Kevin Kapenda is a multidisciplinary urbanist interested in planning for diverse and immigrant populations, housing policy, local economic development, parks and recreation planning. He earned a Master of Science in Urban Planning, Specializing in Parks & Recreation, Planning in Diverse Communities, Social Policy from the University of Toronto (2019), as well as a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Capilano University (2017). He is currently a Public Consultation Specialist for the Dept of Words & Deeds. Kevin was formerly the News Editor of the Capilano Courier. He is interested in institutions, race, human rights, and postcolonial topics.
How has your multidisciplinary background influenced your writing? How do you connect your different interests?
Creative writing is both an artistic and technical endeavor. Stories are formatted and structured similarly, but knowing how to write isn’t enough to make you a good storyteller. Firstly, I believe that my personal identity as a Black-Canadian, immigrant, and African has influenced my writing. Those three characteristics have shaped my life and how I view the world, so they always have an influence on my writing. Secondly, my background in media and urban planning certainly influences the writing topics I’m drawn to, such as the cultural dynamics within cities and everyday spaces, as well as the intersection between pop culture and personal identity.
How have you incorporated your experience as News Editor of the Capilano Courier into your position as Public Consultation Specialist?
As urban planners, we are legally required to consult the public when overseeing certain processes, such as the rezoning of a property (neighbourhood level) or developing a community/city plan (city-wide level). However, public consultation should not only happen when it is legally required, but when it can help inform and improve policy. As a journalist, you are drawing on people’s stories to inform the wider public. Public consultation is somewhat similar as you’ll never be able to reach every citizen, but by talking to some, you can use their perspectives to improve policies and services. Just like good journalism, the challenge we have as planners is to ensure the people we are consulting reflect the population, rather than just the privileged and powerful.
What do you hope to see in the future of urban planning in both Vancouver and Toronto?
Affordability. Mobility. Recreation Equity. Culture. We need creative solutions to ensure that your income shouldn’t prevent you from living in Vancouver or Toronto – Our economy and the cultural vibrancy of our cities depend on it. We need to continue to make investments in active transportation, not only for equity reasons and the fact young people are driving less, but to combat climate change. We need public spaces and community facilities that are open, inclusive, and reflect the interests of the entire population. One of the great ironies of 2019 was seeing Canadian politicians, particularly City Councillors in Toronto, praise the Raptors while having made negative comments about basketball courts and the populations that use them in the past. More investment in cultural infrastructure and support for cultural organizations. The competitive advantage for cities in the 21st century will be their cultural economy and nightlife. Supporting these industries is critical.