Fans of the popular "SimCity" computer game series get to create and develop virtual cities.
As an associate planner for the city of Riverbank, Modesto resident Emily Pino gets to do the same thing.
Pino, 25, a graduate of Turlock Christian High School and California State University, Stanislaus, landed the job two years ago. Her duties include looking over submitted projects and plans "to make sure they fit in with the city's general plan."
Pino is working on a project that is near and dear to her: going over Riverbank's general plan to look for strategies to make the community more friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.
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"I'm working on a bicycle master plan, looking at where paths and trails for bicycles can go and looking our our current street layout," said the avid cyclist. "We want to make this a more livable city for everyone."
Pino, a member of the Modesto Bike Coalition, rarely uses her car, a Honda Civic Hybrid. Instead, she relies on her bicycle, public transportation and her own two feet to get around. She said that record-high gasoline prices haven't had an impact on her wallet. In fact, she hopes the rising prices will inspire people to use other modes of transportation.
When she's not working or cycling, Pino enjoys reading, participating in Rotary and dancing with the Radiowaves Dance Troupe.
Q: What led you to a career as an associate city planner?
A: I was getting my master's degree in public administration at Stanislaus State when the department head told me about an internship with the city of Riverbank in the community development department. There was an opening for an assistant planner. I applied and got it. I was an assistant planner for a year and then I got promoted to an associate planner.
Q: If you could plan a city to your specifications, what would it include?
A: My city would have a grid pattern of streets, and buildings would be pushed to the front. The streets would be tree-lined and walkable. And there would be equality in terms of modes of transportation.
I'd also make it so that homes wouldn't have to automatically have a two-car garage. And, I'd place (residential garages) on alleys, so the fronts of houses would have more windows. When you look at old plans of cities -- before everyone had cars -- look at how they were built. People could choose their mode of transportation. Now, the focus is more car-oriented.
Q: From a planning point of view, what do you like about Modesto?
A: I really like the older areas of Modesto. I live downtown and I can walk everywhere I need to go. I also like biking around the older areas of town, riding on tree-lined streets.
Q: Again, in terms of planning, what could be done better?
A: In the newer areas, there are a lot of cul-de-sacs. As a biker, it's frustrating (because) I get forced onto major streets. Cul-de-sacs cut off connectivity.
Q: Do you have a favorite city that embodies qualities you like?
A: San Francisco and Portland. I really love San Francisco, but I think Portland kept more "nature." In San Francisco, I love being about to walk everywhere. I take BART in and use Muni.
In Modesto, I enjoy walking downtown and discovering new things.
Q: How many miles do you ride your bike each day?
A: If I ride to work, it's 10 miles each way, so usually between 20 and 30 miles.
Q: Do you have any horror stories about dealing with traffic while on a bike?
A: I'm normally confident enough that I do take those streets that are scary to ride on. It's not as bad on some streets, but once you get out to the country roads, it's a different story. I've had drivers make rude comments or yell, 'Get on the sidewalk!' But nothing too crazy. I have lights on my bike, so I just hope that people see me when I'm on the road. I did break my arm a while back, but I was riding too fast on the Dry Creek trail.
Q: What's the best thing about living in Modesto?
A: I really enjoy downtown and I've met so many people with similar interests. I'm involved in several groups: Rotary, the Modesto Bike Coalition and Radiowaves Dance Troupe. I'm also in a book club called Erudite Tonight. We meet once a month.
Q: On your MySpace page, you list "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," by Jonathan Safran Foer, as your top book for 2007. Why that book?
A: I really liked the way it was written, how it incorporated history and skipped back in time. Part of its appeal is how we all experience life and pain. By trying to retreat from feeling any pain, you miss out on happiness.
Q: What's the worst thing about living in Modesto?
A: The air quality is so bad. It's just like smoking, and I don't smoke. But I know the air I'm breathing isn't very good.
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