Livable City Year

About Livable City Year


Livable City Year: One year. One city. Dozens of UW faculty and hundreds of students.
Working together to catalyze livability.

Who’s behind LCY?

The Livable City Year program (LCY) is a new initiative led by faculty directors Branden Born (Urban Design and Planning), Jennifer Otten (Public Health) and Anne Taufen Wessells (Urban Studies Program) that enables local governments to tap into the talents and energy of the University of Washington to accomplish critical projects. In collaboration with UW Sustainability and Urban@UW, and with foundational support from the and the Association of Washington Cities, College of Built Environments and Undergraduate Academic Affairs, LCY links UW students and faculty with a Washington city or other regional government for an entire academic year to address the city’s sustainability and livability goals.

LCY helps cities reach their goals for livability in an affordable way while providing opportunities for students to learn through real-life problem solving. LCY’s Program Manager is Teri Thomson Randall; the program is modeled after the University of Oregon’s Sustainable City Year Program and is a member of the Educational Partners for Innovation in Communities Network.

What is happening this year?

The UW is partnering with the City of Tacoma during the 2017-2018 academic year for its second Livable City Year partnership. The UW is conducting 30 projects in partnership with Tacoma, spanning a vast array of disciplines that includes Urban Design and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Studies, Public Policy, Business, Law, Communications, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Emergency Preparedness, IT and Public Health.

How does it work?

For an overview of the program model that connects the UW with local governments, watch this video:

Why LCY?

Most cities lack the capacity to fully address sustainability goals. Meanwhile, ideas and human capacity abound within universities. UW is a powerhouse of scholarship on all aspects of urban life, from architecture and engineering to business, public health, art and beyond, but such knowledge typically has an indirect path to community use. While many UW faculty engage in community work, it can be isolated, lacking broad impact. By connecting many courses over one academic year to projects that address the partner city’s specific goals, LCY creates synergistic impacts that are difficult for faculty to achieve on their own. It engages hundreds of students in high-priority projects, creating momentum on real-world challenges while enabling students to serve and learn from communities. Partner cities benefit directly from bold and applied ideas that propel fresh thinking, improve livability for residents and invigorate city staff.

LCY is an opt-in program connecting interested faculty with city-identified challenges for one city per academic year. We help faculty incorporate the city’s project into the curriculum, coordinate logistics, and facilitate students’ preparation of deliverables for the city. We work with local media to publicize course successes and host events within the city, celebrating each effort and the larger partnership.

To get involved, contact Branden Born at or Jennifer Otten at

For more information on the idea behind the program, watch this guest lecture from University of Oregon Sustainable City Year Program’s Marc Schlossberg: