Michael Woo brings a unique background in public service, urban planning, and place-making to his role as Dean of the College of Environmental Design. He was the first trained urban planner and the first Asian American elected to the Los Angeles City Council. Representing a diverse constituency of 235,000 people in Hollywood and surrounding neighborhoods, Michael Woo spearheaded the Hollywood Redevelopment Plan, which laid the groundwork for Hollywood's current revitalization; played a key role in choosing the route and station locations of the Metro Red Line subway; and made decisions on numerous development proposals and neighborhood controversies. In the aftermath of the notorious 1991 beating of Rodney King, Woo was the first official in Los Angeles City Hall to demand a change of leadership in the Los Angeles Police Department, and was one of the city’s leaders seeking to calm race relations after urban violence broke out in 1992. He gave up his Council seat after eight years to become one of 24 candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles in 1993, ultimately receiving 46 percent of the citywide vote and a second-place finish in the citywide run-off election.
Appointed Dean of ENV in 2009 at the lowest point of the state budget crisis, Woo has led the College through the California State University system’s current process of rebuilding. Eleven new ENV tenure-track faculty members have been hired during Woo’s time as Dean. He proposed and chaired Cal Poly Pomona’s first annual “PolyTeach” conference exploring innovative uses of new technology in teaching, and led the effort to make the lynda.com online tutorial program available free to all Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty, and staff. Woo played a key role in raising the largest cash donation in the history of the College which has made it possible to launch the College magazine, redesign the College website, expand the size of the incoming Architecture class by 20 percent, and equip the Fabrication Lab. He also initiated interdisciplinary project funding from AECOM, Razor USA, the City of Riverside, UC Riverside, and Randall Lewis.
Dean Woo has been involved in many pioneering projects. Twenty-five years ago, when he was the Councilman representing Hollywood, he cofounded the Hollywood Farmers Market, now the largest certified farmers market in the City of Los Angeles. He was the first Los Angeles general manager of Flexcar, the first car-sharing service in Southern California. More recently, Woo was invited to join the design competition jury which selected a team of designers to overhaul Pershing Square, the venerable public open space in downtown Los Angeles, and is working with MOVE L.A. to build public support for a rail transit connection from Union Station through the San Gabriel Valley to the Ontario International Airport (ONT).
Dean Woo’s leadership roles include chairing the boards of Smart Growth America, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. He was invited to join the California Parks Forward Commission to help develop new directions for the California State Parks system, and secured funding from the Resources Legacy Fund to involve Cal Poly Pomona Architecture students in developing new designs for cabins to appeal to millennials and urban residents. Woo was a member of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission for six years, during which he was the earliest advocate for the historic overturning of city skyline policy requiring flat roofs on tall buildings.
A native of Los Angeles, Woo received his B.A. in Politics and Urban Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and earned his Master of City Planning degree from UC Berkeley. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Before becoming Dean of ENV, Woo taught the undergraduate introduction to urban planning and development at USC for seven years and led a seminar at UCLA on urbanization in China. During his time as Dean of ENV, Woo has taught seminars on local sustainability projects in the City of Claremont and the influences on Steve Jobs’s concept of design, and in Fall Quarter 2016 will teach a course on “Redesigning Los Angeles.”