Member Spotlight: Lulu Feliciano
By Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern
Lulu Feliciano is the Outreach Manager at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “We oversee transit, parking, traffic, bike lanes, anything that happens on the street regarding mobility.” Lulu first learned about IAP2 three years ago when she was able to get a seat at the City Planning Department’s five-day IAP2 Foundations course. The messages and tools presented in the course (the core values, the spectrum, etc.) struck a chord. Lulu had completed the SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project, during which there was a fair amount of public upset about the redistribution of transit service. “The pain we were going through was beyond transit.” It was clear the community was not feeling heard.
After the IAP2 Foundations course, it was clear that SFMTA needed to create a standardized and streamlined approach to outreach. The agency worked with a variety of stakeholders, conducted numerous focus groups and interviews (both internally and externally) to understand how the public wanted to be engaged and the best way for SFMTA to accommodate those needs. Along with Deanna Desedas, Lulu helped develop Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS), which would eventually mandate that projects requiring a certain number of hours be assigned a public information officer.
That was just the beginning. In 2015, the pre-construction phase for the Van Ness Improvement Project began, in which two miles of the densely developed street were going to be renovated to accommodate a new bus rapid transit service in the middle of the street. Lulu and her team were determined to “engage and inform” the community, which included residents, business owners, and the hundreds of thousands of people that traveled to and through this street on a daily basis. Lulu used IAP2 principles to help create the engagement strategy, which included:
- The City of San Francisco’s first pre-construction survey
- The Van Ness Business Advisory Committee
- Interactive Text Message Campaign
- Project Overview Walking Tours
- Meet the Expert Speaker Series
2016 IAP2 USA Core Values Project Award for Creativity and Innovation: Van Ness Improvement Project
“The fact that this project is now serving as a model and inspiration for further innovation and advances
in the organization’s public participation practices is further testament to the value of this project.”
—IAP2 USA 2016 Core Values Awards Panel of Judges
“Van Ness was the first project to apply IAP2 principles. Now we apply them to all projects small or large.” P2 is equally important throughout the lifecycle of a project, from planning to construction to implementation. Reflecting back on the SFMTA’s P2 journey Lulu noted:
“Sometimes it’s through challenges, mistakes, and heartaches that you really learn your lesson. Now most everybody is mindful of good P2. I realize it’s more difficult, that it requires more time and more resources, but it brings better outcomes.”
Lulu says the biggest challenge of doing this kind of work is trying to balance public versus agency needs, especially in long-term planning. Trying to plan for 20-30 years in the future can seem gratuitous compared to the issues facing the community every day. Sometimes larger goals struggle to meet on-the-ground realities. “We can eliminate parking so that other vehicles can move around, but we have to be realistic that some people need cars. There’s no magic bullet for this stuff.”
One of the most important parts of her job is working with communities of concern and “engaging with them to make sure they have a voice at the table.” Lulu regularly relies on her IAP2 Foundations training as well as what she learned in the Designing for Diversity class: “The loud voices will be heard. It’s the quiet, more silent voices you need to elevate and pull up.”
Read more about the Van Ness Improvement Project in SFMTA’s 2016 IAP2 Core Values Awards Application.