Urban Planning/Law Student Lauren Week Wins National Award for Paper

Lauren Week, a dual-degree student in urban and regional planning and law, has won the Economic Development Division Holzheimer Scholarship from the American Planning Association (APA). 

This national award is in recognition of her paper, “Shaking Up Small Business: The Impact of Seismic Retrofitting on Small Businesses in San Francisco.” 

Week is pursuing a dual degree at Michigan because she is interested in community development and real estate law, especially as those topics relate to zoning and land use for commercial corridors. “A lot of the existing focus of both policy and law is residential zoning, but I want to explore the impact on small businesses,” Week said. “How do we ensure that the mom-and-pop stores that are so vital to a community’s identity have the opportunity to thrive?”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Week commuted every day to a job in Silicon Valley, an experience that she describes as “soul sucking” because of the frustrations of traffic gridlock and the toll of spending hours each week in her car. She wondered why most people who work in Silicon Valley can’t afford to live there. She wondered why there wasn’t reliable public transportation in this busy corridor. “Living in one place and working in another is not healthy — for residents or communities,” she said. “As frustrating as my experience was, it also made me think about the additional burden on lower-income commuters.” 

Week’s award-winning paper stemmed from work that she did with the City and County of San Francisco during an internship in December and January, where she studied how retrofitting commercial buildings to improve earthquake resilience affects existing tenants. Working with San Francisco’s Office of Small Business, she developed a database to compile and organize GIS parcel and zoning, construction permit, business registration, and census data. She then analyzed that data to estimate and compare small business turnover, ownership change, and commercial vacancy rates across three supervisor districts.

“Working with the Office of Small Business allowed me to connect the theories and principles we learn in the classroom at Taubman to the real world; it allowed me to explore and understand how planning policies and regulations directly impact communities, and can have unintended consequences,” Week said. “I am hopeful my research can support the Office of Small Business as they devise programs to safeguard small businesses unintentionally impacted by necessary resiliency measurements.”

In addition to the scholarship, Week’s paper will be published in the EDD News and Views newsletter. She will receive the award at the APA National Planning Conference in Houston in April.