News & Press: ACSP Annual Conference News

A Closer Look with Award Winner Carolina Sarmiento

Monday, February 13, 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
Carolina Sarmiento (Co-Author J. Revel Sims)

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

How did you feel when you won the award?
I was surprised, honored and humbled to receive this award and join some of past recipients who I have long admired including Dr. Ann Markusen, a researcher and mentor I greatly respect.

Who do you want to thank, if any?
A very special thanks to Dr. Lisa Bates and Dr. Marisa Zapata who helped put this special edition on equity planning together, and resurfaced important discussions on race, equity, both in practice and in our scholarship. I would also like to thank the reviewers whose critiques made this article much stronger and who took the time to provide valuable feedback and suggestions. Thank you to the selection committee who found our contribution worthy of recognition among so many other important articles.

I would also like to thank the many people in Santa Ana who work on these issues. Research on equity planning is rooted in the real struggles of working communities who teach us through their example, and share their knowledge with us scholars. They are the real experts.

Last but not least, I want to thank my partner and co-author, Dr. Revel Sims who shares the same commitment to justice and the belief that our profession has an important role to play in that struggle. Together, we try and bring together our planning skills and research methods to support bottom up efforts.

What inspired you about this project?
We are always looking for strategies that planners can use to push for more equitable outcomes. However, as planners we are also aware of our historic role in producing unintended negative outcomes, specifically on low-income communities of color. Working close with and in community reveals these contradictions, but also brings to light some of the alternative solutions community groups are proposing. What inspires me is finding alternatives that are rooted in community knowledge and interests, in addition to building power that communities can use to shape their neighborhoods, cities, and world.

What’s next?
As part of our work around equity planning and research on gentrification and displacement, Revel and I are continuing to build on the concept of the Affordable Housing Complex (AHC). We are working on a book chapter that expands on the number of case studies examined and more closely links to theories of displacement. We also hope to publish a paper on the serious issues in using certain metrics to determine affordability. Our community based research reveals inconsistencies with Census data that perhaps cannot capture household income accurately in highly dense neighborhoods with several families living in one home.

This also connects us to the community-led work that is proposing alternatives such as community land trusts and community ownership of land for other purposes such as community centers, gardens, micro-farms, parks, etc. These efforts require continued community mobilization to garner support while at the same time communities face new challenges due to increased criminalization and the decrease in public spending. What’s next for these communities remains to be seen, but I hope our work will contribute to their continued struggle for a more just and equitable city.

Carolina's Bio
Carolina Sarmiento’s research and practice focuses on learning from the grassroots and building sustainable and creative alternatives that help address inequality and injustice.

Carolina S. Sarmiento is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the School of Human Ecology and an affiliate with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. She is a graduate from both World Arts and Cultures and Urban Planning from UCLA, where she obtained her BA and MA. She received her PhD from UCI in Planning, Policy and Design. Her research investigates the intersection between urban development, governance, and the creation and destruction of cultural spaces in working class communities of color.

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.