History & Archives

Protecting the History of Planning in California

About the Chapter Historian Program

APA California has a proud history. The Chapter Historian program researches the history of planning in California as seen through the unique perspective of APA California planners, then uses that research to educate, illuminate, and inform the progress of the planning profession in California.

The Chapter Historian programs include the following:

Historical Research

Awards & Honors

  • Planning Pioneer Awards
  • Planning Landmark Awards
  • Planner Emeritus Network Honors


  • California Planning History Society (now a part of PEN)
  • Planner Emeritus Network (PEN)
  • Section Historians
  • Los Angeles Region Planning History Group


APA California Planning Archives at California State University Northridge

The California Chapter archives were launched on APA California’s 50th anniversary in 1998 to help document the history and practice of planning, and to record the evolution of APA and its allied planning organizations. Founded by longtime Chapter Historian Betty Croly, FAICP and former APA California President Frank Wein, FAICP, the APA California archive remains one of the only Chapter archives in the country. Donations are welcome. Contact the Chapter Historians for more information.


Have something to donate? Would you like to help fund the continued progress of the archive? Do you have archival materials or an oral history to tell? Contact us:

David Kwong, AICP
Chapter Historian
[email protected]

Members of the California Planners Institute (CPI), forerunner of APA California, attendits 1934 annual meeting at the Hotel Del Monte, Monterey. The largely white, male registrants represented both the state’s forward-thinking cities and prominent consulting firms.

A Brief History of APA California

By Betty Croly, FAICP, Chapter Historian and Steven A. Preston, FAICP, Anniversary Event Chair

The American Planning Association California Chapter traces its history back more than 75 years: to the California Planners Institute, which existed at least as early as 1933. The organization that we know today is actually the result of a 1948 merger between the California Planners Institute and the American Institute of Planners. With that merger, the fledging American Institute of Planners could, for the first time, be said to have a ‘national’ reach. Prior to that, the national organization had only about 250 members and a budget of $5,000. The addition of a “California Chapter,” adding between 100 and 150 members, was a significant accomplishment, indeed, creating a truly national organization.

Humble Beginnings: California Planners Institute

Long before APA California, there was the California Planners Institute (CPI). Most of our information concerning CPI come from eight, 1946 – 1947, issues of Perspective, a bi-monthly mimeographed newsletter “conceived, nurtured and matured” in 1946 by Si Eisner, the first Editor in Chief.

In the 47 Issues From 1946, There Were 102 Planners Listed…compared to Over 5,000 Today.

Sixty years ago, all day meetings were the order, and meals were less expensive. For example, a CPI meeting was held in April,1947 at the Wolf Hotel in Stockton. Lunch was $1.75, and dinner was $2.50, including a dip in the punch bowl. Howard Bissel led a tour through the Stockton Port recently released by the Army, and a State Division of Highways engineer gave a talk. The CPI treasury in 1946 had $863.66, and expenses were $482.49. (By 1998, CCAPA’s assets were in the mid-$80,000 range, and budget was close to $325,000).

The late Fran Violich, a founding faculty member of the planning program at UC Berkeley and APA National Planning Pioneer

California planning was distinct from the planning practiced in other parts of the country; the California Planners Institute filled that need. The late Fran Violich, a founding faculty member of the planning program at UC Berkeley and APA National Planning Pioneer, wrote in 2001 that the evolution of a separate institution on the West Coast was, in fact, a reflection of the fact that California planning was not an extension of planning practiced in the East, but a separately evolving, parallel movement that placed greater emphasis on design and the environment.

Even before the eight California Sections that California Chapter members know today, CPI meetings were held around the state. In August 1947 CPI met in Los Angeles to view the model and drawings for a new downtown Los Angeles prepared by students of USC’s Arthur Gallion and Si Eisner. Burnett C. Turner, Civic Center Authority architect, presented the new, 600-acre civic center plan, bounded by freeways on all sides.

Were Your Dues Ever This Low?

For the 1947 annual meeting at Yosemite, rooms at the Awhanee with three meals were $14 single and $12 double. CPI dues were $12.50 for members, $7.50 for associate members, and $5.00 for junior members. Salaries were also less: a planning engineer in Glendale earned $6,000 a year.

At the conference, Glenn Hall, director of planning, Sacramento, discussed the new Conservation and Planning Act (passed to supersede the Planning Act). CPI President James M. Campbell sent a letter to Gov. Earl Warren expressing CPI’s interest in the new agency for “Planning and Economic Research,” seeking appointments to the Physical Planning Council of staff “who have had some active part in planning, and a broad and sympathetic understanding of physical planning problems.”

These important developments framed the planning infrastructure that, modified, guides California to this day. The pending issue was whether California should join forces with the American Institute of Planners by merging with them. That merging process, which took more that a year to negotiate and conclude changed the course of California planning.

Joining Forces: “a Truly National Organization”

The Merger Committee worked throughout 1947, chaired by Si Eisner with Frank Skillman, Glen Rick, Charles Eliot and Richard Whitehead. AIP’s president wrote a month before the merger started: “As a result of persistent negotiations and numerous conferences, the (chances for) a merger of CIP and AIP are now brighter than at any time in the past.” CPI’s final president was James Campbell of Hahn and Campbell, Burlingame. Harry Bergh, land planner for Orange County, was vice president; Mary Robinson Gilkey, Marin County planning director, was secretary.

After months of preparation the AIP Board of Directors, meeting in Philadelphia in October 1947, approved the merger effective January 1, 1948. California was only the third chapter established — 11 months after the first, Washington, D.C., and seven months after the second, Chicago. Planning historian Eugene L. Birch wrote in a 1980 article for the Journal of the American Planning Association:

Although differences in entrance requirements had prevented an earlier union, these problems were resolved by offering the westerners a grandfather clause. Nearly 150 Californians came into the AIP. With this merger the Institute became a truly national organization for the first time.

