Paradise redesign project includes Capitol visit for Cal Poly students

Apr 19, 2019

A group of architecture students from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo met with Governor Gavin Newsom's office Thursday afternoon. The students have been working to reimagine Paradise, California, with plans to rebuild the town mostly destroyed by November’s Camp Fire. They're presenting an update of their work to the Paradise community Friday.

Stacey White, who teaches architecture at Cal Poly and helms the Paradise project, said Seth Doulton from the state treasurer’s staff heard about the project from Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. Doulton then invited the students to meet with State Treasurer Fiona Ma and the governor's Office of Planning and Research. 

White said the students were excited to speak with government officials about why rebuilding Paradise presented complex issues.

“Strategic investment in infrastructure is a portion of it,” White said in a telephone call as she and the students traveled to Sacramento. “Bringing back economic vitality to the area to spur growth from both the public and private sectors is critical, as is reinvesting in homes.”

White and her students have been to Paradise twice now: once to come up with ideas—using input from the community–on the types of the buildings needed. They returned in February with 36 projects to get feedback on their proposed designs. Now they are returning with 24 projects.

“There’s a new town hall, there’s a new recreation center, a health and wellness center, as well as a new medical school being proposed,” White said.

White said the projects chosen to move forward tend to feature buildings that offer multiple uses. And she said every time the students return to Paradise, they tend to fall in love a little more with the area, so recently ravaged by wildfire.

“The wildflowers are blooming,” White said. “Nature has come back. Now the question is, can we keep up with the built environment as well?”

The Cal Poly students will visit Paradise once more in June to present their final designs. They also are creating a virtual reality walk-through of the redesigned town. Then the students plan to give the community the designs and plans, for free, to do with as they wish.