LET'S GET IT DONE
MY EXPERIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
I have always viewed life from a creative perspective. During my first peregrination with college, I took every class available in psychology and obtained a degree in Human Services. My main source of income, during this time, was the production of metal sculptures I created and sold at art galleries and fairs.
I had the opportunity to work in a group home for fostered children. My responsibilities were to help the children with their schoolwork and tutor children with additional needs in reading and basic math. I developed and implemented an art and outdoor program for the children; a reward system that also exposed them to other aspects of life. I witnessed firsthand their enthusiasm and delight when I taught them the basics of welded sculpture and took them on nature outings.
Art heals. Nature heals. Compassion heals.
I believe in healthy cities and environments and social justice. In this way we may walk a wholistic path to equality and harmony.
During this period, I also worked with my mentor, Carl Rodgers MFCC, and together we obtained federal funding to realize a counseling program for terminally ill people and their families. This was a service that to date had not been available and followed in the path created by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. I conducted outreach meetings and spoke to groups of doctors, nurses and families explaining and offering the counseling service. While serving in this capacity both my maternal grandfather and my mother died unexpectedly and three months apart.
I returned to college three years later pursuing a new course of study: cultural geography and physical geography and urban studies. My efforts culminated in a double major baccalaureate degree. I wanted to apply my knowledge and passion for fairness on a larger community and regional-based level, city and regional planning.
My philosophy was instrumental in the successful fruition of Belmont House Hospice in 1995. Belmont House is a six-bed home for very low- and no-income individuals receiving end-of-life care. The home was predominately for AIDS patients. Through my work in human services, I had seen how people die in convalescent hospitals: whitewashed walls, fluorescent lights, a television set mindlessly making noise in the background, alone in an inhospitable environment. Ergo, Belmont House culminated in a beautifully renovated home with six private resident rooms, each with operable windows and warm interior lighting. Belmont House Hospice has a great-room located off the kitchen and dining room, and an outdoor garden for afternoon sun, planted with rosemary, lavender, roses, and other scented plants, located off the great-room. Hardwood floors and wood frame windows and trim run throughout the home. Artwork is present in all the private rooms and common areas. I donated some of my tapestry and welded sculpture for the home. I also reached out to Arts for Healing’ to orchestrate the donation of a variety of additional works. (See Belmont House Hospice on my Projects page.)
Dan Vanderpriem, Director of Planning and Allison Knapp Wollam, "Housing Specialist", toasting their sculpture.
Throughout my career, I set out to learn multiple aspects of the planning field. I began as an intern at John Roberto Associates and learned the basics of drafting a performance-based zoning ordinance for the Town of Yountville. I worked for a cartography firm interpreting aerial photographs. I moved on to work for Environmental Science Associates writing and managing the preparation of environmental impact reports.
Prior to beginning my own practice in 1996, I worked as a planner and a housing specialist/planner for the cities of Daly City and Belmont, respectively. I learned redevelopment and land use law and practice, all aspects of planning and zoning law and practice, and how all
"My mother and father were driving South from San Francisco through Daly City when my mom got the idea for the song. She asked my dad to take the wheel, and she wrote it on the way to the gathering in La Honda where she was going to sing for the Friends Committee on Legislation. When Time magazine (I think, maybe Newsweek) wanted a photo of her pointing to the very place, she couldn’t find those houses because so many more had been built around them that the hillsides were totally covered."–Nancy Reynolds
these pieces fit together with environmental law and practices, and how to design a project with the California Environmental Quality Act in mind; in other words designing the mitigation measures part of the project. My counseling outreach skills provided me a foundation from which to expand and strengthen my community outreach skills to realize the successful fruition of special needs projects, such as Belmont House and Horizons. My mantra: Be Present. Listen. Identify Common Ground. Expand Common Ground. Solve Problems and Issues Collaboratively. Learn and Modify. Praise. Include Others. No Question is Stupid. No Idea is Bad. Repeat and Repeat. I see planning issues as a Venn Diagram; there is a tiny area where all circles share a common area. I work to make that common area larger.
Some of these skills were inherent in me. However, without the mentoring I received from Terry Sedik, I doubt I would possess the skills I do. Terry was the Planning Director while I was an assistant planner in Daly City. No question was a stupid question, no matter how much I berated myself internally for having to ask for an explanation. Terry also took the time needed to provide answers to my questions. He also encouraged me to ask others for assistance. I remember Terry saying to me time and again, "Go talk to so-and-so in engineering, or building. . . and see how they can help." That, in itself, is a very positive approach to collaboration.
Our department had a tremendous amount of fun working together. We wrote our general plan in-house, and Terry said, “Hey Allison! Get ahold of the Ansel Adams trust in Carmel and see if we can get the rights to use his photograph of Daly City on the cover.” The photograph was the houses that Malvina Reynolds sang about in her tune Little Boxes.
Planning and creativity go together!