I hope you had a great holiday season! Many thanks to all of you, who despite the economic challenges, have steadfastly maintained your APA membership. SDAPA will do everything we can to honor that support and keep our event costs down.

This past year we launched our new website which greatly enhances our ability to provide member benefits. Moving our newsletter to an online journal was a bit of a gamble, but certainly worthwhile given the labor intensive efforts of the previous PDF format. We’re still learning how to create a critical mass of interest and will continue to experiment. Meanwhile, we’d like to issue an ongoing call for article submissions. Publishing in the San Diego Planning Journal is a great way to share your knowledge and experience with our own SDAPA audience as well as the world. If you’re interested, please contact our new newsletter editor Eric Lardy.

By-the-way, the new online format required us to replace our newsletter business cards ads with web banner ads. The banner ads are viewed much more often, the cost is the same, and we can keep track of the ad clicks to your website. Sponsors of SDAPA events (above a certain level) also receive the banner ads at no additional cost. If your company doesn’t already have a banner ad, please contact our new webmaster Nancy Graham.

Last year’s awards program at Old Town State Park was an unqualified success–thanks to the outstanding efforts of Betsy McCullough. We wish Betsy the best in her new role as Vice President of Professional Development for APA California. We are also looking forward to Theresa Millette’s return to the SDAPA Board as the incoming Awards Chair.  I’ve felt for a long time that the awards program is not just for the winners. It’s a celebration of our profession and an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the hard work we do. Whether you have worked on a project that deserves an award or simply know of a project worthy of consideration, please do what you can to make certain a deserving project does not slip through the cracks. It’s a great feeling to see your nomination receive an award. It’s an even greater feeling to see the appreciation on the recipients’ faces.  And don’t forget to come to the awards event. If just half our membership came out, we’d break all records. See you in May!

Last year, we cut new ground with our professional development workshop programs starting with the well received “Public Outreach” workshop in May. Those who attended were treated to a surprisingly diverse parade of speakers interspersed with hands-on activities including a cityscape building exercise led by urban planner/artist James Rojas. What better way to pick-up 7.5 CM credits–including law and ethics. In October, SDAPA joined with WalkSanDiego, AEP, and ITE to deliver an innovative, silo-busting, sell-out workshop on Complete Streets and CEQA.

Looking forward, we plan to continue our “big-tent” initiatives to broaden our knowledge, find solutions to planning problems and bring down some of the barriers that stand in the way.  If you’ve got a great idea for a professional development workshop or luncheon program, please feel free to contact me or our new Professional Development Workshop Chair (to be announced shortly).

As always, we have programmed several Planners’ Night Out events and other membership appreciation events at little or no cost. These may include MIMBYs (movies in my backyard) an idea we borrowed from the Central Coast APA Section. Last month, our Membership Chair Alex Hempton and Co-Chair Tara Lake organized one of our best Holiday Parties ever, featuring “The Mitigators”–an all planner (sort of) rock band. That’s likely to become a new tradition. And if you’re a young planner, our dynamic Young Planners Group (YPG) offers a whole range of exciting activities including meet-ups, community service events, mentorships, educational programs, and international planning events. YPG is a great way to become involved with APA and enhance your career. Natalia Clark is our new YPG Chair.

Speaking of mentoring, you may be interested to know that SDAPA is an active participant in the Built Environment Education Program (BEEP) a big-tent effort dedicated to educating and advocating for school-age youth as meaningful participants, leaders, and decision-makers of the built environment. If you took part in the James Rojas segment at the Public Outreach workshop last May, you’ve caught a glimpse of what might take place in a BEEP classroom. Planners interested in volunteering for the BEEP program should contact SDAPA Student Liaison, Jane Clough. The early education program is a key part of SDAPA’s efforts to promote diversity in the planning profession. SDAPA values and actively promotes diversity in all of our activities and we are continually seeking new opportunities to encourage minority involvement and membership within APA. Our new diversity chair is Connery Cepeda.

Finally, for those seeking the next big step in their professional career, now is the time to enroll in our 2013 AICP certification workshop series. SDAPA has the second highest AICP member ratio in the state and our AICP exam success rate is second to none. A limited number of AICP Exam scholarships are available to those who need it.  For more information, please check our website or contact Asha Bleier our new Professional Development Co-Chair-AICP.

So let’s give it go and make 2013 another great year!