Saturday, October 5, 2013

Made it National

Yup. I'm quoted in a National Public Radio article. NBD. It's a blog about food and isn't some ground-breaking front page story, but still, it's pretty cool.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hit and Run

I couldn't sleep last night. I just kept picturing her face: stone cold, merciless. Then I would have the sensation of falling. But this wasn't an awful dream, I was just reliving the day's events again and again. It kept me awake for most of the night.

Yesterday I was involved in a hit-and-run accident. I was traveling on my bike eastbound on Diversey, and merged into the left turn lane prepared to go northbound onto Damen.. There were a couple cars ahead of me when the light turned green. As the cars scooted up, the car behind me tapped my rear tire with its bumper. I turned around to see an angry elderly woman, who clearly did not like having a bicyclist in front of her. I looked her square in the face, put my hands up and shouted, "Hey! you just bumped me with your car! You just hit me!" Even if she did it accidentally, there was no way she now did not see me in front of her.

The car in front of me made the light as it turned from yellow to red, so I stopped at the stop bar. All of a sudden I feel myself falling. The old lady decided she needed to go through the intersection as she mowed through me. I was grasping for anything as I fell, and remember hearing a crack as I held onto the passenger-side mirror. Before I knew it, my bike was on the ground, I was on the ground, and the old woman had sped north on Damen through the red light.


I was dazed and in shock. Luckily, I was not hurt. My immediate reaction was to dial 911 as I scrambled for the phone in my purse, which was laid out in the intersection. Several cars stopped and someone helped me and my bicycle to the curb. It all happened so fast. I've said it before and I'll say it again, there are no better people than Chicagoans. So many people stopped, offered help, and gave their information to serve as witnesses. "It was an attack!" one man said, "She just hit you and didn't even care!" A man across the intersection saw the whole thing, as did a woman driving behind the elderly lady's car, getting her license plate number. I didn't do anything wrong, I was attacked.

A Chicago police officer came and I felt a sense of relief. But he only asked if I was hurt and if there was  any property damage. "No, I am not hurt, but she tried to run me over!" I exclaimed. "Oh, so she didn't hit you," said the officer from inside his vehicle, shouting through the passenger window. "No, she hit me! I want to file a report!" Then officer said, "OK," and drove off. He didn't come back. Clearly, this wasn't a priority.

I went to the 19th District CPD station and filed the report in person. I don't care that I wasn't hurt physically (although my left hip flexer is pretty sore), I want to ensure that a dangerous driver is taken off the road. Driving is a privilege and if you endanger the life of anyone else while controlling a 2-ton killing machine, you do not deserve that privilege. Furthermore, the blatant maliciousness of the incident is what has really kept me up at night. She knew she was hitting me. She tried to. And she didn't care. If she is found, I want her punished to the fullest extent of the law, if that doesn't happen, I may seek relief in civil court as well as punitive damages to punish this behavior. I don't care if she is someone's grandma and spends her time baking cookies, she needs to know how wrong she was. That she could have killed a person. That she has given me nightmares.

The white Chevy Malibu was a late 90s or early 2000s model

Driver: Caucasian female, 60-70 years of age
Car: White Chevrolet Malibu, IL License Plate # G13 9740
Date: Thursday, September 12, 2013, 12:28 pm CST
Location: Chicago, IL, Eastbound on Diversey in the left turn lane at the intersection of Clybourn and Damen 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gym Rat Due To Old Rental

I am guilty of being a gym rat. It's not that I don't love running and/or biking along the lakeshore (although all rollerbladers and double-wide strollers should be banned from multi-use paths, sidewalks, and just in general, but I digress), but the lakeshore path does not come with a slate-tile shower with plenty of water pressure and drains that actually drain.

This is where I live:
According to the Cook County Assessor's Office, it was built 88 years ago, or in in 1924. It's old. The bathroom shower drains, but ever so slowly. Not before water has risen to my ankles. When the water does finally filter through, because of it's slowness, it leaves a heavy, slimy residue of soap scum and dead skin cells. Yum!

