Park Bench Chat

Park Bench Chat: Harnessing the power of design for healthier, resilient and just cities

Thank you for joining us for a Park Bench Chat bringing together leaders in the movement to put our cities to work for community, social justice, health, and climate resilience. 

This Earth Month, Trust for Public Land President and CEO Diane Regas was in conversation with Dana Bourland, vice president of the Environment Program at The JPB Foundation and author of Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises; and designer, urbanist, and spatial justice expert Liz Ogbu, founder and principal of Studio O, which, in partnership with communities, leverages design to catalyze and sustain social impact.

When: Wednesday, April 21 at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET 

Cities only cover two percent of the earth’s surface, but they are home to 85 percent of the population. And in America, our cities need work. With its long history of prejudiced policies, our housing system is both a symptom and a cause of persistent racial disparities. And residential buildings in the U.S. account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making housing one of the key drivers of climate change. During this Park Bench Chat, Regas, Ogbu and Borland discussed how thoughtful, collaborative design can lay a foundation for a more just and equitable future. They also discussed a new model for cities that prioritizes climate resilience, health, and access to quality parks and green space.  And they shared tactics for ensuring public spaces enable social connection and cultural expression.

Dana Bourland
Author and Vice President for the Environment at the JPB Foundation

Dana works at the intersection of issues related to health, poverty and the environment. She is the author of “Gray to Green: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises” published by Island Press. Dana led the creation of the Environment Program at JPB with a focus on transitioning to a just, equitable and clean energy future, increasing access to the benefits of nature, detoxifying the built and natural systems, and strengthening the field of environmental justice. Prior to JPB, she served as Vice President of Green Initiatives for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to design-forward affordable housing. A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Dana is a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate Program in Real Estate and holds a Master of Planning Degree from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Univ. of Minnesota. Dana served as a resident at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and was named one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women Activists in Technology.

Liz Ogbu
Designer, urbanist, and spatial justice activist

Liz is a global expert on engaging and transforming unjust urban environments. From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Liz has a long history of working with communities in need to leverage the power of design to catalyze sustainable social impact. Currently, she continues that work through Studio O, a multidisciplinary consulting practice, of which she is Founder and Principal. Liz has previously held several academic appointments including at UC Berkeley, Stanford’s, and UVA. She also previously served as the Droga Architect-in-Residence in Australia, investigating urban marginalized populations and community development practices in the country. Her honors include Global Fellow, TED Speaker, Aspen Ideas Scholar, Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, and one of Public Interest Design’s Top 100. She earned architecture degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University. 

Diane Regas
President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land

An internationally recognized conservation leader, Diane Regas joined The Trust for Public Land in the spring of 2018 as president and CEO. Prior to The Trust for Public Land, Diane worked for more than a decade at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), most recently as executive director, where she helped EDF advance solutions that promote prosperity for all people and for the planet. She guided work to improve ocean health, stabilize the climate, reduce toxins in everyday products, and promote collaboration and partnerships. Prior to EDF, Diane served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working under both Democratic and Republican administrations as the top civil servant protecting our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays.  Diane earned her A.B., M.S. in energy and resources, and J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Diane enjoys hiking, cycling, diving, camping, and spending time in nature with her husband, children, and granddaugter.