By Andrea Klick, student reporter
In December, Kirby Brady, a 2009 Masters of Planning alumna, was named the first chief innovation officer of San Diego. With this appointment, Brady joins only a few other women of color who hold the same position in similar major cities.
Brady hopes to rethink the city’s resources and programs to be more equitable and accessible for all residents – especially as she steps into her position during such a pivotal time. Her most pressing goals involve ensuring San Diegans receive the same, or better, quality and breadth of support. The pandemic has already highlighted many of the challenges some people already faced each day, Brady said, like lack of Internet access. She emphasized the need for cities to create more accessible resources for all of their residents.
“That’s what my team will be focused on over the course of the next few years under this administration: really trying to make government more accessible,” she shared, “and again I think the innovation piece comes in with the fact that we’re going to be trying to do more with less resources.”
For Brady, working for the city has been a bit of a homecoming. Her family moved to San Diego when she was two years old, and she thought often about her surroundings growing up – like how San Diegans needed a car to get around, but her travels, both domestically and abroad, exposed her to the power of robust public transit systems. She also noticed how access to a resource like public transit opened up more opportunities for a city’s residents.
“I’ve always been open to opportunities elsewhere, but each new position has brought me closer to or kind of continued my progression in my career but also in alignment with a true passion of mine which is making San Diego a better place,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that when I graduated in 2009 that I always envisioned being here … but I’ve been happy with the opportunities that I’ve had here especially in the way that I’ve been able to contribute to my community.”
After pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona she earned a master’s in planning from USC Price, where she learned to better understand the ways policies and planning built off one another.
“There are so many ways in which we as humans interact with our cities, whether you’re talking about transportation, whether you’re talking about jobs and the ability to access employment opportunities, the tie in with health as well,” she said. “Those were really the things that were most interesting to me; how our environments shape the lives that we lead.”
So far, several initiatives have started to create a more equitable city. One of those plans involves collecting data from various departments to quantify how equitable various programs and resources are for different San Diego communities. With that data being tracked, Brady said the city will be able to improve on its accessibility over time and calculate its progress numerically.
“This is an opportunity to do things differently and so we’ve been setting the foundation for that,” Brady said. “Now we were being asked to think big about what the city could look like and what it would take to get us there.”