News & Updates

Mayor Wu announces Katharine Lusk as Executive Director of Planning Advisory Council

May 05, 2023

Planning Advisory Council created to coordinate planning process across City departments

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced Katharine Lusk as the inaugural Executive Director of the Planning Advisory Council, which was created by an Executive Order signed by Mayor Wu in January and will establish a coordinated Citywide vision for Boston’s future and create accountability for delivering on that vision. The council will be composed of Cabinet officials, including those overseeing housing, parks, equity and inclusion, arts, and transportation, to ensure that long-range City planning includes those perspectives. Lusk began working in her role on May 1, 2023.

“I’m thrilled to be welcoming Katharine back to City Hall,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “Her decades of experience across the public and private sectors and track record of creating new models for engagement and planning will be an important part of our continued work to ensure that Boston is a City for everyone.”

“I am delighted to be working with Katharine as we change the way we plan our City together: ensuring alignment among each division of our City to best plan for our future,” said Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. “Katharine’s work in public policy connecting people and city departments will be of the utmost importance in this new role, and I look forward to working with her moving forward.”

Lusk was most recently Co-Director and Founding Executive Director of the Boston University Initiative on Cities, an interdisciplinary urban research and policy center co-founded by the late Mayor Tom Menino. She previously served as Policy Advisor to Mayor Menino, where she led his work to make Boston the best city in the country for working women. She created the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a unique collaborative governance partnership focused on closing the gender wage gap, and later served on the Council as a mayoral appointee.

With a career spanning the public, private, and academic sectors, she has a long track record of breaking down silos and connecting people. Under her leadership, the Initiative on Cities brought together experts spanning the social, environmental, data and health sciences, together with urban designers and community stakeholders to advance more sustainable, just and inclusive urban transformation locally, nationally, and globally. Lusk has published and been cited on wide-ranging topics, including how cities are mitigating and adapting to climate risks, reclaiming the public realm for people, promoting active transit, addressing housing affordability, tackling systemic inequities, and engaging community - including youth - in decision-making. While at BU, she also worked with federal funding agencies to inform how they support effective city/university/community collaboration.

“It is a pleasure and an honor to be rejoining the City of Boston under the Wu administration. Having worked with cities and mayors nationally and globally over the last nine years, I can attest to the high regard in which Boston is held,” said Executive Director of the Planning Advisory Council Katharine Lusk. “We are already at the forefront of climate action, equitable planning, and transformative policy shifts on issues like housing affordability and mobility. I’m looking forward to helping the team best serve the people of Boston and turn even more plans into reality.”

A product of northern Vermont, Lusk loves to ski, skate, hike, bike, and run. She lives with her family in Roslindale. On weekends, you can often find her at the library, farmer's market or thrift store, exploring urban wilds or the Arnold Arboretum, or in her front garden.

The Planning Advisory Council, which will be staffed by City employees who report to the Chief of Planning, will break down silos between City departments, tie planning efforts to the City’s capital budgeting process, and serve as a central authority for initiating, reviewing, and implementing Citywide planning. The council will take responsibility for improving interdepartmental engagement in planning efforts, creating transparency with community members, and ensuring planning efforts support those who have historically not been represented in the planning process.

The creation of the Planning Advisory Council is part of Mayor Wu’s ambitious growth agenda for Boston, which is focused on advancing the City’s resilience, affordability, and equity goals. The agenda also includes the creation of a City Planning and Design Department operating under the direction of Chief of Planning Arthur Jemison. The Mayor also committed to update Boston’s zoning code to create thousands of additional housing units in Boston’s squares and corridors and reform the Article 80 process to increase speed and predictability for development.

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