The Atlantic Cities recently posted an article in rubuttal to the New York Times article about how renters do not make improvements to their property because they do not have the incentive as an owner. I would agree with the Atlantic Cities, because why would I want to make improvements to my rental (apartment or house) whose drain doesn't even work properly? (However, I have added some awesome shelving units mainly due to storage needs but I would say it's a vast improvement to the kitchen.)

And so, rather than having to deal with my drain issue, I instead go to the gym daily to shower. It also motivates me to work out while there, but the real point is a clean, functioning shower experience.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Can I Celebrate Labor Day if I Don't Currently Labor?

The job search continues. While the manfriend is out enjoying his day off playing beach volleyball, I am sulking at home. I am trying to stay upbeat, but this job search process, going on month number three, is disheartening. Friday and Saturday nights I picked up a couple shifts doing banquet catering. Running around serving drunks (typo, I'm keeping it), appetizers, salads, dinners, and desserts for 200+person weddings is some hard labor! My feet are still throbbing (please remember to tip your service workers!). I am laboring daily to find daily labor. In the meantime, I am seeking out every possible industry networking opportunity and trying to stay in-the-know with up-to-date planning issues. Also, look at these snazzy new business cards that came in this weekend!

I know the job search takes time. Plus, moving back to Chicago has put me at a disadvantage over staying in LA. I am determined to do what I love and am not going to quit! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming...

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Face for Radio

I'm a radio star! Well, not really, but I did manage to get 5 minutes and 19 seconds of fame! I had a short interview about my urban agriculture capstone on Southern California Public Radio 89.9 KCRW.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Community Engagement

In the past, I would lament to friends and family about crummy, dangerous, and incomplete street conditions. My planning education has finally made me realize that I can help change things! I am now a fully engaged citizen.

The other night I joined Bike/Walk Lincoln Park, Active Transportation Alliance, 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, and other community residents to survey a stretch of Clark Street between North Avenue and Armitage Avenue. When I lived in Lincoln Square, I traversed this stretch on almost a daily basis on my commute to the Loop. Now living in Lincoln Park, I use it just as much as before. There are no bicycle facilities, scary pedestrian crossings, some frighting merges, pinch points, strange intersection designs, and deathly slip lanes. Yet, after walking around and having a great discussion with communities members, it appeared almost everyone was on the same page: Road Diet! Read more about the event here.

Yay for community participation!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Street Cred!

My urban agriculture capstone, Cultivate L.A., is starting to make a buzz in Los Angeles after the official press release for the project was sent out last week. It's nice to get some recognition for six months of hard work (and lots of coordination as the Project Manager). Hopefully, the work of my classmates and I will be of use to residents and urban farmers in L.A. County. A few places that have already written about the project so far (a few additional stories are brewing):

LA Weekly - August 19, 2013

89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio - August 19, 2013

L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas - August 19, 2013

Los Angeles Times - August 20, 2013

Update 08.22.13:

Curbed Los Angeles - August 22, 2013

Central Valley Business Times - August 22, 2013

Take Part - August 22, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Plannerd Alert!

My name is Jaemi and I'm an urban planning nerd. It took me a while to admit it, but I have now come to accept and embrace it. How do I know I'm a nerd? I check Streetsblog Chicago (and LA), the Atlantic Cities, and Curbed at least once a day. I point out bike corrals and people spots/parklets to people and tout their superiority over free parking. I know of future developments on parcels throughout the city. It truly hit me that I was nerding out when friend began to yawn as I explained the benefits of BRT over light rail.  How could BRT be boring?!

Tonight, I plan to reach new levels of urban planning nerdism by attending my first ever urban planning book club. Tonight's book: Planning Chicago. Squeee!!

Update 9:10 p.m.: Just got home. I am giddy to have found a smart, witty, and insightful group. No more will I babble on about planning policy to the manfriend as his eyes glaze over. No, now I have a plannerd outlet... and a signed copy of this book :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cultivate L.A.

