City scrambles to cover planning staff departures | October 9, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - October 9, 2013

City scrambles to cover planning staff departures

by Sandy Brundage

Two planners from the city of Menlo Park will be leaving within the next two months, just as the city finds itself facing a development boom.

Associate Planner Rachel Grossman will leave Nov. 1 to work for Google, according to staff. In her two years with Menlo Park, she managed several major projects, including Facebook and the SRI renovation.

The second planner, Momoko Ishijima, will leave after this week to work for the city of Sunnyvale. Ms. Ishijima's one-and-a-half years with Menlo Park saw her assist with the housing plan update, residential and small commercial projects and plan reviews.

Community Development Director Arlinda Heineck said the two planners represent a third of the department's capacity. To cope, the city is hiring contract planners through the Metropolitan Planning Group as well as recruiting interns, according to a memo written on Sept. 16.

Earlier this year the City Council opted to use a mix of contractors, provisional employees and potentially two new full-time planners instead of hiring nine full-time staff that would have been spread among planning, building and public works departments.

City Manager Alex McIntyre, with other senior managers, had advocated for hiring full-time staff that would be better acquainted with the nuances of local regulations than contractors.

Some of the projects approaching the planning pipeline: Facebook's new "west" campus as well as its Marsh Road housing development in partnership with St. Anton; the Stanford-Arrilllaga complex on El Camino Real; school expansions; the second round of housing plan updates; and the Greenheart Land Company's mixed-use development at 1300 El Camino Real.

Other departures

The past three years has brought quite a lot of changeover to Menlo Park City Hall.

Earlier this year, City Clerk Margaret Roberts and Finance Director Carol Augustine accepted positions with other cities, while Police Cmdr. Lacey Burt retired.

Chief of Police Bryan Roberts and Engineering Services Manager Matt Oscamou left in 2012; Public Works Director Kent Steffens in 2011 and Business Development Manager Dave Johnson, City Manager Glen Rojas and Personnel Director Glen Kramer, all retired in 2010 or 2011.

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