Vivian Kahn, FAICP

Vivian Kahn has more than 45 years of professional planning experience in the public and private sectors. Before joining Dyett & Bhatia in 2001, she was Acting Deputy Director for the City of Berkeley’s Department of Planning and Development and served from 1987 to 1995, as Berkeley’s Current Planning Manager and Zoning Officer.

Ms. Kahn is also a partner in Kahn/Mortimer/Associates, an Oakland-based architecture and planning firm that she co-founded in Seattle in 1979. Previously, Ms. Kahn was Chief of the Community Assistance Division of the State of California Office of Planning and Research (OPR), which provided technical and financial assistance to cities and counties on compliance with the State’s general plan requirements, and a Senior Planner with the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Ms. Kahn has particular expertise in the preparation and administration of land use and development regulations and environmental review requirements including historic preservation, telecommunications, affordable housing, and live-work development. Her current projects for Dyett & Bhatia include managing a comprehensive revision of the City of Santa Monica’s zoning ordinance and amendments to the City of Antioch’s ordinance to implement its adopted housing element. In collaboration with Dyett & Bhatia, K/M/A drafted Alameda County’s recently adopted General Plan for Castro Valley and is completing work on design standards and guidelines for Alameda County’s unincorporated communities.

Ms. Kahn also has experience in the following areas:

  • Zoning Administration. As Berkeley’s Current Planning Manager and Zoning Officer, Ms. Kahn supervised administration and enforcement of zoning, design review, environmental review, condominium conversion, and landmarks preservation, acted on a wide range of permits not requiring action by the Zoning Adjustments Board, and advised the Board and the City Council on all matters regarding implementation and interpretation of the City’s Zoning Code. After the 1991 Berkeley-Oakland Hills Fire, she supervised the operations of the One-Stop Center for Fire Area Reconstruction. She also assisted the Berkeley City Attorney in drafting the City’s nuisance abatement procedures, worked with the City Attorney and Berkeley Police Department on the prosecution of non-conforming alcohol sales establishments, and managed the development review and approval process for numerous complex development projects.
  • Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances. Since joining Dyett & Bhatia, Ms. Kahn has had a major role in projects including preparation of zoning regulations for Emeryville, South San Francisco, Oakland, Concord, Manteca, Marina, El Cerrito, Yuba City, Gilbert, AZ, downtown Chicago, and Abu Dhabi UAE, as well as analyses of land use regulations for Portland, Oregon, and Washoe County, Nevada. For the City of Berkeley, she initiated a major revision to Berkeley’s complex Zoning Ordinance that was adopted in 1999, drafted the zoning amendments approved by the City Council to allow expedited processing of applications for rebuilding following the 1991 Fire, and worked on the formulation and amendment of other land use regulations including new zoning for Panoramic Hill and Downtown Berkeley and a comprehensive revision of the City’s sign ordinance. She drafted Berkeley’s zoning regulations for wireless telecommunications facilities adopted in 2001 as well as telecommunications regulations for Humboldt County, El Cerrito, San Carlos and other cities. Ms. Kahn drafted 1998 amendments to the City of Alameda’s Zoning Ordinance and Building Code to allow work/live facilities and, with Thomas Cooke Associates, proposed revisions to Oakland’s Residential Design Review Procedures. Ms. Kahn’s work with Dyett & Bhatia has included drafting subdivision regulations for Oakland, El Cerrito, Manteca, Yuba City and the Town of Gilbert, Arizona. Her previous responsibilities for the City of Berkeley included administration of the City’s subdivision ordinance.
  • General Plans and Planning Studies. In addition to her major role on the Castro Valley General Plan update, with Dyett & Bhatia she worked on comprehensive revisions of the Concord and Emeryville General Plans and Housing Elements for Belmont and Palo Alto. For K/M/A she managed or had a major role in projects including I-90 corridor redevelopment study and plan for the Seattle Department of Community Development, environmental impact reports for the Cities of Redmond and Bothell, and a variety of projects for the King County Planning Division such as a fiscal impact analysis of General Plan alternatives; an Upper Snoqualmie Valley Economic Base Study; and Environmental Impact Reports for the East Sammamish and Tahoma-Raven Heights Community Plans.
  • Legal Requirements. Ms. Kahn serves as an expert witness and litigation consultant on planning and zoning issues. She has taught classes on land use planning, environmental review requirements, and design review procedures for UCLA, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis Extension and is a frequent speaker at planning seminars and state and national American Planning Association conferences where she has made presentations on topics such as CEQA requirements, neighborhood-based design review, the practical implications of “takings” litigation, retail commercial regulation, general plan and zoning requirements, and the regulation of religious land uses. Ms. Kahn’s recent publications include co-authoring two chapters on zoning in California Continuing Education of the Bar’s California Land Use Practice (2006) and a chapter in The RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning, and the Courts (American Planning Association and American Bar Association, 2009). She is a former member of the American Planning Association’s Amicus Curiae Committee, which files friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the organization in critical planning litigation, and currently chairs the California Chapter’s Amicus Curiae Committee.
  • Housing Issues. Ms. Kahn has experience in housing policy and development issues from both her professional work and voluntary associations. Her consulting work has included housing studies for the Tiburon General Plan revision, analysis of local implementation of State- mandated housing requirements for the California State Department of Housing and Community Development, and co-authoring the award-winning Seattle Artist’s Housing Handbook, a guide to live-work development prepared for the Seattle Department of Community Development and Seattle Arts Commission. She was Executive Director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California.

Education and Awards

Vivian Kahn holds a B.A. (cum laude) from the City College of New York and was Phi Beta Kappa 1969-71. She also studied at the Pratt Institute’s Department of City and Regional Planning and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. A Charter Member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, she served on the APA National Board of Directors from 1994 to 2002 and chaired the Board’s Legislative and Policy Committee. Ms. Kahn was inducted into the AICP College of Fellows in 2000 and has been a member of the California Planning Roundtable since 1986.

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