Our Team Leaders
Five colleagues who have worked closely together for at least a decade, and some longer than 20 years, have partnered to form a fresh and different environmental consultancy, one that offers the personalized attention of a small firm, the experience to excel on momentous projects, and a caring employee culture.
The five principals of Ascent Environmental collectively provide not only 110+ years of professional environmental planning, environmental science, and natural resources experience, but also the enthusiasm and commitment that accompanies the establishment of a new environmental planning firm in California.
The five founding principals of Ascent Environmental are (from left to right: Gary Jakobs, Honey Walters, Sydney Coatsworth, Amanda Olekszulin, Curtis Alling):
Curtis E. Alling, AICP
With 34 years of experience, Curtis is a recognized expert in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a specialist in the climate change and natural resources issues. Trained in wildlife science and natural resources planning, his projects are very diverse, including urban, agricultural, wetland, vernal pool, valley, Delta, coastal, Coast Range, foothill, and Sierra settings. Project specialties include ecosystem restoration, renewable energy, water resources, conservation planning, hazardous materials, solid waste, flood control, community planning, regional and state park, trail, rail transit, and large-scale development projects. His experience includes:
- Led preparation of 1,000 CEQA, NEPA, and other regulatory compliance documents (such as Section 404 applications, ESA biological assessments, and CESA incidental take permits).
- Personally led 11 CEQA documents that have successfully withstood litigation.
- Chair of the American Planning Association California Chapter’s Climate Change Task Force.
- Led development of CEQA approaches to greenhouse gas analysis and climate change adaptation.
- Instructor of CEQA practice topics for the Attorney General’s Office and Local Government Commission’s statewide climate change workshops
- Directed climate action planning for the Cities of Mountain View, Albany, and Piedmont
- Led 12 State Park general plans, 3 CDFG Wildlife Area Land Management Plans, and a statewide habitat conservation plan
- Directed ecosystem restoration planning and design projects, including Upper Truckee River in Lake Tahoe, North Sacramento streams, and Prichard Lake at Sacramento International Airport
- Led CEQA and/or NEPA studies on wind energy generation projects in Northern California
- Regular instructor for the Association of Environmental Professionals, American Planning Association, CLE, and UC Davis and UCLA Extensions on CEQA and NEPA practice and climate change issues
Curtis gained much of his early client service experience during the summers back in his college days when he worked as a Good Humor Ice Cream man, driving the residential streets of Washington, DC, ringing the bells of a classic white ice cream truck, and selling ice cream.
Gary D. Jakobs, AICP
Gary applies his education in economics, environmental studies, and business to provide pragmatic insight to environmental analysis. With 28 years of experience, he has a diverse background in environmental studies for projects throughout California and the western United States. He is a CEQA and NEPA expert who develops practice methods, leads emerging trends, and helps his clients understand applicable regulations and case law. His expertise encompasses the federal and California endangered species acts and wetlands and water quality regulations. Gary’s project management experience includes multi-task, on-call environmental assignments for projects throughout California, large-scale development plans, in-fill urban development, wastewater treatment infrastructure, industrial and energy facilities, telecommunications installations, prisons, and airport expansions. His background and capabilities include:
- Directed several specific plan EIRs and joint EIR/EISs for mixed use projects, some as large as several thousand acres and supporting as many as 50,000 residents and jobs
- Led CEQA compliance programs for California state prisons for over 20 years, involving over 30 prison facilities
- Directed CEQA documentation for more than 25 wastewater treatment plants, including the Sacramento Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Master Plan
- Managed CEQA and NEPA documents for water supply projects , including projects in the Salinas Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, the Central Coast, Sacramento Valley, and El Dorado County
- Assisted in the development of State-level greenhouse gas reduction policies in California, Washington, and Massachusetts
- Served for the past 4 years as curriculum director for the Association of Environmental Professionals Advanced CEQA workshop series, a statewide training program
- Directs analyses of climate change effects on/from projects, including development of methodologies, standards and mitigation strategies, for both small and large land development projects
- Managed CEQA documents for urban development projects, general plans, urban in-fill developments, and redevelopment programs
- Directed more than 15 CEQA documents that have been found legally adequate after litigation
- Instructor for CEQA and NEPA classes, workshops, and conferences for the Association of Environmental Professionals (state and national) and the American Planning Association, UC Davis, Coalition of Adequate School Housing, and several federal, state, and local agencies
Gary is passionate about his work, as well as his personal/family life. He enjoys coaching his kids in little league baseball, riding his bike, being the ‘team’ photographer, and pursuing outdoor activities. He has also been known to use baseball analogies for just about any situation.
Sydney B. Coatsworth, AICP
Sydney is a geographer and environmental planner with over 25 years of experience in environmental planning, environmental analysis, and public outreach programs for a wide variety of projects. Her practice spans the gamut, including projects related to water resources, wastewater treatment, floodplain management, affordable housing, urban development, natural resources management, and environmental policy and regulation. She is an expert and educator in environmental compliance pursuant to CEQA, NEPA, and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) laws and regulations. Sydney specializes in managing large-scale and complex environmental compliance projects and has overseen the preparation of hundreds of environmental documents. Her experience includes the following:
- Managed water resources planning and environmental compliance programs, including the award-winning Sacramento Area Water Forum Agreement EIR
- Led numerous environmental compliance programs for urban development, ecosystem restoration, and trail development projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin
- Directed CEQA compliance for many public facilities, including water supply, wastewater treatment, and State building projects.
