Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley announced Wednesday that City Planning Director Calvin Hamilton, who has been under pressure from top city officials to resign, will be leaving office, though not before next April.
Bradley's announcement came on the heels of remarks he made Monday to a local radio station, KGIL, that he thought Hamilton "will be brought to the conclusion that it is time for him to move on," and that "we need to look for a change and a new style to carry us through the year 1986 and beyond."
Bradley told KGIL that Hamilton has been "a great visionary . . . and the need now is for someone with a more down-to-earth, practical style." The mayor added, however, that "you can't just overnight dump someone like this, of his stature." He said it would be necessary first to conduct a nationwide search for a successor, and that he thought he would have Hamilton's help in conducting that search.
Convention in April
During a press conference Wednesday, Bradley said that he had met with Hamilton Tuesday and that the planning director told him he intends to retire but that he first wants to take care of "four or five" projects, including hosting a national convention of planners in Los Angeles next April.
Before meeting with the mayor, Hamilton met with William McCarley, who serves the City Council as its chief legislative analyst.
In an interview, McCarley said he told Hamilton that Council President Pat Russell and other top city officials felt the Planning Department needed new leadership.
Hamilton, 60, refused comment Wednesday, but he said last week that he was considering retirement within a year.
Like Bradley, Russell and other officials regard Hamilton as an imaginative planner who lacks the practical and political skills to convert ideas into policy at a time when the city is struggling to accommodate growth without aggravating congestion.
The move to oust Hamilton, who has been a colorful, controversial public figure during his 20 years in office, grew out of concern that he had lost control of the most important task facing his department--putting the city's General Plan in place.
And Hamilton's credibility suffered a severe blow last year when it was learned that he had used city staff members to help promote a private trade and tourism organization that he had helped set up.
Ironically, the General Plan, which has led to Hamilton's current difficulties, was his conception and, many people believe, his finest achievement. The plan attempts to divide the city into adjacent commercial and residential sectors, allowing people to live near where they work while protecting their neighborhoods from commercial development.
Plan Is Challenge
The challenge to the planning director has been making the plan a reality, a task that necessitated extensive rezoning to make neighborhoods safe from new development.
The failure to enact the plan--which runs counter to the interests of many local real estate developers--provoked a lawsuit by a federation of homeowners and led to a court order earlier this year requiring the city to rezone about a quarter of its land to bring it in compliance with the plan.
Hamilton was faulted by homeowners for the city's failure to enact the plan and by developers for not heading off a legal battle that culminated in a mandatory rezoning program that could place thousands of acres of city land off-limits to commercial development.
Groups Oppose Him
Now, both groups want Hamilton replaced. They suspect that, despite the court order, there will be opportunities to negotiate the fate of many pieces of property, and developers and homeowners alike say they want someone new to oversee those negotiations.
The move to replace Hamilton gained ground after it was taken up by members of the City Council, Russell in particular.
Russell said last week that she met with Bradley and other officials to make sure the mayor had no objections to efforts to persuade Hamilton to retire. She said it was her intent to have an intermediary--someone known and liked by Hamilton--let him know that there was a growing desire among city officials to find a new planning director.
However, after The Times published a story saying that she was a leader of a drive to replace Hamilton, Russell denied being part of such a movement.