Even though I graduated a month ago, there was still work to be done on some loose ends of my comprehensive masters project on urban agriculture in Los Angeles County. But now, with the hard work of my colleagues, is live! They did a killer job creating this website and its interactive map. As for me, I helped design some layouts and edit content. The one thing I am happy to finally make public is the infographic I designed. Check out the website and the full report titled Cultivate L.A.: An Assessment of Urban Agriculture in Los Angeles County.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Getting Back in the Groove

Two weeks ago I moved back to Chicago. So far, so good.  Reuniting with the manfriend has been nothing but unicorns, rainbows, and puppies (joy!). He even threw me a welcome back surprise party! Now I just need to get back into the swing of things and life in the city. I have a multi-step plan for reinserting myself back into Chicago life:

Step 1. Let everyone know I'm back (check - accomplished by said surprise party)

Delicious welcome back cake from Dinkle's for the party

Step 2. Rebuild my bikes after they were shipped from CA to reacquaint myself with the neighborhood (check)

Step 3. Get an Illinois license (check)

The DMV line wrapped around the building. Exchanged a CA for an IL in 2 1/2 hours
(100% on the written test! Booya!)

I am also on the hunt for a job. So while I get back into the social scene, I also need to get myself back into the Chicago planning world. For this I also have a multi-step plan:

Step 1. Join professional and neighborhood groups
American Planning Association - Illinois Chapter, Young Planners Group (check)
Wrightwood Neighbors Association - Planning Group (check)
43rd Ward (they offered an unpaid internship, but I am now on the newsletter list to hear about events, so a half check?)

Step 2. Go to planning events
    Illinois State Bicycle Plan Public Meeting (check)
   A few more coming up...

Step 3. Meet with old colleagues (ongoing, half check)
Had lunch today with a former supervisor and setting up more. This is fun not just for professional purposes, but it's just great to see old friends and catch up. Plus, it gives me a reason to get out of the apartment during the day.

Step 4. Stand out of the crowd (step in development)

It's good to be home!

Monday, June 17, 2013


Two years of school have passed. I am done. I am a Master of Urban and Regional Planning. MURP 2013. Holy hell, that went by fast! Congratulations to my fellow classmates. It's been quite the journey.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grad School Blues

It's official: I'm burnt out.

I was talking to my roommate the other day, which has become a rare occurrence. He is also in my urban planning program and we have very different, yet both very busy schedules. I mentioned to him that grad school has made me a cynical, pessimistic curmudgeon, and I feel that I do nothing but complain about everything (ironic because I was complaining that I complain too much). I used to be so happy-go-lucky, a glass half full-type, but these days I am just a wet blanket (even the manfriend commented on how argumentative and cranky I've become). The roommate said that over the course of our program, he has become unmotivated to do things he used to like doing, finds everyday tasks hard to wake up for, and is experiencing symptoms of depression. While I hope the roomie isn't truly depressed, at least I know we're sinking in the same boat, which brings a little bit of solace.

There are five weeks left of school before we graduate. We've been studying, interning, researching, writing, meeting, arguing, thinking, and killing ourselves since September 2011. It's exhausting, and then I remember, I am paying money (lots and lots of money) for this! Five more weeks, and this masochistic behavior comes to and end. I can't wait (or I could try riding a seal). Five. More. Weeks.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Winter Quarter Wrap Up

Winter quarter, just like last year, sucked. Big time. The last three weeks of class I would run off 3-4 hours of sleep during the week, sleep a full weekend day, then start over again. The hard work, however, paid off (I think). Now, before my final quarter of grad school starts getting crazy, I figured I should share a little of what I did last quarter.

The project for my urban design studio involved creating a master plan for the St. Vincent De Paul Society in LA. It was a great exercise because our small class, under the instruction of John Kaliski, met with the client and then presented our proposals to the entire SVDP board. It was a nerve-racking, but great experience.

The problem: SVDP runs its LA office as well as a profitable thrift store out of an old building in an industrial area of the city. They want to include housing, address issues with parking and access. The adjacent site to the south is available for lease and potential use by SVDP.

Proposal: "The Backyard." Reconstruct part of the building, create street-facing entrances, and public space. Reprogram the internior building spaces to include offices, retail, and community center. Lease the adjacent parcel for surface parking, and redesign the streetscape. Use a strategic phasing plan in order to maintain retail and office operations during construction.

