Otak Welcomes Serah Breakstone, AICP, To Its Public Planning Team
Serah Breakstone, AICP, joined Otak last fall and is serving as the director of our public planning practice in the Portland metropolitan region. As a senior land use planner and project manager, Serah brings an excellent reputation and a successful history of work with many cities in the region. Her expertise is helping us expand our public practice portfolio and realize our vision to design and create livable communities.
Serah brings a wealth of experience in planning consulting with a vision and approach for successfully reaching out to and working closely with public clients. “I talk to people and try to understand what projects might be coming down the line, when they’ll be released and when we need to step up. I want to understand what they’re looking for, and their priorities,” she explains. In the public realm, she says there are also many grant opportunities which she tracks and applies for adding that she has “a lot of connections from past work.”
With an appropriate project identified, Serah steps into her next role of creating talented interdisciplinary teams that include Otak staff and experts from partnering firms. She leads teams in creating proposals that include scoping, budgeting, tracking, scheduling, and day to day management. Along with her management role, she also completes technical work assignments as a planner.
One project she is working on now that exemplifies the long-range planning that is typical with public projects is the Tigard River Terrace Concept Plan, which involves bringing two large areas that are outside the urban growth boundary, back in so they can be developed accordingly. “This involves parks, streets, water/sewer, stormwater, and environmentally sensitive areas. We have to plan what all of that will look like once they start to develop the land. I am managing a team of about eight people, mostly specialists like environmental or transportation specialists who each work on part of the plan,” Serah said.
In addition, she is working on smaller state grant-funded work in Banks and Monmouth, Oregon. In both cases, she is helping the cities to rewrite their zoning codes to achieve specific outcomes. The work starts with auditing the existing zoning, reaching out to the communities for insight, and finally drafting new zoning language.
“Managing projects that will take years to complete requires a skilled team-builder and collaborator, as well as a leader,” said Mandi Roberts, AICP, PLA, Otak’s Practice Leader for Planning and Design, “We are so thrilled to have Serah with us as part of our team. She brings an added dimension of knowledge and expertise, in addition to great management skills to Otak.”
Being part of a successful team takes a group of people who work well together. The people of Otak are what sold Serah on taking this job and what has helped her to shuttle projects through to successful completion. “It was the people I met that really sold me on Otak. They said all the right things. We had really good conversations. It was a bit intimidating that they were looking for someone to rebuild something (public planning) that didn’t really exist at the time, but the support network was clearly there and they’ve followed through with that,” Serah said.