Dear CP&DR Readers,
By now, you may have heard that I have decided to move on from my current job as Planning Director of the City of San Diego to become the Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston. (See http://kinder.rice.edu/content.aspx?id=2147485438&blogid=306.) I'm writing this short missive to reassure you that I remain committed to California Planning & Development Report – and, in fact, I'll have more motivation and bandwidth to devote to CP&DR than I have had in recent years.
I know that may seem strange – that somehow moving from being a planning practitioner in California to working with an academic institution 1,600 miles away in Texas will actually help make CP&DR better. But my recent experience in San Diego has given me a new appreciation of what you, CP&DR's readers, need to know on a daily basis. And my move to Rice University brings with it two major advantages: First, it eliminates a lot of conflicts of interest that have made it difficult for me to make CP&DR as good as it can be; and, second, the move to Texas will give me great motivation to keep in touch with California planning – and bring that knowledge to CP&DR.
The decision to move from San Diego to Houston was a difficult one to make. I have greatly enjoyed my time as the chief planner for California's second-largest city – the fast pace, the interaction with politicians and developers and citizen leaders, and, yes, even the constant CEQA battles. But those of you who know me well can probably readily understand why I'm going: Rice is committed to making the Kinder Institute the leading think tank on urban and metropolitan issues in the country. The chance to lead that effort is too good an opportunity to pass up – and, ultimately, ought to help cities all across the nation, including those in California.
I cannot tell you how important my San Diego experience has been in rounding out my knowledge of planning practice in California – and, in particular, understanding what you need to know on a daily basis. In particular, I have come to appreciate how important – and, often, how frustrating – the California Environmental Quality Act is in the daily life of practically every planner in California. I hope that this experience has already been reflected in the columns and articles I've written over the past few months. I can assure you that I will be bringing all of that experience to my role as publisher and columnist.
My work as San Diego planning director in many ways presented the greatest challenge I have faced in 28 years of publishing CP&DR. The all-consuming nature of the job made it difficult for me to devote enough attention to the publication. The fact that I was a practicing planning director in a city constantly making planning news of statewide importance – and, furthermore, that I was a Form 700 filer with limitations on my outside income – made it very difficult to do the job I needed to do as owner and publisher of this publication.
My new job will be pretty consuming too – but it frees me of many conflicts of interest and puts me back in the mode of writing, analyzing, and thinking about planning issues full-time. That's good for CP&DR. We can finally move forward with so many things, including a long-overdue update of the Web site.
And the move to Texas does not mean I'm checking out of California. California planning has been the primary focus of my life for 30 years, and I owe it to you – and to myself – not to surrender the knowledge and networks I have built during that time. You'll see me around at major conferences and events in California, and soon enough I will have to plunge into the producing the fifth edition of Guide to California Planning.
All this will be made much easier by the amazing efforts of CP&DR's new editor, Martha Bridegam, who came on board in March. You've probably already noticed the vast increase in both the quality and the volume of CP&DR's coverage in the last few months. That's mostly due to Martha – an experienced Bay Area journalist and lawyer with a longtime focus on housing issues.
So over the next few months, as I make this transition to Texas, Martha and I will be working hard to make CP&DR better than ever. And look out for me: I'll probably see you at the California APA conference in September and, beyond that, at the annual UCLA Land Use Planning and Law Conference in January. Because just as California will continue to be an important part of my life, I hope CP&DR will continue to be an important part of yours.