Meaning in the Mundane

I’ve been lucky enough at my internship this summer at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to be assigned projects I find both incredibly stimulating and self-directed. However, beyond the matters of policy and politics I get to spend my workdays researching and deliberating over, I am also responsible for a number of more structured and routine tasks. For example, each morning I review and organize paperwork on projects going through the necessary process to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Working with a daily stack of various project proposals from across the state is not nearly as individually rewarding, at least in an immediate sense, as directing my own project. Nonetheless, through my assuming this role at OPR since the start of this week, I have learned more about California planning and development than I have from any of my other projects thus far.

Going through the CEQA documents involves a formal and standardized procedure, one that requires knowledge of a great number of state agencies, as well as a solid geographic understanding of the state. My comprehension of both has improved in just the few days I have taken on this responsibility, and I imagine will only continue to improve. The most important concepts I learn from this task, however, are what I gain from reading about all the proposed projects from across California. I have broadened my planning vocabulary, refined my understanding of infrastructure, and gained a sense of the types of activities that are important in the development and maintenance of a city. While I arrive at the CEQA workstation throughout the week ready to undertake the same procedure, I leave with varied knowledge each time. It is through this lens into California cities provided by this task that I have discovered there can be meaning in the mundane, and that it is not always the most glamorous projects that are the most necessary or self-fulfilling.

Pranav Trewn is a UC Berkeley junior studying economics and education. He is interning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research as a Cal-in-Sacramento Fellow.