Member Highlight: Kathy Kolnick

Each month, we like to highlight one of our members. This month’s member highlight is Kathy Kolnick, researcher and instructor at the University of Southern California.


1) Tell us about yourself.

I am a researcher in juvenile justice issues and gang joining in the Psychology Department at USC Dornsife, working to develop programs that can help youth stay out of gangs. I am also an instructor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at USC where I have taught the history of planning and development of cities as well as introductory courses for both undergraduate and graduate students in planning and real estate development.

I received a Ph.D in planning from USC where I wrote a dissertation on the history of land use regulation in Los Angeles, primarily from 1880 to 1915. I remain very interested in this topic, as well as the bigger issue of how we create local regulations and laws. Recently, I completed a co-authored book chapter on local regulations to control immigration (to be published by the end of year).

Originally from the Chicago suburbs, I did an undergraduate degree in fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and have exhibited work at a number of Chicago galleries. Later, as my concerns with urban areas evolved, I did a masters degree in urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago and worked in economic development in Chicago. I taught planning at Shenzhen University in southern China for 3 years before moving to L.A. for doctoral work 15 years ago.


2) Why did you join LACHS?

After working to create and develop a local neighborhood historical society, I was interested to continue with that type of volunteer effort. When the LACHS nominated me to the board of directors in 2008, I was happy to accept. Also, as much of my research in L.A. was dependent upon city council records, I have a long and deep appreciation for the City Records Center at Piper Tech and all the wonderful materials available. Given that the LACHS is the official guardian of this invaluable archive, I thought this organization the perfect place to “pay back” for having access to these valuable records.


3) What do you value most of about Los Angeles and its history?

So much of what we think we know about L.A. is actually based on myths and a deliberately-created history written by boosters and promoters. The reality of our heritage is infinitely more interesting. I am proud to be part of the efforts to bring this history to light.


4) In your own words…

I moved to L.A. for grad school, to experience a city very different in structure and development from my hometown, Chicago. I love being able to look out my office or home windows and see the Hollywood Hills and the San Gabriel Mountains. Actually experiencing mountains– still very exciting for this girl from the plains of Illinois. Combine mountain panoramas with the coastal vistas and everything in between – and no need to shovel snow in the winter – and this seems like heaven


Are you a LACHS member? Would you like to be featured in our member highlight? Or nominate someone else? Contact the Editor at for more information.


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