Smart Growth America’s Equity Summit

At Smart Growth America, we deeply believe that improving racial disparities is at the core of a smart growth approach. But what does that mean? How does it work in practice? And how can smart growth advocates do it better?

Last year Smart Growth America (SGA) hosted our first-ever Equity Summit to bring a discussion of racial equity to the smart growth movement and make the case that smart growth without a focus on equity isn’t smart growth at all. Speakers discussed how to promote equity in housing and land use, why strong Black and brown businesses are key to neighborhood vitality, and how to right the wrongs of past damaging transportation decisions and promote restorative justice. 

The 2022 Equity Summit will be held (virtually) from January 11-13, 2022. Over three days, you’ll hear keynotes on equitable development and panels curated by our economic development, transportation, and land use teams.

Early bird registration is extended!

Reserve your spot at a discounted rate by registering now before November 24. Rates go up slightly after that date until registration closes in January. Tickets give you access to all three days of the Summit.

Current 2022 Summit information

The Summit will begin at 11 a.m. Eastern each day.

Majora Carter will give the Equity Summit primary keynote during the first half of day one (January 11, 2022). Majora Carter is a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, MacArthur Fellow, and Peabody Award-winning broadcaster. Read her full bio in the “speakers” tab.

Day 1: Tuesday, January 11

Land use and development

Day 2: Wednesday, January 12

Transportation and thriving communities

Day 3: Thursday, January 13

Economic development

Theme: Historic injustices in land use and development have led low-income communities and communities of color to be disproportionately impacted by climate change. Learn about the science behind understanding climate and community vulnerability, and discover how leading practitioners are advancing racial and social equity through land use strategy and climate adaptation.

Theme: Transportation planning continues to use decades-old models and tools that contribute to a legacy of harm for communities of color, whether by directing limited resources away from them, bisecting and destroying those communities, or failing to connect them to opportunities to build wealth. Join a conversation about ways technology can be used to replace those outdated tools to better identify and address racial inequities and elevate community voices in transportation decisions.

Theme: The decades-long rise in demand for living and working in walkable places—especially with good access to transit—is good news for the fight against climate change, our health, and our economy. But too often, current residents of these neighborhoods are left behind—or pushed out. For future growth and development decisions, how can these mistakes be avoided and instead support economic mobility, wealth-building, and shared prosperity?

A keynote presentation by Dr. Marshall Shepherd, Distinguished Professor, University of Georgia Atmospheric Sciences

Other speakers include:

  • Calvin Gladney, President and CEO, Smart Growth America

  • Katharine Burgess, Vice President of Land Use and Development, Smart Growth America

  • Zelalem Adefris, VP, Policy and Advocacy, Catalyst Miami

  • Gary Gero, Chief Sustainability Officer, Los Angeles County

  • Sharai Lewis-Gruss, Lead Adaptation Specialist, First Street Foundation

  • With others to come!

A keynote presentation by Vignesh Swaminathan ("Mr. Barricade"), CEO and President at Crossroad Lab

Other speakers include:

  • Beth Osborne, Director, Transportation for America

  • Tiffany Chu, SVP at Via, CEO and Co-Founder, Remix

  • Bob Dean, CEO, Center for Neighborhood Technology

  • Kim Lucas, Acting Director of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure 

Moderated by Dr. Regan F. Patterson, Transportation Equity Research Fellow, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

Speakers include: 

  • The Hon. Chris Zimmerman, Vice President of Economic Development, Smart Growth America

  • Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director, Fifth Avenue Committee, Brooklyn, NY

  • Check back—other speakers being added regularly!

New speakers still being added

Detailed information on all confirmed speakers can be found on the “Speakers” tab. A detailed agenda with detailed descriptions is forthcoming. New speakers and sessions will be announced regularly—sign up for our email list to be the first to hear.

Sign up for email updates



Special guests

graphic card of Majora Carter, keynote speaker for the Summit

Majora Carter

Majora Carter is a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, MacArthur Fellow and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She is responsible for the creation and successful implementation of numerous economic developments, technology & green-infrastructure projects, policies and job training & placement systems, and is currently serving as Senior Program Director for Community Regeneration at Groundswell, Inc. Read more about Majora here. 

Dr. Marshall Shepherd

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate and is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. Dr. Shepherd was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS), the nation’s largest and oldest professional/science society in the atmospheric and related sciences. He serves as Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program and Full Professor in the Department of Geography where he is Associate Department Head.

Shepherd is also the host of The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks, a pioneering Sunday talk show dedicated to science, and he is a contributor to Forbes Magazine. Dr. Shepherd routinely appears on national media outlets like CNN, The Weather Channel, CBS’s Face The Nation and more. He also provides expertise to NASA, NOAA, The White House, Congress and other stakeholders. In 2021, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineers, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the first faculty member in the history of the University of Georgia to achieve this trifecta, and the first African American to do so.

Zelalem Adefris

Zelalem Adefris is the Vice President of Policy & Advocacy at Catalyst Miami, where she oversees Catalyst’s Policy & Engagement Department. Zelalem joined Catalyst Miami in 2016, directing the organization’s climate justice work. Her previous work experiences include environmental justice organizing at the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island and conducting emergency preparedness research at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She holds an MPH in Global Environmental Health from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in Community Health from Brown University. Zelalem serves as a co-chair of the Miami Climate Alliance, a philanthropic trustee of the Solutions Project, as well as a board member of the Miami-Dade College Earth Ethics Institute.

