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City Hires New Planning Director

By Jorge Casuso

July 14 -- Eileen P. Fogarty -- a “turn-around specialist” who reformed the planning process in Alexandria, Virginia -- has been hired as Santa Monica’s new director of planning and community development, the city manager announced Friday. She will assume the post in mid-September.

During her six-year tenure heading the planning department in Alexandria, Fogarty implemented an interagency development review process that provides greater and more timely citizen participation, while streamlining and making the permit process more clear and predictable for applicants, City officials said.

A strong leader and consensus builder, Fogarty is credited for fostering Alexandria’s transit-oriented development and creating a “Neighborhood Corridor Retail Strategy” designed to retain and support existing stores, while providing incentives for new businesses.

“I am very impressed with Ms. Fogarty’s success in redesigning processes and in bringing together the residential and development communities in each city she’s worked in,” Santa Monica City Manager Lamont Ewell said in a statement issued Friday.

“She brings a wealth of knowledge in areas of real concern to Santa Monica, including smart growth, green technology, comprehensive planning, preservation and affordable housing,” Ewell said.

Fogarty -- who also headed the Planning Department in Santa Cruz, California -- said she welcomes the challenge posed by her new job.

“There are not a lot of communities in the country that have the attractions of a healthy economy, a vibrant community and are beautiful,” Fogarty told The Lookout Friday. “I’ve had that in other communities I’ve worked in. I’ve been fortunate to select these jewels.

“I look forward to the opportunity to come to a city like Santa Monica where inclusiveness is valued and there is an established tradition of community involvement and commitment to livability and quality of life.”

In Santa Monica, Fogarty will head a department of 114 employees with an annual budget of $20.3 million that has been the focus of an audit and criticized for its burdensome bureaucracy and high staff turnover.

In addition to planning and zoning, her responsibilities will include transportation and traffic, building permits and inspections and historic preservation.

Fogarty will assume the top post at a time when the City is in the midst of updating the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan, documents that will guide all development in Santa Monica for decades to come.

Alexandria City Manager James K. Hartmann praised Fogarty’s reforms in the East Coast city on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C.

“City departments involved in the development process now work together smoothly in a streamlined effort to put forward successful projects that will meet the City Council’s goals for our City,” Hartman wrote in a statement.

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille also praised Fogarty’s tenure as planning director.

“Eileen’s strong commitment to building community partnerships has set a new standard for leadership in the critical field of planning for our unique city,” Euille said. “Alexandria will be forever appreciative of the many contributions she made in reforming our planning process and reshaping our City.”

“She transformed the planning process and presided over an unprecedented period of high-quality growth in the City’s diverse urban villages that included active community involvement,” said Alexandria Planning Commission Chair Eric Wagner.

“She has left the City of Alexandria in a much better place than it was when she arrived six years ago,” Wagner said.

In addition to implementing major changes, Fogarty is known for ability to bring diverse interests to the table, something that will come in handy in Santa Monica, she said.

“Each one of the communities (I’ve worked in) faced the issue of consensus building,” Fogarty said. “Bringing all the stakeholders to the table has been a significant issue and challenge, and I think Santa Monica will be similar.”

Prior to her work in Santa Cruz, Fogarty spent thirteen years as Director of Planning and Zoning in Annapolis, Maryland.

When making the announcement, Ewell praised Andy Agle for his work as interim director after Suzanne Frick left the post to head the planning department in Long Beach more than one year ago.

“Andy has done an outstanding job,” Ewell said, “and I am glad he’ll remain a vital part of the city’s Planning & Community Development team.”

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