Goldberg out as Los Angeles planning director

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In a move that is surprising only in its timing, Gail Goldberg, Director of Planning for the City of Los Angeles, has announced her resignation and retirement. In a letter dated Wednesday, Goldberg wrote to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who appointed her to the post in 2006, that while she is ‘proud of the achievements that the Department has made over the past 4 1/2 years... I have long been ready for retirement and new adventures.’

Goldberg has made no secret of her occasional disagreements with the direction of Villaraigosa’s administration when it comes to planning. In recent months she has appeared more actively restless in the position -- and more weighed down by the sometimes petty demands of leading a huge bureaucracy under a mayor whose commitment to forward-thinking, transit-centered planning has been wavering at best.


The city’s budget crisis has taken a heavy toll in her department, with several key staffers taking early retirement this year, including top deputy Jane Blumenfeld and the co-director of the city’s Urban Design Studio, Emily Gabel-Luddy. Architects have complained that department staffers working with them on active projects retired in the middle of the planning process.

Goldberg, 66, who came to Los Angeles after 17 years in the San Diego planning department, including five as its director, has pushed hard for higher density in certain parts of the city, particularly along mass-transit corridors. That has left her open to charges that she is too cozy with developers. She has also worked to make city streets friendlier to pedestrians and cyclists.

Ultimately -- perhaps because of a lack of support from the mayor, perhaps because so many of the political power brokers in Los Angeles remain dedicated to car-centric urbanism and protecting the sanctity of single-family neighborhoods -- she leaves her biggest goals to a large degree unrealized.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Above: Goldberg in the Larchmont neighborhood, one of her favorites in the city, in 2008. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times