Tulum Raiders: Group Introduction


A rapidly emerging Caribbean coastal town of 18,000 inhabitants, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico is a tourism hotspot. It only became a municipality in 2008, and since then has begun comprehensive urban planning efforts. However, resources are still being made available to the current and future communities of Tulum. The Urban Master Plan projects significant growth over the next five years that will more than double the size of the town. Organizations of community volunteers are in place and local residents are interested in benefiting their community. Success in local volunteer Red Cross programs shows that there is a strong commitment to community engagement. However, a centralized resource of information is not currently available in Tulum to facilitate dialogue and foster collaboration. The municipal staff has agreed that this resource is of high priority to the health of their growing communities, and they have engaged the Tulum Raiders in carrying out this objective.

Project Objectives

  1. Supporting Municipal Agendas: The neighborhood website will provide technical and social knowledge for use in updating the comprehensive Urban Master Plan and making other citywide investment decisions, so that the municipality considers the wealth of ecology and public interest, while fostering the economic growth vital to improving the quality of life for Tulumeños.
  2. Fostering Community Engagement: Community webpages will grant a platform for citizens to express ideas and concerns about their town, as well as a centralized place to collect information. When the website becomes widely accessed, citizens will use this resource as a virtual extension of their neighborhoods. Creating a sense of belonging and ownership of residents to their neighborhoods will increase security and improve these areas overall.
  3. Assessing the environmental impact of rapid urbanization: A town of 18,000 inhabitants, Tulum is growing rapidly with little attention to the impact on the environment. Not only is Tulum in a tropical forest and on a coastline, but it also sits on three interconnected fragile water ecosystems; the largest underground river system in the world, the mangrove forest and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Our team aims to map where population growth and infrastructural development is happening (by overlaying the geographical map) to identify vulnerable areas. As a community resource, this information will help to educate the public, as well as provide a reference tool for the Urban Planning staff in updating their Urban Master Plan as growth continues.

Final Product

Neighborhood Resource Portal


  1. Tulum Municipal Offices
  2. Residents of Tulum

Group Members and Roles

Lisa Glancy, Project Manager

Lisa Glancy is a Mexican American native of Seattle, WA. She studied at the University of Washington before moving to Mexico City for many years. She then worked as a Divemaster in Tulum, on the Mexican Caribbean coast, where she fell in love with the community and their intricate connection to the natural environment. Lisa is currently completing a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at the UCLA, while continuing to work on projects in Tulum. She is producing a documentary film there, coordinating an environmentally sustainable mixed-use development and also conducting asset and deficit mapping with the municipal government and international partners. She hopes that projects such as these will benefit communities like Tulum in environmentally sustainable economic growth.

Paola Bassignana, Community Engagement Specialist

 Paola Bassignana is a born-and-raised Southern Californian of Ecuadorian decent. Her strong family ties to her parents’ native country instilled an interest in travel, culture, and international development from a young age. She studied International Relations and Italian at the University of California, Santa Barbara and furthered her Italian studies at the University of Padua, Italy. Paola has experience working in the non-profit sector and has a particular career interest in international development. After spending time post graduation squandering her modest savings on travel and interning in Washington DC, Paola decided she would be more useful in the field as an urban planner. She is currently a student in the M.A. of Urban and Regional Planning program at UCLA.

Grace Phillips, Web Designer and Blogger

Grace was born in Echo Park and has lived in many states since. She grew up on the Amtrak line between Philadelphia and Boston, with some allegiance to the Hudson River Line.  After getting a degree in Chinese (none of which she remembers, so please don’t ask her anything in Chinese and potentially embarrass her) and geography from Princeton and Columbia, she worked in many different industries.  Her most recent career as a sustainable landscape designer led her to get her MA from UCLA in Regional and Urban Planning focusing on public spaces and infrastructure.  She tends to focus obsessively on how urban public spaces and public infrastructure impact human health.

Yumiko Ota, Sustainable Growth Specialist

Yumi is from Tokyo, Japan. Her background is in international development. Before coming to UCLA she worked as a consultant and participated in several infrastructural and economic development projects in Asia and Africa. Her speciality is in community development, participatory development, and informal economy. She is interested in sustainable urban growth by creating development plans that are environmentally sound and sufficiently accommodate residents’ needs.

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