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FES Celebrates its Planners

FES Celebrates its Planners

November 8 is World Planning Day, an international day celebrating planners and their significant contributions to their communities. In appreciation and recognition of the works of our planners in FES, we are herewith spotlighting our planning faculty members and their significant achievements in the fields of city/urban/regional planning, community housing, environmental planning and management, land use, transportation, among others, demonstrating innovations in their profession and their impacts on the field.

FES is a globally recognized leader in critical planning and environmental planning research. Our research activities are broad ranging, spanning across five interdisciplinary areas across geographic scales and world regions:

  • The governance and politics of urban and regional planning and global urbanization and suburbanization processes;
  • Urban policy regimes, and how urban planning and policymaking shape neighbourhoods, urban form, urban design and architecture;
  • Contemporary practices of environmental planning, assessment, and design; urban ecology, landscapes, development controls, exurban growth, conservation, environmental justice, and viable solutions to pressing environmental problems;
  • Urban development processes, housing policy and housing financialization, critical infrastructures, transportation, active mobility, waste management and food systems planning;
  • Community planning and equity planning approaches, social policy, urban inequalities, community development, social justice movements, immigration, informality and citizenship.

Planning Researchers

Luisa Sotomayor

Planning Program Coordinator

Sotomayor’s research and teaching focus on urban inequalities, housing systems, governance, and planning. More specifically, she studies how regimes of socio-spatial inequality consolidate in contemporary cities, and the potential of grass-roots activism, land-use planning tools, and urban policy experimentation to address urban divides. Sotomayor has a special interest in urban planning and social development in Latin American cities. Over the past six years, she has been involved in research projects that examine the use of planning tools to deliver better services and social policies in peripheral neighborhoods. She has also examined the opportunities and limitations of a comprehensive planning strategy, called social urbanism, aimed to improve transit equity and reduce violence and socio-spatial segregation in Medellin, Colombia. More recently, her current housing research project StudentDwellTO: Reimagining Student Housing,  looks at the experience of students in Toronto’s private rental housing markets and investigates the effects of neoliberalism in the student housing sector, the proliferation of unlicensed rooming houses around university campuses, and the territorial stigmatization of low-income post-secondary students, a group that is typically excluded from urban policy discussions and housing affordability debates.

Jennifer Foster

Foster’s research investigates the many ways that ecology is politicized and landscapes are socially constructed. She researches landscape form and processes across Toronto’s public green spaces in terms of urban socioecological metabolism. In particular, she is interested in ways ecological systems permeate cities, ways that human perceptions, beliefs, values and preferences of diverse landscape actors are expressed through ecological decisions, and effects of cities on non-human urban inhabitants. Her research on urban habitat creation and ecological restoration focuses on the interplay between social and biophysical dynamics in deindustrialized spaces. This includes the theory and practice of environmental planning and design, with particular attention to the constitution of post-industrial urban landscapes such as former pits and quarries, dumps, factories and rail lines. Central themes of her work are urban ecology, environmental justice and environmental aesthetics. Her previous research focused on urban landscape form and processes across cities of Toronto, Paris, New York and Milwaukee where she investigated how industrial legacies are interpreted and expressed ecologically. Her current research has brought her back to Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit where she is working with the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority (TRCA) in identifying strategies and creating policies, plans and designs that will help protect its ecological attributes.

Liette Gilbert

Gilbert’s interdisciplinary research spans across three fields: (1) the neoliberalization of immigration, multiculturalism and citizenship; (2) political economy of sub/urbanization; (3) and more recently, risk and extractive industries (as it relates specifically to post-disaster urban redevelopment in Lac-Mégantic, Qc).  Her research examines the oppositional struggles and alternative narratives, or claims voiced by marginalized people as a form of resistance and expressions of citizenships. Her work on migration focuses specifically on criminalization of migrants and North American border politics. Both her teaching and research are anchored in a critical analysis of the conventional and marginalizing processes of urban development. Her study of urban discourses and practices is based on a theoretical and methodological approach considering the tensions between ideologies, policies and everyday practices. Her interest in studying the social and political economy of the built environment is focused on the spatial representations of capitalist logic in relation to social practices and the implications for equity, justice and democratic participation. She is the co-author of The Oak Ridges Moraine Battles: Development, Sprawl and Nature Conservation in the Toronto Region with her colleagues L. Anders Sandberg and Gerda R. Wekerle. She has also written on the politics of sub/urban re/development from Lac-Mégantic to Mexico City (as part of the SSHRC-funded Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century research project led by Dr Roger Keil). She has recently translated Bruce Campbell’s book The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied (2018) now available in French under the title Enquête sur la catastrophe the Lac-Mégantic: Quand les pouvoirs publics déraillent (Fides, 2019).

