Ken Topping, FAICP, passed away on March 5. In his remarkable career, he served as Director of City Planning for the City of Los Angeles (1986–1991), Director of Planning and Environmental Public Works Deputy Administrator for San Bernardino County (1973–1986), General Manager for the Cambria Community Services District (1997–2001), Visiting Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute. of Kyoto University in Japan (2002–2004), nearly two decades as a lecturer in City and Regional Planning at California Polytechnic State San Luis Obispo, and numerous consulting, research, advisory roles, and commissions in California.
As a leader in planning practice, Ken Topping was a pioneer in environmental planning, and he developed and promoted sustainability and resilience planning years before it was on most planners’ radar screens. He was a leader in planning for seismic hazards and in his position as Los Angeles Director of City Planning, he coordinated the preparation of one of the first–ever citywide, pre–disaster recovery and reconstruction plans, which was used after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.For the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services’ disaster field office after the Northridge Earthquake, he provided guidance on one of the first–ever, large–scale uses of GIS to support disaster response, recovery and mitigation decisions. He also was a lead author for the 1998 FEMA–funded Planner’s Advisory Service report that was APA’s first–ever guidance on planning for post–disaster recovery and which included a model recovery ordinance that Ken developed.
In his later years, Topping led the Cal Poly team that prepared the California Adaptation Planning Guide for the California Office of Emergency Services, as well as four State Hazard Mitigation Plans (2007, 2010, 2013,2018). The 2010 mitigation plan was the first in the country to include climate change as a factor in disaster risk analysis, and it became a national model.Embracing climate adaptation, social vulnerability, and integration of the safety element into general plans, these state plans have reshaped California planning practice with regard to hazard resilience.