Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland

By Lauren Mattern, Former M-Group City Planner

In an effort to share what we know about the planning process, M-Group paired with Emiliano Zapata Street Academy in Oakland to create and teach a course on city planning. Oakland’s Street Academy is an alternative high school emphasizing career preparation, civic engagement, social justice, and unity.

Former staff Lauren Mattern (now with SFPark) wrote a planning curriculum and taught a 9th grade class at Emiliano Zapata on urban planning and the difference one person can make. The students explored the planning profession, the origins of our built environment, and how local planning decisions are made. Oakland Planning Commissioner Sandra Galvez met with the class, to explain local planning processes, and received some input from the students on their vision of Oakland. The class culminated in a final project: planning design interventions for the school property, which was largely paved over.


Course overview:

Students observed physical characteristics of their communities. Some primary theories of the field of urban planning will be highlighted with selected readings. Students were encouraged to compare different physical surroundings, how they affect our lives, and how planning issues are linked to social and economic factors. Students also discussed how people use public spaces and touched on design ideas - e.g. what kinds of physical changes make a difference? The course explored various tools of the profession throughout ten weeks. For their final project, students worked in small teams to propose a redesign of the school’s block. They made observations about the study area, formed a vision, stated their goals, sketched, and wrote out their concepts.