Palo Alto Planning Director Hillary Gitelman will step down from her post next month, leaving the city with a vacancy in one of its most critical and demanding positions.
Gitelman has been at the helm of the Department of Planning and Community Environment since late 2013, when she was hired after serving as the Napa County planning director. Now, after more than four years of service, she plans to leave the public sector to join Environmental Science Associates, a San Francisco-based planning and design firm.
Her tenure has been a particularly eventful one, with the city adopting an annual cap on office developments, implementing new residential parking programs in three neighborhoods and accelerating its effort to come up a preferred design for reconfiguring the local portion rail corridor.
Her most significant accomplishment was steering to completion the city's update of its Comprehensive Plan, an exercise that was more than a decade in the making before crossing the finish line late last year.
Under her leadership, the department has also adopted new laws to encourage accessory-dwelling units, revised its housing-impact fees and, most recently, created a "new Affordable Housing Combining District," with relaxed development standards for projects with 100 percent affordable housing.
"In Palo Alto, the Planning Department is at the center of many complex and demanding initiatives, and Hillary and her team of dedicated employees have shown great resilience and adaptation to meet the community's high expectations," City Manager James Keene said in a statement Thursday morning. "We wish Hillary well, and I'm sure we'll be seeing her again as she continues her contribution to planning projects and issues in the Bay Area."
Gitelman's last day in office will be May 11, Keene said. Assistant Director Jonathan Lait will serve as interim Planning Director.
Gitelman is one of several top executives who are planning to depart City Hall. The city's Chief Financial Officer Lalo Perez and Public Works Director Michael Sartor are both planning to retire in the coming months, while Keene has said he plans to retire later in the year.