Roger Keil

Keil is York Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies. He researches global suburbanization, cities and infectious disease, urban infrastructures and political ecology, as well as urban and regional governance. He was the Principal Investigator of the SSHRC Major Collaborative Research Initiative on Global Suburbanisms (2010-19), the first major research project of its kind involving 50 researchers, 30 universities and 20 partners that systematically took stock of worldwide developments on the “suburban ways of life.” In 2012, he was conferred the President’s Research Excellence Award in recognition of his significant contributions to the York research community. Along with Harris Ali and others, he is a co-investigator in an IDRC Rapid Research on Ebola Virus Outbreaks (2018-2020) in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In Toronto, he is a co-investigator in a Partnership Development Grant on student mobility: StudentMoveTO (2018-21) is focusing on an improved understanding of the travel behavior of post-secondary students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). He is a co-founder of the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA), previous director of the CITY Institute at York University, and former co-editor of the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. He is co-editor of Massive Suburbanization: (Re) Building the Global Periphery (2019) with Murat Güney and Murat Üçoğlu) and author of Suburban Planet: Making the World Urban from the Outside In (2018). His most recent book, Don Parson – Public Los Angeles: A Private City’s Activist Futures (2020), co-edited with Judy Branfman, has just been published.

Stefan Kipfer

Kipfer’s research is focused on urban politics and the urban dimensions of social and political theory. His empirical research has focused on urban politics and planning in transnational and comparative context. In Euro-American global cities such as Zurich, Paris, and Toronto, he has researched the role of social movements and state intervention in transnational urban restructuring since the late 1960s. His research on Toronto has focused on public housing redevelopment, transit and regional planning, the rise of right-wing populism and the formation of a ‘competitive city’ regime characterized by neoliberalism, revanchism and cultural-differential aspects of ‘diversity management’ (including multiculturalism). His theoretical explorations have linked marxist and anti-colonial traditions (and authors like Henri Lefebvre, Frantz Fanon, and Antonio Gramsci), also in relationship to critical urban research. He has co-edited a number of books, including, with Roger Keil, Governing Cities Through Regions: Canadian and European Perspectives (2017). He has published a French monograph titled Le temps et l’espace de la (dé)-colonisation: Dialogue entre Fanon et Lefebvre (Time and space of (de)-colonisation: Dialogue between Fanon and Lefebvre, 2019) that investigates the neo-colonial dimensions of urbanization and state intervention in various parts of the world, including France, Canada and Martinique. He is currently working on an expanded English version of the book.

Abidin Kusno

Kusno’s academic work draws upon a range of fields including urban studies, history, politics, cultural studies, architecture, design and geography. He examines the ways in which architecture and urban space represented political cultures of a country (Indonesia, especially the capital city of Jakarta) and how they shaped politics, ideology, and consciousness of different social groups at different moments in the country’s urban history. His current research project on flooding and environmental politics in Southeast Asia examines the ways in which the government and the people respond to socio-ecological problems, and how socio-political relations, historical memories, and cultural patterns shape their practices. He is the current Director of the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) and previously the Canada Research Chair in Asian Urbanism and Culture at the Institute for Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. Among his books include Visual Cultures of the Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia (2016), After the New Order: Space, Politics and Jakarta (2013), and Appearances of Memory: Mnemonic Practices of Architecture and Urban Form in Indonesia (2010).