Gary Gero

Gary Gero was appointed LA County’s first Chief Sustainability Officer in November 2016.  Gary previously served as the President of the Climate Action Reserve and he now serves as the Vice-Chair of its Board of Directors. Gary’s career includes service as the Assistant General Manager for the City of Los Angeles Environmental Affairs Department, and he also managed renewable and energy efficiency programs at LADWP.

Sharai Lewis-Gruss

Sharai Lewis-Gruss is the Director of Data Enablement at First Street Foundation. In this role, she applies her background in environmental policy and GIS to help support those seeking to access the First Street data.

Before joining First Street, Sharai was a GIS Specialist and Project Coordinator at COWI North America, where she mapped shorelines in an effort to help reduce vulnerability to sea level rise, major storms, and other events. She coordinated teams in multiple countries to deliver an interactive mapping platform and products that were used for the City of New York projects, which included the Waterfront Maintenance Management System and Rebuild by Design Living Shoreline. Prior to that, Sharai was a GIS Manager for the Regional Plan Association of Greater New York. In that position she created the “Access to Jobs” interactive map, using it to present the findings of an associated study on the state of the tri-state region to private organizations and federal agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, Sharai worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a GIS Specialist for the Superstorm Sandy recovery effort, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

She holds a Masters in Geography-GIS from Hunter College of the City University of New York and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Policy from Middlebury College. In addition, Sharai holds certificates in GIS from Hunter and in Spanish from the University of Buenos Aires.

Tiffany Chu

Tiffany Chu is a designer and a planner. She is the former CEO & Co-founder of Remix ( and now SVP at Via ( Remix is the collaborative software platform for transportation planning used by 500+ cities globally, and has been recognized as a Tech Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and BloombergNEF (New Energy Finance) for furthering sustainability and equity in the field. Remix was acquired by Via in March 2021, the leading transportation technology company powering public mobility systems worldwide.

Tiffany served as Commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, and sits on the city’s Congestion Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. Previously, Tiffany was a Fellow at Code for America, the first UX hire at Zipcar and is an alum of Y Combinator. She has been named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30, LinkedIn’s Next Wave of Leaders Under 35, Curbed’s Young Guns, and featured at SXSW, Helsinki Design Week, the New York Times Cities for Tomorrow Conference and more. Tiffany has a background in architecture and urban planning from MIT.

Bob Dean

​​Bob Dean joined the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) in 2018 as its Chief Executive Officer. CNT is a nationally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to deliver innovative analysis and solutions that support community-based organizations and local governments to create neighborhoods that are equitable, sustainable, and resilient. CNT works where urban form – the built environment and infrastructure of our cities – intersects with disparities by race and income. We work across sectors, on topics including climate resilience, environmental justice, healthy housing, transportation equity, community-based planning, and nature-based solutions.

Prior to CNT, Bob served as the Deputy Executive Director for Planning for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), where he created and then oversaw the Local Technical Assistance program, which has offered planning assistance to local governments across the region through over 200 local planning projects. Before initiating the LTA program, Bob managed GO TO 2040, the award-winning comprehensive plan for the Chicago metropolitan area that was adopted in October 2010. After leaving CMAP in 2017, he consulted for Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and RW Ventures on local governance and economic development projects during 2018. Prior to CMAP, Bob worked in municipal government for five years in suburban Chicago. Bob holds a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Arts in American History from the University of Delaware.

Kim Lucas

Acting Director of Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, full bio coming soon.

Dr. Regan F. Patterson

Dr. Regan F. Patterson is the Transportation Equity Research Fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), where she conducts intersectional transportation policy analysis and research. Prior to joining the CBCF, Dr. Patterson was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. She earned her PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation research focused on the impact of transportation policies on air quality and environmental justice. Dr. Patterson holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UCLA and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley.

Smart Growth America

Click names to view Smart Growth America bios

Calvin Gladney
President and CEO

Madeline Fraser Cook
Smart Growth America Board Chair

Beth Osborne

Director, Transportation for America

Katharine Burgess
Vice President of Land Use and Development

Chris Zimmerman
Vice President of Economic Development

2022 sponsorships are still available

   Contact us to learn more         Download our sponsorship package   

Thanks to our 2022 Summit sponsors







Citi’s “Action for Racial Equity” represents unprecedented effort to leverage Citi’s core business capabilities and Citi Foundation philanthropy to help address racial equity and justice in the U.S.

Get ready for this year with our discussion guides

Turn our Equity Summit content into action and tangible change in your community with this set of four discussion guides (plus an extra guide with instructions for using them), based on the 2021 Summit content.

Consider how to improve your smart growth advocacy where you live or work.  You can certainly do this on your own, but to maximize the impact, we recommend doing this with a small group of colleagues, friends, or other people in your community. Think of it like a book discussion group. Listen to last year’s Summit content, read the summaries of each session, and then think about the discussion questions together as a group—perhaps over a few weeks. For those of you that are ready to take the next step, you can put together a plan of action.

Download the full set of discussion guides (.pdf)

Watch last year’s Summit

Watching last year’s summit is a great way to get to know the content in the discussion guides above. In 2021, we spent a lot of time talking about the “why.” This year, we are hoping to tackle more of the “how,” while continuing to lay a foundation for those who are new to the discussion.