Remembering Ken Sulzer, FAICP

By | 2018-07-30T14:27:27+00:00 July 30th, 2018|San Diego Planning Journal|

Editor’s Note: Ken Sulzer, FAICP, passed away on May 12, 2018. Ken served as the Executive Director of SANDAG from 1986-2000. This article was published in The San Diego Union Tribune on May 20, 2018.

Kenneth Edward Sulzer August 11, 1938 – May 12, 2018 San Diego 

Kenneth Edward Sulzer was born on August 11, 1938 to Edward Charles Sulzer and Vera Graffy Sulzer, on the South side of Chicago. He attended Luther High School South where he was a star basketball player and also played baseball and ran track. He met his wife, Dorene Jeanette Dawson in high school and they married five years later in 1959, when she finished her Nursing Education. Ken graduated from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana in 1960 and received his degree in Geography. He went on to the University of Illinois and received his Masters Degree in Urban Planning in 1962. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Dorene, and two sons Kenneth Dawson Sulzer (and wife Lisa) and Daniel Edward Sulzer. Both sons graduated from Francis Parker High School and Occidental College in Los Angeles. Kenneth went on to Harvard Law School where he graduated with honors. Both sons live and work in Los Angeles. He has 3 grandchildren Emily Sulzer, Molly Sulzer and Claire Sulzer.

Ken and Dorene arrived in San Diego in 1969 when he was recruited by Richard J. (“Dick”) Huff, a former co-worker and mentor, who Ken met while working at the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington, D.C. While working in D.C. during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he worked on projects like the D.C. Metro system and the northeast corridor rail system. Prior to that he worked for the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

After his move to San Diego, he worked for the County and later joined the newly formed Comprehensive Planning Organization (CPO) in 1972. CPO later became SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments. He became the Executive Director in 1986. Ken played an important role in the development of the San Diego region. During his leadership at SANDAG the region took some major leaps forward in terms of transforming San Diego into a more recognized urban area. As local governments were coping with the development of the region, he and his Board of elected officials from 18 cities and the county, worked to preserve San Diego’s identity with a viable Regional Growth Management Plan. He had a major role in securing funding and implementing transportation projects in the region including the Trolley, the Coaster, and our freeway system. He also led the development of the Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), which became a national model. He worked with the Navy to replenish sand on local beaches and forged alliances to implement the San Dieguito River Park and the region’s Habitat Conservation Plans.

After retiring in December of 2000, he worked as an adjunct professor at UCSD for 10 years. He was an active member of the community with membership in organizations such as the Citizens Coordinate for Century Three (C3).

He and his wife traveled extensively internationally in Europe, The Far East, South America, Antartica, Canada, Russia, Turkey, and Polynesia. When Ken arrived he always compared and contrasted the transit, rail, and community markers. He was particularly impressed with the Japanese bullet trains, and the Moscow and Paris subway systems.

His hobbies included baseball, football, and basketball. He was an avid tennis and bridge player and he and his wife belonged to several bridge clubs, book clubs and movies clubs. He enjoyed reading extensively on such subjects as geopolitics, political and governmental systems and environmental policy. One of his favorite trips was the annual trip he took with his two sons and other relatives and friends to a number of ball parks around the USA — they eventually got to all the parks except Miami.

Ken will be sorely missed by his family, friends and professional colleagues as he was a much loved member of the community.

Donations, for those wishing to contribute, can be made to the American Cancer Society.

Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on May 20, 2018