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.
Now the longest-serving dean at Cal Poly Pomona, Woo oversees Cal Poly Pomona's degree program's in architecture, art history, interior architecture, landscape architecture, regenerative studies, visual communication design, and urban and regional planning.
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, 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 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 in leadership in the Los Angeles Police Department, and was one of the city's first leaders seeking to calm race relations after urban violence broke out in 1992. He gave up with 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.
Dean Woo has been involved in many pioneering projects. In 1991, 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.
Dean Woo’s leadership roles include chairing the boards of Smart Growth America, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, and the Los Angeles County Grand Park Foundation. 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 innovative new designs for cabins to attract a more diverse population of campers and hikers to the state parks. 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. Although he is a full-time administrator at Cal Poly Pomona, Woo returns to the classroom to teach occasional seminars on topics such as local sustainability projects in the City of Claremont, the influences on Steve Jobs’s concept of design, oral and written communication skills for graphic designers, and “Redesigning Los Angeles.”