Here's some of the work my partner and I put together:

Existing Conditions
Site Plan - Existing Conditions
Site Plan - Proposed Improvements

Proposed Building

New "Backyard" space
New entrance from parking lot

Humboldt Street - Exisitng Conditions

Humboldt Street - Proposed Improvements

Friday, April 5, 2013

Public Space Behavior: Toilet Talk

I always find it odd how people can have full blown conversations while on the pot.

My office shares a bathroom with the entire floor of the building. More often than not, there will be another person in the bathroom and quite frequently she is on the phone. Like this morning, a lady was discussing budget reports and then starting talking about her kids. I personally do not talk on the phone in the bathroom for several reasons: (1) I am terrified of dropping the phone in the toilet (2) Sometimes the task at hand takes more concentration than my multitasking skills allow (3) I feel it's just plain disrespectful to the person you're talking to. I mean, you wouldn't talk to someone in person while wiping your no-nos, would you? And the sound of the potty flushing is a bit distracting. Luckily, I'm not the only person who has discovered this odd public behavior trend (see fun infographic below). Technology has created new forms of behavior exhibited in public. Where else has this changed occurred?

Friday, March 15, 2013

I'm in Love with a Non-Urban Planner

Hello. My name is Jaemi. I'm a plannerd and I am in love with someone who is... not.

Food trucks and vendors on South Congress on a Sunday.
I get excited about parking maximums, complete streets, and transit. I am not sure I can be cured. I try to explain all this to the manfriend and his eyes seem to glaze over. Doesn't he understand that back-in diagonal parking is AMAZING?!

We took a trip to Austin last month and stayed at a great AirBnB place off South Congress. South Congress is a lively, active street during the day, with crowds visiting the unique shops and dining at restaurants and food trucks, while live music can be heard at every corner. My impressions: ZOMG, they have diagonal back-in parking! Gasp! Look at these pedestrian refuge islands and bus bump outs! Food trucks and vendors are activating an empty lot!! Squee!!

Best birthday present!
After one of my outbursts of urban joy, he looked over at me and more or less said, "I have no idea what you're saying, but there's a sports bar up here to watch the Illini game." For my part, I was probably going on about theory vs. practice and safety and efficiency, using jargon and boring the hell out of him. But I got to thinking, the manfriend represents the everyday person who is affected by planning. Sure they might not know the significance of tactical or large-scale interventions when presented in terms of planner-ese, but it's important to be able to communicate these concepts. Not just so our loved ones understand us, but for clients and the public at large.

We planned to go downtown during the day (note: we didn't rent a car), and I mentioned we should take the bus rather than a cab. "The bus?" Yes, the bus. I explained it would take 10 minutes or less, cost $1, and there's a stop 3 blocks away. Manfriend was sold. Did I just make a public transit believer? But when all is said and done, he knows me pretty darn well and accepts that I'm a plannerd. I mean, who else would think to get me this amazing T-shirt for my birthday?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tales From the Bus, Vol. 2

Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 12:53 p.m.
Bus: Metro #2, Eastbound

For some reason people want to sit next to me on public transit. Bus seats come in two, and if one is open next to each person already sitting, that extra person on the bus always sits next to me. Maybe I look welcoming or lack the intimidation factor? I do know that I am one of few people that don't use the extra seat next to me for my bag, but given the crowd that rides transit in Los Angeles, methinks I should.

Avoid the drool man.
I was on my way downtown again, but instead of the 720, I opted for the #2 and then to transferred to the Red Line subway to get to DTLA. When the bus hit Sunset and La Cienega, a dude comes on and, of course, sits down next to me. He reeks of cigarettes and moldy garbage. Two minutes later, I look over and he's passed out, drooling on himself. The stench was getting unbearable, so I decided to get off the bus at Highland and walk up the hill to Hollywood to catch the train rather than going all the way to the Vermont/Sunset station (but not before taking a picture!).  I was hesitant to wake him when I needed to get out, for fear he would look over at me quickly, flinging his drool in my direction. Luckily, he got up after I gently tapped him and moved out of the way so I could get out. I immediately applied copious amounts of hand sanitizer to my hands, forearms, and any other places that may have had any skin-to-yucky drool man contact.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ending Homeless through Creative Collaboration

Here is my plug to promote ending homelessness and support a firm that's doing great things. It's an important topic that I have not addressed in any of my work or studies, but I am glad there are people out there that do. LeSar Development Consultants in San Diego organized and set up this collaborative process to bring together multiple agencies and groups for collective action. Pretty amazing stuff.

