Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is reportedly set to announce his selection of Michael LoGrande as the city's next planning director. A 13-year veteran of the department, LoGrande currently serves as its chief zoning administrator. He replaces Gail Goldberg, who had served as planning director for four years before announcing her retirement three weeks ago.
LoGrande's path to the directorship contrasts with that of Goldberg, who arrived in 2005 to a department far different from the one she is leaving.
LoGrande has spent more of his career at the department and rose up the internal ranks via the relatively low-profile office of zoning administration. Goldberg went to planning school relatively late in her professional life but quickly rose up the ranks in the San Diego Planning Department to become its director. She was appointed much fanfare in the midst of the mid-2000s real estate boom, and she immediately pledged to revamp the city's numerous community plans and to support Villaraigosa's vision for a more dense, more livable city.
Many of those ambitions were hampered by severe budget cuts and an entrenched bureaucratic structure that Goldberg inherited. The debate surrounding Goldberg's replacement was whether he or she would attempt to revive Goldberg's desire to "do real planning" or whether case processing and internal reorganization would take precedence.
LoGrande now takes over a department that has been depleted by layoffs and early retirement and that has been the subject of a recent scathing city audit that faulted the department for not implementing reforms quickly enough. In particular, the planned "12 to 2" streamlining program, in which the Planning Department would handle approvals that used to require the attention of ten other city departments, remains to be fully implemented.
Villaraigosa will make a formal announcement of LoGrande's selection on Monday. He must still be confirmed by the City Council.
-- Josh Stephens