News & Press: ACSP Annual Conference News

A Closer Look with Award Winner Revel Sims

Wednesday, March 15, 2017  
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ACSP/UIUC Chester Rapkin Award for the Best Article in JPER

Facades of Equitable Development: Santa Ana and the Affordable Housing Complex
J. Revel Sims (Co-Author Carolina Sarmiento)

As a pioneering researcher, Professor Rapkin authored 15 books and monographs and more than 100 professional articles, plans and reports. He was the Executive Director of the White House task force that proposed the Model Cities Program under President Lindon B. Johnson. From 1969 to 1977 he served on the New York City Planning Commission under Mayors John Lindsay and Abraham Beame.

ACSP recently connected with Revel to find out more about this accomplishment.

How did you feel when you won the award?
Winning the Chester Rapkin Award was a humbling surprise. I am honored to see my work among a prestigious cadre of previous winners of this award.

Who do you want to thank, if any?
I would first off like to thank my partner and co-author, Carolina Sarmiento. I am fortunate to have her in my life as my forever accomplice. I would also like to thank the reviewers who took time to carefully read our work and make suggestions. Their critiques undoubtedly improved the paper and we owe them a debt of gratitude for this unrecognized effort. I would remiss, of course, if I did not also thank the selection committee; thank you to those on the committee for your consideration and a close reading of our work. Finally, I would like to thank all the community members who spoke with us over the course of this project. Our understanding of the issues would not have been possible without their trust and participation.

What inspired you about this project?
Our inspiration for this project originated from a number of sources. The most important of which is that for many years Carolina and I have been involved with local efforts by community organizations to resist displacement and build ground-up forms of community development in Santa Ana. Through our interactions with community members and activists in these processes, we came to recognize the importance of organization and mobilization around affordable housing production. In short, simply because a project is subsidized does not mean that it necessarily meets the housing needs the community or their larger desires for the neighborhood.

What’s next?
Early in 2016, Carolina and I led a community-based participatory action research project along with residents in one of the neighborhoods covered in our paper. This effort resulted in a community-led forum on the results of a household survey and a report, Lacy in Crisis and in Action. Among a number of findings, the report revealed alarming rates of overcrowding and a pervasiveness of various inadequate housing conditions and infestations. Using the data obtained through this project, Carolina and I will be continuing to build on the concept of the Affordable Housing Complex (AHC) and the problems associated with Area Median Income (AMI) as a metric of affordability by focusing on the origination of data on neighborhoods. Toward this end, we are in the process of finishing a follow-up paper comparing U.S. Census data on the Lacy neighborhood with the data collected through our community-based collaborative project.

Revel's Bio
Revel Sims joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URPL) and the Chican@ and Latin@ Studies Program (CLS) in September 2016. Prior to joining these units, he was an Honorary Fellow at URPL and Visiting Assistant Professor in CLS.

Revel Sims obtained his PhD in 2014 from the Department of Urban Planning at University of California Los Angeles. His dissertation, “It was like dancing on a grave”: Eviction and Displacement in Los Angeles 1994 to 1999, is an analysis of displacement during the pivotal decade of the 1990s that employs a spatial analysis of over 70,000 eviction cases. The findings exposed four distinct concentrations of displacement in Los Angeles during the period and provide a basis for the argument that while everyday displacement can form a major part of urban experience bringing together systems of racialization, tenure, and finance, displacement remains generally under analyzed within urban theory, research, and policy.

About ACSP Awards
Each year ACSP is proud to honor faculty and students who have distinguished themselves or made major contributions to the academy or to the profession via outreach efforts, public service or for service to ACSP, the Academy, or the profession. A complete listing and history for all awards can be found at

The Chester Rapkin Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Planning Education and Research is awarded annually. This award is generously supported by an endowment at the University of Illinois Foundation in Urbana. The award was founded for JPER of ACSP by the co-editors, Lew Hopkins and Gill-Chin Lim, in honor of Professor Rapkin at his retirement. As a distinguished educator, he mentored 70 doctoral and numerous master students at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Princeton.

The 2016 Chester Rapkin Award Committee includes: Committee Chair Richard Klosterman, Emeritus University of Akron; Justin Hollander, Tufts University; and Branden Born, University of Washington.


The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.