The Campaign to End Homelessness in Downtown San Diego - Blitz Week from Campaign to End SD Homelessness on Vimeo.
For more info, visit:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tales From the Bus, Vol. 1

I take public transit in Los Angeles, which basically means I take the bus. Recently, my schedule is such that I need to get from campus and across town midday to my internship in Downtown LA (DTLA). The most direct route is via the Metro 720. It seems that nearly every time I'm on that bus, I am accompanied by a cast of characters. Here are my stories interacting with them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2012, 1:12 p.m. PST
I had to take my bike on the bus today because there were some errands I needed to run after work, and doing so on a bike would be the fastest, cheapest, and most convenient way to do so. Given recent rumors that bikes were being off the front of Metro buses, I made sure to stay towards the front of the bus. Now, the 720 is an articulated bus, so it's big, and there's a lot of people (some of the highest bus ridership in the system), so it was a challenge to remain near the front.

The challenge to stay near the front of the bus became greater after two handicapped passengers came on. All the front seats for the elderly were turned up to accommodate the two passengers, and the displaced passengers had to start moving back. As one old lady moved back (she was struggling to maintain balance on the bus), I asked her if she would like my seat. Grateful, she nodded and began to make her way to the seat. But as soon as I got up, this terrible man swept in and sat in the open seat! 

"Excuse me!" I yelled, "this seat is for this lady."
"No it ain't! This MY SEAT! This MY SEAT!!"
"Are you kidding me?"
"I am one hundred percent for real! So F*** you! This is MY SEAT!"

What really upset me was that nobody did anything. I mean, here I am in a packed bus, trying to defend the seat of a little old lady, and while I saw sympathetic eyes, there was no action. Luckily, the evil seat-taker man got off a few stops later and the little old lady was able to sit down. As the man passed me to exit, I noticed he had a dead cockroach stuck on his coat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 1:21 p.m. PST
There is a lady playing a game on her smart phone. It buzzes and screams every time she gets a new point or achieves a new level or picks her nose. It's annoying. Not just regular annoying, but want to rip our your ears, throw yourself out the window, or shake people violently annoying. Finally, I lean over the isle and ask, "Excuse me, are you playing a game on your phone?"
Gamer: Yes? Yes, it's a game.
Me: I was wondering if you might be able to turn down the volume just a little.
Gamer: WHY?!
Me: Well, frankly it's very loud and it's also getting pretty annoying to listen to.
Gamer: No.
Me: No, you're not going to turn it down?
Gamer: No, I'm not going to do anything. It's my game and I can play it as loud as I want.
Me: [shocked face and pause] Are you serious?!
Gamer: [looks at me and rolls her eyes]
Me: You are a straight-up !@$%#$@!

Probably could have left the name calling out at the end, considering it was also national No Name Calling Week.  I hope she lost her game. Harumph.

Hm.. there appears to be a pattern here. Well, as long as I take the bus and am in close proximity with strangers, more tales of me yelling at people on the bus are sure to come!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"I'll fly away...."

It's a new year and I am again reminded of how public transit and space can bring complete strangers in contact. I was riding the 'L' Brown Line home after dinner out this evening, when a young man got on and sat next to me. This was odd, considering the car was mostly empty with plenty of unoccupied seats throughout.

He looked over at me, tears in his eyes, and said, "Oh, I don't mean to be weird. I'm not hitting on you, I mean, I'm gay as hell, but I just...My dad died today."

I put away my iphone, and gave him my attention. He was on his way to a concert where he was singing and heard the news before he left the house. He went on about how it would be most hard on his mom, as his parents had been married for 32 years. He choked back tears and burst into song. The lyrics sang about flying away and finding hope. It was beautiful.

I had to get off at my stop soon, and before I left, I took his hands into mine and just said to hang on and sing tonight for his dad. That one day it will hurt less and a little less after that. He thanked me with a final squeeze of my hand.

I never got his name, or told him mine. I hope he's doing okay and that me just being there to listen helped his pain, even if only a little. I hope he sang his heart out.