2020 APA WA/APA OR Joint Conference Summary

By Chad Eiken, 2020 Conference Co-Chair

This year’s Washington APA planning conference “Growing Together – Virtually” was held jointly with the Oregon APA Chapter from October 13-16 and was entirely on-line due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The conference committee worked hard to create an online conference experience that felt like a conference and not just a series of webinars. Through the use of Zoom Meetings software and the Whova app the conference sessions were easy to find and materials could be accessed, discussion rooms could be created, and we were able to create a happy hour mixer. Feedback so far has indicated that the experience was similar to attending an actual conference – or at least better than they had expected from attending remotely. Another benefit of the on-line format is that the sessions are available to be viewed by people who registered for a full year, which allows them to check out sessions they didn’t get to see “live” as well to increase their AICP credits.

With so many important big issues swirling around, the committee sought keynote speakers and sessions that emphasized race and social equity (in our communities as well as profession), responding to/rebuilding after the pandemic, affordable and missing middle housing, climate action, public engagement to hard-to-reach populations, and transportation and mobility. A total of 24 sessions and three keynote addresses were offered, in addition to the Washington Short Course on Planning. 

Angela Addae, law professor at the University of Oregon, was our first keynote speaker and she focused her comments on how planning and zoning have historically served to reinforce structural racism despite good intentions, and challenged the attendees to take a hard look at their planning policies through an equity lens. Roger Millar, Secretary of Transportation for Washington State, was our second keynote speaker and he gave interesting examples of how his agency has adapted and responded to COVID-19 and he discussed the future of transportation and the role transportation agencies such as his have played in separating and disenfranchising communities of color. 

A total of 454 people registered for the conference, which greatly exceeded the modest expectations of the committee when we established the conference budget (255 registrations were anticipated). Of the attendees, 186 were from Oregon, 270 were from Washington, and four were from other states. 

The 2021 conference will be held in person (fingers crossed!) at the Vancouver Hilton and Conference Center.

It was a pleasure to serve as your conference co-chair this year. If you have any questions, please feel free contact me: Chad Eiken, Community and Economic Development Director for Vancouver, (360) 487-7882.