City of Vancouver parts ways with top planner Gil Kelley

He's leaving four-and-a-half years after being hired as general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability

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      A second high-ranking member of the City of Vancouver's management team is stepping down.

      The general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability, Gil Kelley, has resigned after four-and-a-half years in this position.

      His role as chief planner is being filled by the deputy planning director, Theresa O'Donnell.

      Kelley was director of city planning in San Francisco when he was hired by the City of Vancouver. For a decade up until 2009, Kelley was Portland's director of planning.

      He's leaving two months after the former city manager, Sadhu Johnston, resigned.

      Early this year, the city revealed that Kelley had travelled in late November to Oregon to attend to personal and family affairs when public health officials were discouraging nonessential travel.

      He also received approval to work remotely from Oregon, according to a tweet by journalist Bob Mackin.

      Kelley's departure comes as the city is in the midst of developing a plan for the Broadway corridor. When the process was announced to proceed with the Broadway Plan, the city placed a moratorium on most rezoning applications for residential developments from Vine Street to Clark Drive and from 2nd Avenue to 16th Avenue.

      Kelley's tenure has, however, been marked by the approval of multifamily projects in what have traditionally been single-family zones.

      For example, las July council voted to allow a four-storey, 81-unit apartment project in Shaughnessy at the corner of West 32nd Avenue and Granville Street.

      That came shortly after council approved a nine-unit rental project in the 6000 block of Dunbar Street.

      Perhaps most controversially, city council narrowly approved a 258-unit project on the former Denny's site on West Broadway. The original application was filed before the city's moratorium was imposed in advance of the development of the Broadway Plan.

      Kelley also championed 12-storey mass-timber buildings.

      In addition, he oversaw planning for the redevelopment of Northeast False Creek. That included recommending proposed terracing of buildings up to 30 storeys on the Plaza of Nations site.

      This came notwithstanding opposition from some in the community, as well as former planning director Brent Toderian.

      Below, you can read what two former city-hall insiders are saying about Kelley's departure.