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Judith E. Innes
In Memoriam

Judith E. Innes

Professor of City and Regional Planning, Emerita

UC Berkeley
Professor Judith Eleanor Innes, an authority on collaborative approaches to urban planning and decision-making, died of lymphoma at her home in Davis, CA, on April 14, 2020. She was 78.

Innes was born on January 18, 1942, and grew up in Boston, where her father and grandfather had been prominent political leaders; her mother had been a dancer in vaudeville and cabarets. Raised to be a debutante, wife and mother, she chose to also become a scholar. She received her B.A. in English literature from Radcliffe College, Harvard, and her Ph.D. in Urban Studies and Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She taught as a lecturer at Tufts University and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, before being joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1976, rising through the ranks to full professor. She retired in 2011.

Innes began her academic career in the 1970s working on social indicators, but by the early 1980s she had come to question rational technocratic models of decision-making and had turned to the study of how knowledge was actually used in practice. Observing how data were used — or not used — in reaching decisions, she came to see the world as a complex adaptive system where interventions have unpredictable results. She showed that experts can mobilize biases and myths, and that narrative and personal experience can be powerfully persuasive. Innes used these insights to create a new paradigm for planning, addressing the challenges posed to traditional practices by the many voices and competing versions of reality that confront planners today.

Often ahead of the times, Innes’ writings were frequently controversial, but eventually many of them became required reading. Planning professor Patsy Healey of Newcastle University, who got to know Innes during a visit to UC Berkeley in the mid-1980s and became a close colleague and friend, said of Innes, “The stream of papers she wrote over twenty years now occupy a position as core literature in our field.”

Innes authored, coauthored, or edited four books, more than 50 articles and book chapters, and two major monographs. Her most recent book, Planning with Complexity: An Introduction to Collaborative Rationality for Public Policy with David E. Booher (2010) is now in its second edition and is widely considered a classic. The book draws upon the authors’ decades of experience in planning and public policy, analyzes the roots and the emerging practices of collaboration, and presents an overarching theory of collaborative rationality to help make sense of the new practices.

Innes was active throughout her career in leadership positions for the planning profession and the university. She was a member of the Planning Accreditation Board, reviewing academic planning programs in universities across the U.S. She also was a prominent leader in the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. At UC Berkeley, she served two terms as director of the Institute of Urban & Regional Development, a campuswide organized research unit, where she helped to secure and manage extramurally-funded projects that included community development efforts, action research, and community-based learning. She was a member of key committees of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate (Committee on Educational Policy, 1984-86, 1987-88, 1991-92, 2010-11; and as an elected member of Divisional Council, 2000-2001 and 2005-2007, and Assembly Representation, 2005-2007) and was active in the Women’s Faculty Club.

An engaging teacher, she was a much sought-after mentor of graduate students, many of whom are now faculty members themselves and credit her for transforming their academic careers. Upon her retirement, former students joined with Innes’ colleagues and admirers across the U.S. to organize a session at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning annual meeting to recognize her many contributions to the field.  

A tireless advocate for women on campus, Innes coached her women colleagues to “kick over the wastebasket” of outmoded ideas that could stymie their advancement, and organized writing groups that helped junior faculty members attain tenure while shaping lasting networks of friendship and collaboration. Michael Teitz, Professor Emeritus of City and Regional Planning and a longtime colleague of Innes, noted that she had always been a tenacious fighter — for women in the university, for students and young faculty, for those who faced discrimination and unfair treatment in promotion, for a form of planning that recognized the importance of communication and community — and added that she had been gloriously successful in every fight.

Her many friends, while admiring her intellect, also noted her wry sense of humor, her frank speech, and the fun they had traveling with her or meeting for monthly breakfasts or dinners where conversations ranged from work to family to the news of the day.

She is survived by her partner, David Booher of Davis, CA, her son, Robert de Neufville of Honolulu, her brother Charles, niece Daniele Campbell, great nephew Casey Lamb and great niece Charlotte Lamb, two cousins, and many friends.

Elizabeth A. Deakin