We have to start with a big thank you to our entire past and current Opticos team. Our 30+ alumni have helped us get to where we are today, while our 20 current team members are working to keep us moving forward every day. Innovating and fulfilling our mission continues through all of their hard work. It is an honor to work with such talented and inspirational people. (They’ve also organized some pretty great game nights and holiday parties!)
And let’s be real, great projects don’t happen without clients and partners who share our mission and vision. We’ve worked with visionary clients, as well as co-consultants at the top of the game, who have helped us pioneer new best practices and create model projects and processes for others to emulate.
Speaking of mission, we are also indebted to the people at B Lab, who certified Opticos as one of 82 founding B Corporations in 2007, and who have cultivated a community of like-minded businesses for us to rely on while enabling us to find our voice as a mission-driven business.
From day one, it has taken vision and trust from our clients, co-consultants and team members to see the possibilities. We founded Opticos to create walkable urbanism before most considered it desirable or more than a fad; we championed zoning reform and form-based coding when few others saw the problems with conventional zoning; we brought place-based planning to comprehensive plans (which helped three of our clients win national APA Burnham awards), and we started and fostered the now international Missing Middle Housing movement. We’ve been honored that this thought leadership has been featured in the New York Times, Fast Company, Wired, Next City, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Thank you to everyone who’s come along for (and supported!) that ride.
But our work is far from done. Building on what we’ve learned, we’re currently designing car-free communities and missing middle neighborhoods, continuing our work in zoning reform and addressing the ongoing housing crisis. And looking forward, we’re already building on this current work to innovate and design – including addressing climate change and resiliency, reforming zoning for fair and equitable communities, and practicing and advancing anti-racist planning, design and community engagement.
To do this, we must notice and learn from our mistakes. We acknowledge that some approaches we took on projects even just a few years ago are not what we would do today as we work to support communities and prevent displacement and gentrification. We challenge ourselves daily to rethink how we approach projects, how we engage communities, and how we support our clients to help end systemic racism. We know we’ll make mistakes along the way, but when we do, we’ll use them to learn and do better the next time.
We’re 20 years in, but we’re just getting started. We’ll continue to question the status quo and take the less easy route when needed, particularly if we know it will help a project have a greater impact and be more successful. We’ll continue to create much needed best practice standards to address today’s and tomorrow’s challenges as well as fulfill its promise. And we’ll continue to use our design, facilitation, and communication skills to engage communities where they’re at and help them define their vision while prioritizing social and environmental responsibility and equitable outcomes.
We’ve created this fun visual timeline of our past 20 years that we hope you’ll enjoy. Since we’re not able to get together in person to celebrate, we’ve included a place at the end for you to share your memories, which we hope you’ll do.
Thank you for sharing the journey with us so far. We look forward to facing the challenges and opportunities ahead with all of you over the next 20 years, and more.
Dan, Karen, and Stefan