Ute Lehrer

Lehrer’s research focuses on urban geography, cities and globalization, image production in cities, and economic restructuring and urban form. She also studies condominium development, gentrification, the theory and history of planning, urban design and architecture. She has been involved in comparative urban research on Zurich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto, investigating new urban forms, processes of spectacularization and megaprojects. She has held a SSHRC-funded project on “Urban Images, Public Space and the Growth of Private Interest in Toronto” in which she studied the development of private residential real estate development in form of condominium towers in Toronto. She also held a SSHRC research grant on “Suburban identities in the global city between competition and cooperation: Toronto and Frankfurt” and was a co-applicant for “The impact of high-­rise revitalization on suburban public spaces in Canada and France” as well as “The World in the City: Metropolitanism and Globalization from the 19th Century to the Present” She is also a co-applicant in the Global Suburbanisms project and initiated a MES workshop in critical urban planning the latest of which took place in New York, where students studied large-scale projects, housing policies, issues and practices in comparison to Toronto’s SidewalkLab proposal. Earlier students travelled to Montpellier, France (2013); Shanghai, China (2015); Johannesburg and South Africa (2016); Florence and Milan, Italy (2018) and Frankfurt, Weimar and Berlin, Germany (2019) that provided students a boot camp experience to venture out into different urban environments and increased experiential learning opportunities. For Lehrer, “to be a good planner, you must have your feet solidly on the ground; it needs your engagement with the everyday life in cities, but it also requires the experience of other places so that you can come back with new insights and be better at what you are doing.” She is the co-editor of The Suburban Land Question: A Global Survey (2018), a book that identifies the common elements of suburban development, focusing on patterns and processes that are associated with the scale and pace of rapid urbanization around the world, and addressing the transitional character of day suburban land issues.

Peter  Mulvihill

Mulvihill’s research interests include environmental assessment as well as alternative approaches to environmental planning and management. His previous research focused mainly on environmental impact assessment practice and cumulative impacts of mega-development in Canada’s North.  Recent and current research interests include emerging practices in environmental management; links between ecological footprint and environmental impact assessment applications; links between disaster management and environmental management; the evolution and transition of environmental studies and environmentalism; environmental studies and the ecological crisis; and environmental and sustainability discourse. His recent book with Harris Ali on Environmental Management: Critical Thinking and Emerging Practices (2016) critiques conventional practices and explores alternative ideas, frameworks and approaches that have the potential to transform its practice.


Anders Sandberg

Sandberg’s areas of academic interests include gentrification of conservation, pedagogies of local place and space, political economies and ecologies of natural resources, climate and environmental justice, forest, environmental and conservation history. During the last few years, he has co-edited several books, including Methodological Challenges in Nature-Culture and Environmental History Research (2017); Post-Industrial-Urban-Greenspace-An-Environmental-Justice-Perspective (2016) with Jennifer Foster; Urban Forests, Trees, and Greenspace: A Political Ecology Perspective (2014); and The Oak Ridges Moraine Battles: Development, Sprawl, and Nature Conservation in the Toronto Region (2013). For some time, he has conducted an Alternative Campus Tour at York University. The tour subjects the neoliberal or enterprise university to critical analysis on the basis of its history and day-to-day operations through talking and walking the campus. It also contains a community outreach component, and is part of the annual “Jane’s Walks.” In 2019, in collaboration with Indigenous faculty members and students, the tour explored the Indigenous aspects of the campus. In 2008, Anders was a semi-finalist in TV Ontario’s Best Lecturer Competition and in 2011 he received the Dean’s Teaching Award in the Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Laura Taylor

Taylor is a planner and geographer with research in political ecology and landscape studies. Environmental politics is about the different ways people see and understand nature around them in their everyday lives and how they act on their beliefs to manage and transform the world around them, whether they live in the city, suburbs, or rural areas. Her research is about society, culture, and ecology focusing on landscape change, residential settlement, and nature conservation. She studies exurbia—the rural residential countryside at (and beyond) the urban-rural fringe. Why do so many people choose to live in rural areas even though they work in the city? What are the implications for land-use planning? Her teaching includes urban and regional planning, environmental design, political ecology of landscape, and urban and landscape ecologies. She mentors and supervises undergraduate, master’s, and PhD students. In her recent book chapter on “The future of greenbelts” in the Routledge Companion to Rural Planning (2019), Taylor writes: the “rural-urban fringe is hybrid, multi-functional, contains multiple geographies and every fringe of every city is as unique as the landscapes and cultures and processes that have shaped the city’s region. Greenbelts are a powerful planning tool as they transcend localized land-use conflicts and remain aligned with the persistent spatial imagination of an interconnected city and countryside”. Taylor is co-editor of two books, A Comparative Political Ecology of Exurbia and Landscape: Planning, Environmental Management and Landscape Change (2016) and Landscape and the Ideology of Nature: Green Sprawl (2013). She is a member of the Ontario Greenbelt Council, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, the Lambda Alpha International, and the Urban Land Institute’s Women’s Leadership Team. Her most current research is on sustainable livelihoods in protected areas in North America. She continues to work on comparative exurban research. She is writing a history of environmental planning eras in Ontario.