Making his mark

Posted: January 5th, 2018 | Arts & Entertainment, Features, Top Story | 2 Comments

By Delle Willett

Local landscape architect is making some big moves

When he was growing up, future landscape visionary Michael Brennan viewed his Nana as his inspiration.

“She set an example of unconditional love and respect for all people,” Brennan said. “She was a master gardener in her own right and helped me learn the names of all the plants in her backyard, which was like a botanical garden.”

Today, Brennan is a successful landscape architect and LEED-certified professional whose firm, Carson Douglas Landscape Architecture, (CDLA), has offices in both San Diego and Edgecomb, Maine.

Michael Brennan recently took over the reins of the San Diego Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. (Photo by Delle Willett)

And as of November 2017, Brennan is president of the local chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

He has defined his goals for his tenure as, “to empower and engage the next generation of landscape architects, promoting diversity in all levels of our profession, and elevating the role of landscape architecture in the public realm.”

Brennan co-owns CDLA — a boutique design firm that focuses on high-end residential and commercial clients — with William Carson Joyce, his East Coast partner. The firm’s name, Carson Douglas, comes from the middle names of each partner.

Some of Brennan’s notable local work includes the Orchid Award-winning Sofia Lofts in Golden Hill, a LEED-platinum development centered around a renovated historic residence; and Alcazar Court, the historic bungalow renovation in the heart of Hillcrest and SOHO Preservation Award winner.

The firm also has a substantial portfolio of clients in New England.

“Working on both coasts represents certain challenges in adapting to the regional aspect of projects, but more interestingly it is a vast opportunity to develop a fusion of styles,” Brennan said. “Bringing East Coast design elements to West Coast projects — and vice versa — has been extremely rewarding for our clients.”

Originally from Garden Grove in Orange County, California, Brennan, now 38, was hired right out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002 by Gillespie Design Group (now known as GMP Design), allowing him to be near his family in North County.

Brennan re-envisioned Alcazar Court in Hillcrest (Courtesy Joe Dodd)

Brennan is a familiar face in the Hillcrest and LGBT communities and beyond, being active on many boards, including the Hillcrest Business Association and the Uptown Community Parking District.

Then-Councilmember Todd Gloria also appointed him to the San Diego Bicycle Advisory Committee, and he was elected to and has been serving on the Uptown Planners community advisory board since 2015.

In 2017, Brennan was honored by the San Diego Bicycle Coalition with their Golden Gear Award, for his outstanding contributions toward better bicycling across the region and for leading the advocacy efforts that will soon result in bike lanes along University Avenue in Hillcrest.

The completion of these bike lanes to fill the “gap” in SANDAG’s regional bikeway network will represent a big win for the community and took years of tireless advocating.

Brennan was also the Landscape Architect of record for the Hillcrest Pride Flag and Monument project, which has become a gayborhood landmark.

Brennan’s design of the Hillcrest Pride Flag and Monument (Courtesy Carson Douglas)

“As a pro-bono project, I designed the plaza, the monument and championed the project through the planning and approval process in 2011 alongside the Hillcrest Business Association,” he said.

The 65-foot flag pole was installed in 2012 and the monument at its base was completed the following year. Brennan partnered with the Lambda Archives of San Diego to provide the historic LGBT information inscribed on the four panels of the monument. Future community plans envision an expanded Pride Plaza as the anchor to a new linear park on the west half of Normal Street.

Despite his full plate, Brennan still manages to find spare time, some of which he used last year to do what he loves — traveling — and did so to six countries: China, Thailand, United Kingdom, France, Monaco, and Spain.

For 2017’s total eclipse, Brennan drove to Idaho and back, with his dog Stephano in tow. He’s also a self-professed weather geek and has a tornado-chasing tour booked for spring of 2018.

Having lived in Hillcrest for the past three years, Michael and his husband, Mike Halderson Brennan, will soon be moving their home as well as Brennan’s business over to the Golden Hill … to the Sofia Lofts.

Michael Brennan (right) and his husband, Mike Halderson Brennan (Photo by Howie Realubit)

The couple met at Brennan’s Pride party in 2014.

“I was instantly smitten by Mike’s charm and his adorable Yorkie,” Halderson Brennan said.

Halderson Brennan, 33, is the store manager for West Elm San Diego. Beatrice, a rescued Yorkie, also recently joined the Brennan household.

As Brennan looks ahead, he hopes to live life to its fullest and make a difference.

“I want to be inspired by my work and those around me and to leave the world a better place than I found it,” he said.

For more information about Brennan and CDLA, visit

— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She writes the “Art on the Land” column for Gay San Diego’s sister paper, San Diego Downtown News. Reach her at


  1. Bill Fields says:

    Michael is a. Committed and passionate artist, and a true bike advocate!!

  2. Gregory says:

    Upstanding and talented citizen in our community!

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