- For over 12 years, led State retainer contracts for environmental, biological and cultural resources studies, including for Department of General Services and California Tahoe Conservancy.
- Regularly conducts public and agency outreach meetings, workshops, community education, and strategic planning sessions.
- Teaches CEQA courses for Association of Environmental Professionals, UC Davis extension, and client agencies.
- Instructed CEQA practice topics for the Attorney General’s Office and Local Government Commission’s statewide climate change workshop series.
- Regularly presents on the topic of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, and adaptation strategies.
Sydney’s colleagues will tell you that she is an energetic and enthusiastic professional, committed to quality products and client service. On a personal note, Sydney is also enthusiastic about her family, scary Halloween costumes, and documentaries. She is perfectly happy settling in to watch a special on gorillas of the Congo.
Amanda is an experienced environmental analyst and senior project manager with 12 years of professional experience in environmental and community planning. Her career has focused on the management of complex and important projects, including brownfield redevelopments, master planned communities, prisons, water resources development, wastewater treatment plants, waterfront developments, and other public infrastructure projects. She has broad marketplace recognition for CEQA and NEPA document leadership and management accomplishments, often on controversial public and private development projects. Her experience includes:
- Managed multidisciplinary teams on projects involving complicated resource analysis in the areas of land use, water, wastewater, transportation, air, noise, and other areas
- Regularly conducts public participation andagency outreach activities for a wide variety of projects, includingthe Union Ranch Specific Plan Project, the Alma Forest Fire Station, and the Greenbriar Development Project
- Managed EIRs for several State agencies, including the California Department of General Services and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- Prepared CEQA documentation for important water supply projects including EIRs for the Zone 40 Water Supply Master Plan and Sacramento Area Water Forum Agreement in Sacramento County
- Managed the preparation of environmental documents for several complex and controversial master planned community projects including the Bay Area Research and Extension Center Project in Santa Clara and the Villages of Laguna San Luis Project in Merced County
- Teaches CEQA courses for the Association of Environmental Professionals
- Works regularly with local agencies to implement environmental programs and projects
Amanda’s ability to navigate projects through the environmental process under tight timelines is equaled only by her daily practice of chasing an energetic toddler through the house and out the door each morning making sure she is fully clothed and fed (at least most of the time).
Honey L. Walters
Honey leads the firm’s air quality, climate change, and noise practice. She is an expert in air quality impact and compliance analysis, GHG analysis and reduction planning, and noise impact analysis and mitigation planning. Honey’s professional experience of over 12 years in the private and public sectors is coupled with a strong educational background in air pollution chemistry and climate change science. She holds a Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Environmental Chemistry and Atmospheric Science. She has worked directly with numerous agencies including the California Air Resources Board, California Air Pollution Control Officers Association, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, and the Attorney General’s office on the development of GHG thresholds of significance, analytical methods, and reduction strategies for California. Her experience includes :
- Managed and prepared hundreds of technical air quality, GHG, and noise studies for CEQA, SEPA, and NEPA documents
- Worked with the first communities in California (e.g., Cities of Albany, Piedmont, Mountain View, and Burbank and the Counties of San Joaquin, Yuba, and Alameda) on climate action planning efforts to reduce GHG emissions and develop targets consistent with the goals of Assembly Bill 32
- Assisted state, regional, and local agencies with the development of GHG thresholds, analytical methods, and reduction strategies in California, Washington, and Massachusetts
- Managed and provided the technical strategy to develop the Bay Area Air Quality Management District CEQA thresholds of significance and guidance update for GHGs (including the first numeric threshold for land use development plans and projects tied to Assembly Bill 32)
- Led work with the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association to develop the analytical methods and mitigation strategies for its landmark guide, CEQA & Climate Change
- Managed work on the much anticipated Staff-Recommended Approaches for Setting Significance Thresholds for GHGs under CEQA for the California Air Resources Board
- Conducted numerous air quality conformity analyses and health risk assessments
- Performed stationary source and traffic noise modeling, barrier analyses, and monitoring for both noise and vibration levels
- Led and participated in more than 10 presentations in the past two years on climate change planning and GHG analyses including annual AEP and NAEP conferences and extension courses at UC Davis
- Served as a delegate to China for the Air and Waste Management Association meeting with various government agencies and universities in Beijing, Guilin, and Shanghai to share knowledge of air quality issues
- Member of the Board of Directors for Solar Cookers International, a non-profit that focuses on assisting communities to use the power of the sun to cook food and pasteurize water for the benefit of people and environments
Honey would be described by her personal friends, family members, and workmates as possessing a strong work ethic and sense of adventure, along with a true appreciation and respect for life and nature. This stems from her experiences early in life growing up on a farm in Indiana (yes, she can milk a cow) and hunting in the rural countryside and fishing on the Great Lakes with her dad (somebody wanted a boy!). She relies on these traits for successes not only at work to meet challenging schedules that require out-of-the box approaches, but also in her personal life—cycling, hiking, and exploring the world.