The new organization became California Chapter, American Institute of Planners (CCAIP). Its first officer was John G. Marr, planning director of Oakland. The resolution establishing CCAIP authorized the merged organizations to explore holding its spring meeting in California, and the new organization was on its way.

The fledging organization known as CCAIP – California Chapter of the American Institute of Planners – started modestly in 1948 but grew quickly to meet the needs of its members and communities. The next six decades offered challenges and opportunities unimagined by its founders.

1950s: New Frontiers

CCAIP’s membership expanded to 450, in three distinct “sections” — Northern, Central and Southern — that ultimately evolved into the eight regional sections we know today. Jack Kent, planning director of San Francisco and a National Planning Pioneer, left to establish a post-graduate program at UC Berkeley in 1948 — another 60-year anniversary. That emergent program was the source of Telesis, which APA has lauded as the “first volunteer-based group to bring multiple fields together successfully in a comprehensive approach to environmental development in a regional context.”

In 1953, CCAIP issued its first Planning Commissioner’s Handbook, ancestor of the popular guides that have been published more recently by the League of California Cities.

1960s: Cities in Danger

CCAIP’s membership topped 600 by 1964. Lewis Mumford lectured at UC Berkeley; Berkeley and USC became the first “recognized” planning schools in the state. At the practice level, the chapter’s 1960 conference focused on a new trend: the use of “electronic data processing” to support city planning. The national organization took note of California, bringing its national conference to Los Angeles in 1962. Additionally, the San Diego Section was formed.

As the state’s growth created new challenges, the chapter formed new responses to deal with them. One response was its first policy conference, held in Monterey in 1966. By 1967, the chapter started its first legislative program and in the wake of national civil unrest and urban decay, issued policy papers on both the “role of the planner in addressing social concerns” and regionalism.

1970s: Growth, Change and a New Identity

CCAIP created the California Planning Foundation in 1970 to provide training and scholarships, but the chapter also saw its share of controversy when the chapter’s offices were briefly relocated from Northern California to Los Angeles in 1971-72. To reach members in the coastal regions that were physically separated from much of California’s Central Section, the new Central Coast Section was created in 1975.

With the merger of the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO) and the American Institute of Planners (AIP) in 1978, Cal Chapter became part of an even larger, more diverse organization. Californians quickly make themselves heard, demanding greater roles for women as it helped elect the first APA president, Dorothy Walker, from California.

By 1979, the demand for quick legislative responses became so great that the chapter hired its first professional lobbyist. Later that decade, with the advent of professional lobbying, the chapter returned to the capital in Sacramento, where APA California Chapter remains today.

Planning education grew as well: the planning programs at Cal Poly Pomona, Fresno State, UCLA and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo all were recognized during the decade.

1980s: Professional Management, New Initiatives

Much of the chapter stepped out in front in the 1970s by creating a separate foundation to advance the charitable interests of the planning community, now known as the California Planning Foundation. And, the chapter advanced its interests in policy development when the California Planning Roundtable was created in 1980 to serve as the chapter’s “think tank” concerning statewide planning and policy issues. A brief flirtation with magazine publishing even gave the chapter a new shape and form, but the product called Westplan only lasted a few issues.

CCAPA transformed its operations in 1984 by establishing professional contract staff to handle both administrative and legislative operations. Sande George came to be the face of the organization, representing CCAPA with equal facility in both the legislature and the boardroom.

The last of California’s eight sections, Inland Empire, was created in 1981 to meet the rapid growth of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. New initiatives established the chapter’s first multi-year communications program; that program led to a greatly enhanced, color newsletter; op-eds in major newspapers; and a host of other programs. The legislative program developed “Legislative Review Teams,” and created the Action Agenda for the 1990s to carry its vision to the Legislature.

1990s to Today: Adventures in Policy… and a Birthday!

Building on its record, CCAPA became a respected source of advice and counsel in the legislature. Enhanced marketing, planning commissioner training, and insurance were added; California’s conferences developed increasing creativity; and for the first time, a sitting California governor addressed the state conference in 1991 just as a devastating fire scarred the Oakland hills.

The chapter began honoring long-time officers and retired professionals; those receptions evolved into the Planners Emeritus Network. It was the first such venture by any chapter in the country. Record-breaking national (San Francisco) and state conferences marked the decade. The planning program at UC Irvine won PAB accreditation.

When the chapter’s 50th anniversary arrived in 1998, the chapter hosted a celebration on the beach, topped with a huge cake. In an impromptu fundraiser that evening, the chapter raised $2,600 in pledges which, matched with a contribution from the CCAPA board, created the funding to open the APA California Archives at California State University, Northridge.

Carrying new branding on its 60th anniversary, California Chapter is today the largest among the nation’s 46 chapters with membership topping 5,000 and an annual budget of $500,000. The Board’s leadership in member communications, legislative action, diversity, planning commissioner training and member programs places the chapter in an enviable position, both among similar organizations in Sacramento and among APA chapters nationally.

The California Planning Foundation continues to generate more than $30,000 annually through its auctions and donations while APA California’s other related organization, the California Planning Roundtable, has become a respected contributor to the discussion of planning issues in California. Most recently the Chapter has expanded its programs to serve young professionals through the 2008 creation of the Young Planners Group (YPG), created by the very planners it seeks to serve. YPG represents the first ongoing commitment to the interests and development of young professionals, carried out at both Chapter and Section levels by an energetic and engaged leadership.