Pictured above: a living rooftop in the middle of a bustling Japanese city

Creating & Sustaining Denser, Greener Cities

Thursday, January 18, 2024, 10:00-11:30 a.m.

The phrase “high density” can trigger images of concrete and crowding, but dense urban and suburban areas have more green potential than you might think. Not only does high-density housing and development create walkable, livable cities with a lower carbon footprint, but it can also—with some creative urban planning—incorporate green spaces that promote biodiversity, health, well-being, and equity. Hear from a panel of experts on how cities in Santa Clara County can become both greener and denser.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from the Santa Clara County Office of Sustainability.

The County of Santa Clara seal

Speaker Resources

Dr. Erica Spotswood


Director of Science & Senior Ecologist | Second Nature

Presentation Slides

Email: [email protected]

Erica is an urban ecologist with nearly a decade of experience working with scientists, designers, and conservation practitioners to analyze and improve nature in our cities. She specializes in using science to guide urban biodiversity conservation, evaluating biodiversity responses to changes in the urban landscape, and making connections between urban biodiversity and human health and well-being. Erica has led projects in partnership with cities, park districts, conservation non-profits, urban designers, and private companies. She brings broad experience creating effective cross-disciplinary collaborations to guide nature interventions in urban settings. Prior to joining Second Nature, Erica was the Science Director for the Urban Nature Lab at the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Erica serves on the Advisory Council for Canopy, and holds a PhD from the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California at Berkeley.


Founder, Principal Ecologist + Designer, ASLA | RANA

Presentation Slides

Email: [email protected]

Recognized as a horticultural and botanical expert in the flora of coastal North America, Paul has a profound understanding of natural systems and is an industry leader in ecological and landscape design. Paul has a keen ability to see the geologic, natural and cultural history embodied in a landscape, and simultaneously imagine its most vibrant future. For thirty years, Paul has given himself to observation, scientific understanding and intimate relationship with the great diversity of natural systems. It is Paul’s deepest joy to design landscapes that integrate site specific indigenous plants into both restored wildlands and the into the built environment.

As Principal Ecologist and Designer at RANA, Paul is sought after as a pioneer and innovator of living architectural systems, a thought-leader in ecological design, and a dedicated horticulturalist. Paul has consulted on many groundbreaking and iconic projects, and the cumulative restoration of many thousands of acres of grassland, wetland and coastal landscapes in the Western U.S.


City Council Member | City of Mountain View

Presentation Slides

Email: [email protected]

Alison was first elected to the Mountain View City Council in 2019 and served as mayor in 2023. Among other duties, she chairs the Council Sustainability Committee. Before election to the City Council, she was a city planner and community activist. Alison worked on the City of Oakland’s downtown entertainment district under Mayor Jerry Brown. She was the Associate Director of the nonprofit Northern California Land Trust. She worked in Current Planning for the City of San Jose. And she did development work for the nonprofit Living Classroom. Alison has a Master of City and Regional Planning from UC Berkeley.

Questions & Answers

Find questions and answers here: Webinar Questions & Answers (PDF)

Additional Resources


Tools & Guides

  • SelecTree: An online tool designed to help you select “the right tree for the right place.” It is created and maintained by the Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
  • Cal-Adapt: Cal-Adapt provides a view of how climate change might affect California
  • Green Schoolyards of America’s California Tree Palette: This tree palette is intended for school districts, landscape architects, and school communities to be able to easily select trees that will thrive with climate change and that are appropriate for a schoolyard setting. 
  • Gardening for Habitat: A guide to help residents plan and install gardens that use California native plants and trees to create habitat for native wildlife.

Canopy Resources

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