Following military service James Dean attended CalPoly University at Pomona and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture in 1965. He earned a license (1146) to practice Landscape Architecture in 1966. He was employed with several firms until 1969 when he began private practice.
He has had many notable accomplishments in his career as a Landscape Architect. In 1969 he designed the first phase of the Acapulco Princess Hotel in Mexico. This work was followed with the design of seven public parks, a master landscape plan for the North Ranch of Westlake (4400 acres) for the Prudential Insurance Company, a master plan for White Stallion Ranch (120 acres) in Westlake Village, and many housing developments. Throughout his career he has designed numerous high-end residential sites throughout Conejo Valley and Southern California.
In the early 1990’s he joined Caruso Affiliated Holdings in the design of retail entertainment centers including; Burton Way, Encino Marketplace, The Village at Moorpark, the Promenade at Westlake, the Commons at Calabasas, The Courtyard of the Commons, and The Grove at Farmer’s Market in Hollywood. The time span in development for these projects was fourteen years.
During 2002 he undertook redesign work for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. This work included the library grounds, The Presidential Learning Center, Gipper’s Grove, a replica of the White House Rose Garden, The Air Force-One Exhibit and The President’s Memorial Site. This design work at the Library continues to this date.
With great interest in the survival of California native oak trees he has become an acknowledged expert in their preservation. In 1977 he organized and led a scientific team in measuring the effect of development on the long term survival of mature native oak trees in the North Ranch of Westlake. The scientific findings of a one and one half year study were published in the Proceedings of the Symposium on the Ecology, Management, and Utilization of California Oak, June 26-28, 1979. Four of the scientific team members presented papers of their findings at the symposium relating to the work performed for the Ben Johnson Oak Tree Study. He has continued this work successfully consulting on over 150,000 oaks in California, Arizona and Florida.
Throughout his career, he has also enjoyed positions as an Adjunct Professor at both California State University at Northridge (CSUN), Pierce College, Moorpark College and The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Subjects taught were the Introduction to Landscape Architecture, Materials and Methods of Landscape Architecture, Construction Documentation, and Soils that he team taught with Dr. Dariush Bakhtar.