William "Billy" Riggs is an American urban planner, public servant, academic, author, athlete and musician. He works as a professor of City Planning at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California, and as an international consultant. His expertise is in the areas of sustainable transportation, environments, land use, housing, spatial analysis and digital technology. He resides in San Luis Obispo, California, where he serves as a local Planning Commissioner.As a musician, Riggs is an active recording artist and music producer. He has worked on award winning projects with Frances England, Gabriel Riggs and Carlos Villarreal. Riggs is also a competitive runner, swimmer and cyclist.
Early life and education:
Riggs was born in the Louisville, Kentucky metro. He is of German-Jewish decent and his great-great grandfather, a baker from Frankfort, Kentucky fled Germany in the late 1800s to avoid persecution and mandatory military service. His maternal grandfather was William Gorman managed an oil business for Palm Springs developer, Ray Ryan. He grew up on a farm outside Louisville where he was consistently exposed to art and education including his "his father's eclectic record collection" which included work ranging from Icarus by Paul Winter Consort to The Planets by Gustav Holst. He attended Graceland Christian High School in New Albany, Indiana and where he excelled academically and athletically, being honored as both Valedictorian and Athlete of the Year in his senior year. He also played in two bands during this period, the Hermits, and Just Visiting.
He attended Ball State University and studied history with a focus on art and architecture while participating in NCAA Division I Cross Country and Track and Field. His senior thesis attempted to understand the social cultural influences of modern religious music. As a student athlete he was selected to represent Ball State the 2000 NCAA national leadership conference. In 2009 he was honored with a Graduate of the Last Decade award.
After graduating from Ball State he studied for a Master's of Urban Planning at University of Louisville. While at Louisville he continued to be involved with athletics but also began to hone his design and technology skills.Riggs also worked as an intern at the Robert Doughty Consultancy in Lincolnshire, England during this period.
After 5 years of work for the US Coast Guard he attended Berkeley for a PhD in City and Regional Planning, studying under Dr. Robert Cervero and Dr. William Satariano. While at Berkeley, Riggs focused on work in walkability and housing that was featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal. He also became influenced by Rich Lyons, Dean of the Haas School of Business, on the topics of leadership and human capital. He wrote about those in a 2010 article talking about economic development, the information economy and the lack of jobs in his hometown of Louisville, KY.
Riggs has worked as an urban designer, environmental land use and transportation planner for the UC Berkeley, the international consulting firm Arup, and the US Coast Guard. He currently consults for Sustinere.co. While at Berkeley he worked as the Transportation Program manager and was praised for his efforts in promoting bicycle transportation and acquiring a $1.8M grant to from the Federal Highway Administration to improve parking and transportation systems in Berkeley.
Riggs has been a professor at California Polytechnic State University since 2013. He was awarded a campus research grants in 2013 and 2014, and was selected as a Service Learning Faculty Fellow in 2014. He serves as a Commissioner for the City of San Luis Obispo's Planning Commission.
Billy Riggs has gained national recognition for his publications and is an active researcher. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Governing Magazine, Courier Journal, The Atlantic, Planetizen.com and many more. He issued an noteworthy report on City Planning Websites that called cities to rethink their web strategies.
His research on street design is also of note and has received nationwide attention in that it called for conversion of multi-lane one-way streets as one part of an economic development strategy. He has been quoted as wanting to design streets to create, "a more livable environment" and argued that traffic calming can have an "economic development benefit... (and) we can actually focus on livability and environmental sustainability at the same time as economic vitality." Urban thinker Richard Florida has featured his work on spatial inequity and walkability, stating that it "reminds us that not all urbanites have the same kind of access to walkable streets and neighborhoods."
Riggs, W., & Kuo, J. (2015). The impact of targeted outreach for parking mitigation on the UC Berkeley campus. Case Studies in Transport Policy. 3, 2. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cstp.2015.01.004,
Gilderbloom, J. I., Riggs, W. W., & Meares, W. L. (2015). Does walkability matter? An examination of walkability's impact on housing values, foreclosures and crime. Cities, 42, Part A, 13-24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2014.08.001,
Riggs, W. (2014). Inclusively Walkable: Exploring the Equity of Walkable Neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Local Environment. 19, 1-28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2014.982080,
Riggs, W. (2014). Steps toward validity in active living research: Research design that limits accusations of physical determinism. Health & Place, 26, 7-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.11.003,
Gilderbloom, J. I., Meares, W. L., & Riggs, W. (2014). How brownfield sites kill places and people: an examination of neighborhood housing values, foreclosures, and lifespan. Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, 1-18. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17549175.2014.905488,
Hermits & Just Visiting:
Billy played in two bands during his high school and college years, The Hermits and Just Visiting. With Just Visiting, he performed at the National Spotlight Competition during the 1997 Dove Awards.
Billy Riggs Band:
Billy began to play as the 'Billy Riggs Band' in 2003, and recorded and produced an album of the same name released that year. He recorded sang and performed on all of the songs on the album. In the years that followed he began to work with Dan Feeney on bass and Carlos Villarreal on drums. He also received assistance from his brother Gabriel Riggs, who plays for the band Silver Spoons, from cousin Ryan Lott, who performs as the New York artist SonLux, and his wife's cousin Gaurav Chopra, an accomplished singer and santoor player based in Mumbai.
In 2005 Billy helped his cousin Frances England record the album Fascinating Creatures. Billy recorded, produced and performed on the album. The album become one of the top children's albums in 2006, was the sole recipient of the 2007 Oppenheim Platinum Award for Music and songs from it were featured on a Grammy-winning compilation. Stephan Shepherd of NPR Music called the album "one of the most adventurous children's music albums in some time, quite unlike anything out there at the moment... (Fascinating Creatures) is the start of something big, like a little secret known to only a few."
Since 2014 Billy has been working with Dr. David Levine from UC Berkeley to write songs related to hand-washing and hygiene.
Billy is married and has two children. He is an active runner and cyclist, and finished the 2005 Boston Marathon in 2:52 having come back from a 2001 Achilles tendon injury.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license