City of Vancouver's chief planner leaving job

·2 min read
Vancouver’s chief city planner Gil Kelley is leaving his job, the city announced on March 15, 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Vancouver’s chief city planner Gil Kelley is leaving his job, the city announced on March 15, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver's top planner is abruptly stepping down.

Gil Kelley, the city's general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability, has left his position. The city announced the news in a short statement on Monday.

"We want to recognize and thank Gil for his hard work and many important contributions," the statement read.

Theresa O'Donnell, the current deputy planning director, has been appointed by council to serve as the interim chief planner effectively immediately.

There was no statement from Kelley on his departure, but the city said he would be working with O'Donnell to manage the transition.

Extensive resume

Kelley, who was appointed to the job in 2016, had served as the director of planning for Portland, Ore., and San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., before coming to Vancouver.

The city hired Kelley shortly after it had begun pivoting to a new housing strategy to confront quickly escalating housing prices.

"We've actually been producing a lot of housing in Vancouver, relative to other growing cities," he said in 2017, a year into the job.

"But what most of that has been is toward high-end housing. Most of it in stratas and single-family .... it's been satisfying the need for housing investors and relatively high-income people seeking homes."

Under his tenure, the city adopted a new 10-year housing strategy and began approving more social housing and rental units, though overall prices remain high.

"I think we've made a shift," said Adriane Carr, the city's longest-serving councillor.

"I think it needs to accelerate, but [there's] a recognition that the market is not going to deliver non-market housing very effectively."

Melissa De Genova, the other councillor who has been in office for all of Kelley's tenure, said Kelley "dealt with some of Vancouver's most challenging and ambitious files. I thank Gil for his efforts and work across two terms with city council, and I wish him well as he pursues future opportunities."

Kelley's departure comes as the city is in the middle of a number of extensive planning exercises, including a city-wide plan and separate plan for the Broadway corridor .

Vancouver is also looking for a new city manager, following the departure of Sadhu Johnston in January.