Jess Zimbabwe

Jess Zimbabwe is the Principal of Plot Strategies. She served until recently for ten years as the founding Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership—a partnership between the National League of Cities (NLC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The Center’s flagship programs were the Daniel Rose Fellowship in Land Use and the Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, which brought the mayors and senior leadership teams of cities together for a year-long program of leadership development and technical assistance. Jess was also a member of the senior management teams at both ULI and NLC.

Before that, Jess was the Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and Vice President for Programs at the American Architectural Foundation. Prior to that, Jess served as the Community Design Director at Urban Ecology, providing pro bono community planning and design assistance to low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jess is a member of the urban planning faculties at Georgetown University and the University of Washington. She earned a Master of Architecture and Master of City Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. from Columbia University. Jess was an Urban and Regional Policy Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and a Fellow of the Women’s Policy. She serves on the boards of Next City, Main Street America, and Colloqate, and she held a mayoral appointment to the DC Green Building Advisory Council. She is a licensed architect, a certified city planner, and a LEED-Accredited professional.


Equal Justice 2017/2018



Seattle, WA USA

In Community: Reflect, Respond, Act

The present pandemic and its concomitant recession have laid bare the inequalities and structural racism that have long shaped our communities. Our nation’s history has been intricately linked with white supremacy from its inception The current moment is raw and can be painful, but sitting with that pain also gives us time to examine the ways that we have benefited from, given sustenance to, and papered over the problems of systems that perpetuated injustices. In the planning and design professions, I’ve been encouraging colleagues to examine that awareness and then to begin the work of undoing racism. We’re going to need everybody with their heads in the game, because when we emerge from this recession, neighborhoods across America will still be dramatically under-invested; BIPOC communities will still face a maddening paradox of both disinvestment and displacement pressure; and many of our cities will still be in the throes of an unprecedented and devastating housing affordability crisis. There’s no time to lose. –Jess Zimbabwe