Brian Mooney has accepted a two-year term at chairman of the San Diego-Tijuana ULI district as of July 1. Mooney serves as the managing principal of the Community Planning and Sustainable Development Division at Rick Engineering Company. He has more than 40 years’ experience in planning, public outreach, environmental analysis, research and development of public policy. He is highly respected in public and private planning arenas and is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at the New School of Architecture and Design for City Planning.
Brian answered a few questions to introduce himself.
Q: Discuss your plans for the ULI 2022 Spring Meeting, which will take place in San Diego April 19-21.
A: In this changing time I want to embrace the issues associated with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and to that end we are going to develop our programing around key themes that include:
“The Inclusive Region: Facing Challenges and Opportunities in the New Normal.”
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Public Space and Public Health
Innovation and Leadership
The Built Environment
We are also going to create a working group oriented to recruiting more diversity in the organization and identifying opportunities to work with disadvantage communities.
Diversity has become a top-of-mind issue. What plans to you have to increase diversity within the membership and leadership of ULI?
Both through the working group and identifying key leaders in the community that can help us recruit new members that want to build opportunities in their neighborhoods. This can be associated with design issues in public spaces or identifying financial opportunities to strengthen existing neighborhood resources or build new ones.
You’ve selected a theme for 2020-21. How will it influence programming?
We’re currently developing the programing for the entire year and it will revolve around the key themes but will include how we are affected by things such as the Coronavirus Pandemic, Climate Change or access the housing for all sectors of the community. With these changing times we will also be exploring how it’s generally affecting both the commercial and office markets.
You merged your firm Mooney Planning Collaborative with Rick Engineering company in 2015. What attracted you to Rick Engineering?
I worked closely with Bill Rick, Lyle Gabrielson and the Rick Engineering team on numerous projects in the late 1970’s – the early 2000’s and always found them to be leaders in their field and great mentors. Also Glen Rick, Bill’s father and a founder of the company, was San Diego’s first Planning Director starting in 1928-1955 and he built a legacy in planning our city including working with John Nolen on the city’s Comprehensive Plan, developing the first Zoning Ordinance and landmarks like Mission Bay and I felt this would be a wonderful opportunity for me as a planner to following in his footsteps.
How has your degree in Anthropology informed your career in Planning?
I have always felt that my training in Anthropology has been a great advantage in that it taught me to look at communities from a cultural perspective as well as an environmental standpoint –always valuing their unique identity as it relates to neighborhoods and the built environment. Based on those values my work has regularly included both historic preservation and identifying points of cultural identity where possible.
You have received scores of awards in your 40+ year career. What are your most meaningful awards?
I am very proud of the Monty from SDSU and being the first Anthropology major to receive that award as an outstanding graduate, the APA PEN Award of Honor for my Planning Work, the AEP Award for Contribution to the Environmental Profession, my election to the College of Fellows in National APA are all very important, however the APA Award for the film I wrote and produced with my son Kyle, “The Nolen Plan: Vision Politics and Memory in San Diego,” has a special place in my heart.
What are the projects you’ve worked on in San Diego County that you are most proud of?
One very special project we did for CCDC was the History of African Americans in Downtown San Diego that resulted in a series of recommendations to create an African American-themed historic district for the preservation and interpretation of key landmarks. I am also very proud of my first comprehensive plan for the City of Santee which included the Downtown Specific Plan, the extension of the trolley for El Cajon and moving then Highway 125 out of the San Diego River to its current location and preserving the river as a linear park. I recently completed a master plan for the City of Murrieta for their downtown that features extensive historic preservation and open space, while creating new density and new connective paseos in the area which is now moving forward with development.
You have been honored by APA as the writer, director and producer of the film “The Nolen Plan: Vision, Politics and Memory in San Diego,” that focuses on urban planner John Nolen’s 1909 plan for San Diego and its relevance to our city today. What is your next film project?
I have been working on two concepts one focusing on the history of planning in California at the turn of the century and what the work of Nolen, Olmstead, Robinson and others did to shape our towns and cities. The second idea I’ve been thinking about is the evolution of “Beach Towns.” I went to High School on Cape Cod and was a surfer; so when I moved to California, I first went to Huntington Beach and then transferred to San Diego and have always been fascinated with the evolution of those types of communities and their unique cultures and design always centered on the ocean.
Despite your illustrious career, in some circles you’re better known as the father of Saturday Night Live cast member Kyle Mooney. Share a memorable story.
I get that a lot. Kyle started showing his interest in performing at an early age and was voted most likely to be a TV star in middle school, best actor in high school and excelled at the USC film school and on Comedus Interuptus, the University’s official comedy team. One memory that I will always treasure is associated with the fact that I’m a big sports fan – in particular baseball – and Kyle and I spent a lot of time playing and visiting ball parks and the Hall of Fame together. You also may have noticed in his skits called “Inside So Cal,” he always wears a Padre hat. Well, the Padres took notice and invited him to throw out the first pitch at a game and he told them he’d love to but only if he could do it with his father. So, on my wall at home is a great picture of Kyle and I throwing out the first pitch.
And, what are your other two sons up to?
One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that my sons are best friends and they are all following their passion. I regularly joke that Sean is my favorite since he and his wife Tamara gave us grandchildren Maricela (Machie) and Lucian (Luke). Sean is closest to me in his career in that he’s in city management as Manager of City Design and Public Engagements for the City of San Rafael. He’s also a talented musician who is passing the talent along to our grandchildren. Ryan lives in Brooklyn and is a Senior Manager at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) working with refugees in the U.S. He’s also working on his third novel and regularly publishes short stories in academic press. He and his brothers write, illustrate and publish a Zine called Anti-Hype which includes a comic look at the world.