided specific examples and photographs of these scenarios in Kolkata, India, and specifically the east Kolkata wetlands, which sits at the edge of the megacity and provides an estimated 50% of local demand for freshwater fish, but is subject to illegal land development that destroys this critical industry. Due to state power that is entrenched with the activity of local criminal groups, Rumbach’s presentation signified that a significant challenge to meaningful planning in the region remains.

“The brownbag was a great opportunity to share my research on Indian urbanization and environmental risk with students and colleagues. I look forward to future APAS organized events, which will greatly benefit the intellectual and research culture in the department and college,” Rumbach said.

For students interested in learning more about disaster and international development planning, Rumbach also noted the intersection between his areas of research and classes he teaches, including Natural and Built Environments, Disaster and Climate Change Planning, and Planning in the Developing World.

Brown bag lunch lectures are a part of APAS’ scheduled programming for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to this lecture series, APAS offers opportunities for urban and regional planning students to participate in job shadowing, interdisciplinary walking tours, the annual Colorado American Planning Association conference, volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations and more.  

Click here to learn more about APAS at CU Denver, including to visit their event calendar.

January 20, 2016 – Information Session on MURP Study Abroad Course in India

Information Session on MURP Study Abroad Course in India
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
12:00 – 1:00 pm
CAP Building, 1250 14th Street Denver, CO 80202
Room 470

This summer, the Department of Planning and Design will offer a 3-credit study abroad course in India entitled “Environmental Challenges in the Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayas” (URPL 6675). Students will travel to India during Maymester to study the unique environmental challenges facing small cities in the Darjeeling District, a fast-growing region in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

There will be an information session on the class on Wednesday, January 20th from 12-1 p.m. in Room 470. At the session, professor Andrew Rumbach will provide a course overview, describe the application process, discuss the trip to India and class activities while in-country, provide the costs of enrollment and answer any questions you might have.

If you are unable to attend but are interested in the class, please send me an email and we can arrange a time to talk. The deadline for applying for the class is February 3rd. You can view the application here.

This is a unique opportunity to study environmental planning and urban development in one of the world’s fastest growing and most dynamic countries. We hope to see you at the information session!

Integrating Indigenous Knowledge into Hazard Mitigation the Darjeeling Himalayas

By Alison Holm

Residents in the mountain regions of West Bengal, India know that the ground is shifting beneath them. They point to the long cracks running through some of the homes in their villages, or talk about the once-fertile cropland that has been destroyed by landslides and is no longer a viable source of income. Landslides pose a serious threat in the Darjeeling District, which lies in a multi-hazard area prone to heavy rains and seismic activity. While there are a number of natural causes of landslides, anthropogenic drivers of landslides are increasingly significant with the rapid population growth and unrestricted, unregulated urbanization that characterizes the area. Today, while residents recognize landslide hazards, and have historically mitigated for natural landslide risk, there is a significant disconnect between local knowledge and disaster management strategies in the region.

Local residents may not recognize all of the drivers of landslides or distinguish between natural and anthropogenic causes, there is a shared recognition of the risk associated with landslides. Collectively, indigenous knowledge about the land and the local institutions that govern everyday life are important factors in developing community-based disaster management capacities. The integration of local knowledge and institutions is especially critical to landslide risk reduction among hill populations in the Darjeeling District. In order to be effective, disaster risk management needs to be highly localized and context-specific, but the local needs of mountain regions are often not reflected in state and national policies and disaster planning. Particularly in rural areas, local residents become the defacto first responders in disaster scenarios. Many villages in the Darjeeling District are accessible only by walkable pathways and, even if these pathways were to be mapped, realistically it would require someone with intimate knowledge of the area to navigate to affected areas in a disaster.

Landslides frequently render roads in the area impassible, highlighting the need to equip local residents to both mitigate for and respond to disaster settings rather than relying solely on outside assistance. Before landslides even occur, local residents are in the best position to heed warning signs as well. Just as residents in several villages near Kalimpong pointed to cracks in homes throughout the communities, locals are often the first to recognize if springs suddenly appear or disappear, or if there are changes in tree growth (i.e. bends developing in tree trunks), both of which are signs of slope instability that could lead to landslides.

Indigenous knowledge, which tends to be more qualitative in nature, has often been seen as less valid than more scientific or “expert” knowledge, and as a result disaster risk reduction efforts tend to focus on technical or engineering solutions. However, there is growing recognition of the value of indigenous knowledge and increasing calls to integrate indigenous and scientific knowledge in disaster management. Incorporating local knowledge and institutions into disaster risk reduction strategies won’t be a simple task in the context of the Darjeeling District – traditional forms of indigenous knowledge and institutions have been eroded as a result of colonial rule, centralization, later decentralization, and the so-far ineffective implementation of local governance at the village level. However, indigenous knowledge and institutions remain critical to effective disaster mitigation efforts in the region.

Back to Introduction: Studying Landslide Risk in the Darjeeling District, West Bengal, India

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