Local Planner Spotlight: Mary Kopaskie Brown, AICP, RPP, MCIP, County of San Diego

A few months ago, Mary Kopaskie Brown, AICP, RPP, MCIP started in her role as Chief of Departmental Operations in the Advanced Planning Division of Planning and Development Services at the County of San Diego. Although she may be new to San Diego, she is definitely not new to planning. Mary has nearly 30 years of planning and management experience working in both the public and private sectors within and outside of the United States.

Most recently, Mary worked abroad in Abu Dhabi as a Planning Manager at the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council. During her six and a half years in Abu Dhabi, Mary was responsible for overseeing key strategic projects, such as Plan Capital 2030 and the Seychelles Strategic Plan. Mary worked closely with the Executive Director that oversaw land use planning for the Emirate. Prior to moving to Abu Dhabi, Mary worked in Qatar as an Expert Planner on the Qatar National Master Plan and various community master plans, feasibility studies, and zoning/plan updates for the Qatar Urban Planning and Development Authority. Mary also has 15 years of experience working as a Principal Planner in Buffalo, New York.

With such a rich and diverse planning background, our County is lucky to have Mary to share best practices and lessons learned from throughout the globe. In a field like Planning, best practices from around the world can often be applicable in San Diego. Planners in Qatar and Abu Dhabi were battling similar issues to those in San Diego: sprawl, cost of infrastructure, and setting economic and political priorities.

The Advanced Planning Division projects can often be complicated, controversial and challenging given their possible impacts on residents and stakeholders. Since earning her Bachelor’s degree in Geography at SUNY at Plattsburgh, NY, and her Master of Urban Planning at the University of Buffalo, NY, Mary has demonstrated her leadership, expertise, and versatility in planning. Mary’s active involvement in the American Planning Association, Planning Advisory Board, Canadian Institute of Planners, and Ontario Professional Planners Association demonstrate her determination and passion for Urban Planning. This passion will help solidify a long-range planning vision for our County as Mary works in a strategic and decision-making role to provide support to the Advanced Planning Division at the County of San Diego. Mary and the team are currently working on developing the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) for North County, implementing the MSCP for South County, the 2017 Housing Element Update, the Climate Action Plan, and several general plan amendments (GPAs).

Even outside of work, Mary promotes and practices key values integral to San Diegans. Mary enjoys cycling and living a sustainable lifestyle. Living in Kearny Mesa makes it easy for her to sometimes bike or walk to work. Fun fact: Mary learned pottery in college and has been doing it for 20 years now!

Words of wisdom from Mary to new planners: “If you ever have a chance to live and work abroad, take it. By immersing yourself fully in a culture, you will grow beyond your expectations.”