It has been some time since the West Coast had its last earthquake, but local planning departments felt some big tremors last week. First Raymond Gastil, Seattle’s planning director since August 2008, resigned on January 28. And yesterday Richard Bruckner, former director of the Pasadena Planning and Development Department, took over as chief regional planner for the County of Los Angeles.
Gastil confirmed his departure in a January 29 email, in which he said he would be leaving in mid-February. “I’ve wanted to do this for some time and with a major reorganization underway—which may be great for the city—I am thrilled to change my life to write, travel, maybe even design something, and contribute to Seattle’s future in new ways,” Gastil wrote. He also noted he would be blogging regularly, and in a subsequent email said he was “looking forward to writing and consulting to contribute to Seattle’s future from a new, independent perspective.”
Gastil came to Seattle from New York City, where he was planning director for Manhattan. In Seattle, he focused on waterfront revitalization, sustainability, neighborhood planning, and the development of light rail, among many other projects. Gastil could not be reached for further comment, but local website Publicola.net reported that Marshall Foster, head of waterfront planning at the city’s Department of Planning and Development will replace Gastil.
Down south, Bruckner began his tenure at the county’s Department of Regional Planning on Monday. He spent the last 10 years in Pasadena, the prior nine as deputy director of Anaheim’s Community Development Department, and prior to that was a principal planner with the LA Community Redevelopment Agency. “I’m coming full circle,” Bruckner told AN.
While he said it is far too early to map out his agenda, Bruckner points to a strong interest in architecture and urban design. In Pasadena he helped pass new urban design guidelines for multi-family and commercial properties that require an architect—not a designer or engineer—to work on projects. He said he may consider such measures in Los Angeles County, where the General Plan Update, in the works for years, remains unfinished. In implementing Pasadena’s general plan, Bruckner also worked to concentrate development in downtown Pasadena.
Bruckner, who earned his masters in planning from Ohio State, said he takes a real world approach. “Two dimensional planning doesn’t cut it,” he said. “The colors on the maps don’t cut it. To have a quality neighborhood you have to bring to bear the quality of the architecture.”
Replacing Bruckner, Pasadena has named assistant city manager Steve Mermel as its interim planning director. Pasadena spokesperson Ann Erdman said that city manager Michael Beck hopes to name a new director in the next four to six months. In the meantime, she said, Beck will look at the organizational structure of the planning department, possibly splitting it into planning and development sections, or perhaps consolidating it with another existing department.