City Planner Hamilton Praised on Retirement

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Planning Director Calvin Hamilton was praised by City Council members upon his retirement Friday and said he is writing a book about his political experiences in the highly visible post he held for 21 years.

Hamilton, 61, told the City Council during a farewell ceremony that “I have a warmth about leaving.” Then in a reference to his often-stormy leadership of the city’s Planning Department added, that “80% of everything I recommended, you adopted.”

Hamilton announced his retirement last year after disclosures in The Times that he had used his city staff and equipment to help promote a nonprofit international trade and tourism firm he had helped establish. After an eight-month investigation, Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp’s office concluded that Hamilton had used poor judgment but had committed no criminal offenses.

However, Hamilton has repeatedly blamed those articles for making him a “political liability” with the council and Mayor Tom Bradley. He has also denied, however, that he was pressured to step down.


Farewell Session

“The Times, you know, engineered the time of my retirement,” Hamilton told reporters after the farewell session. “I would have liked to stay on a couple of more years.”

Kenneth Topping, 50, currently deputy administrator of development services with San Bernardino County, was nominated two weeks ago to succeed Hamilton. The council’s Planning Committee will consider Topping’s nomination on Tuesday.

Hamilton said that while city law prevents him from lobbying before the council or Planning Commission for a year, he will launch his own consulting firm “for major developers” of projects pending in other cities. He added that he will also help “futurists” in Third World nations develop their cities.


The veteran planner, who also worked in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis, added that Planning Commissioner Dan Garcia and Bradley have asked him to help with certain pending city projects.

Books Planned

Flanked by his wife, Glenda, and son, Marc, Hamilton also said he is writing three books, including textbooks on Los Angeles’ General Plan and how to be a planning director. Hamilton said the third book will be a “nonfiction” account of his political experiences, a project he began last year.

“I had to wait until I retired before I wrote that,” Hamilton joked.


One after another, council members praised Hamilton for his work for the city, as well as for humanitarian causes.

“This city and its future really is a monument to Cal Hamilton,” said Councilman Howard Finn, Planning Committee chairman.

Councilman Gilbert Lindsay, whose downtown district witnessed many changes under Hamilton’s guidance said: “Thank you for helping me build the heart of the city. Now go out there in private industry and make several million dollars.”

A broad grin spreading across his face, Hamilton raised a clenched fist and responded, “Right on!”