“Overall, planning school allowed me to understand that problems do not have silver bullet solutions, and each community has its unique needs and opportunities.” --Paige Montojo
Paige Montojo, a Southern California native, graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a Bachelor Degree in Urban and Regional Planning in 2016. As a young planner, she knew her goal was to create a dynamic shift in the social structures she observed as a student. Paige relied on geographic information systems as a tool to shed light on environmental justice and spatial mismatch issues in Southern California. She focused her research on transportation and found opportunities for practice interning for several public agencies including Southern California Association of Governments and eventually working as a Transportation Planner for Caltrans.
Currently, Paige works as an Assistant Planner for the City of Brea. She saw the shift from research to community development as an opportunity to apply the theories she studied to a practice directly impacting the public. Working with passionate residents and a strong business community has allowed her to appreciate the city as a microcosm for universal planning issues such as housing, density, and accessibility.
Here’s more from Paige, in her own words…
Q: Which ACSP member school did you attend?
A: Cal Poly Pomona
Q: What specialty did you study?
A: Transportation and GIS
Q: Why did you select your particular specialty?
A: I saw that a lot of the impacts on equity stemmed from the built environment, and planners had the potential to create change. I saw the technology that was available to me as the perfect platform to visualize the disparity in the region where I was born and raised.
Q: Where do you currently work?
A: Currently I work for the City of Brea as an Assistant Planner.
Q: What are your job responsibilities?
A: I work with residents, developers, business owners, and property owners to facilitate development in the city. Under the guidance of the Planning Commission, the Planning staff and I are able to achieve what the community envisions for the future of the city.
Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: The best part about working for a city is knowing that every project, no matter how big or small, is making a difference not only in the built environment, but for the community members as well.
Of all the projects in my career, my favorite was working with the Leimert Park community of the long range envisioning for Leimert Park Village. It allowed me to step outside of the research bubble and see how urban policy has impacted an increasingly jaded community in Los Angeles over time. It was equally sobering and inspiring as a young planner looking to be a part of a positive change.
Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: Looking forward, I plan on continued work in community development and eventually community organization. My short term goal is to pursue further education focused on data science. I hope that the capability to harness and analyze large data sets will allow me to continue the gratifying work of identifying and solving problems surrounding Southern California’s urban fabric.
Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: Planning school has completely changed the way I interact with the urban environment, whether new or familiar. I no longer approach issues linearly, but rather holistically. For example, before planning school, the arterial street running through my town was just how I got from Point A to Point B. Now, I see roads as multifaceted spaces that can create complicated relationships between varied modes. Further, how the road is used and its condition can speak volumes on the community that passes through.
Overall, planning school allowed me to understand that problems do not have silver bullet solutions, and each community has its unique needs and opportunities.
Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: I wanted to be a chef. As a student, it was a happy surprise that there was a lot of crossover between my planning practice and my love for food. I hope that as my career grows, I will be able to do work in improving food systems for disadvantaged communities, and overall improving public health.
Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I have always lived in Southern California, specifically the City of Walnut. I find my small town to be unique - central to Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. Growing up, it allowed me to be exposed to the nuanced experiences all over the region, and has been formative in my early career.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: Although I just returned from a short trip to the Philippines, I do eventually want to go back and explore Metro Manila in more depth. The Philippines is a young country with exploding development, rapid shifts in social dynamics, and widespread poverty. The infrastructure in Metro Manila is in a state of revival and renewal. I find several comparisons with Los Angeles, and as a Filipino American, I am passionate about returning to the country.
Click here to read more about planning careers in the ACSP Planner Profiles.