Hillary E. Gitelman, who currently serves as director of planning, building and environmental services for Napa County, was selected by City Manager James Keene to be the city's next planning director, the city announced Tuesday, Sept. 10. If the City Council next Monday approves her hiring, she will begin her new position on Oct. 28. She will earn a salary of $197,500.
Gitelman has spent the past eight years at Napa County, where her responsibilities included current and long-range planning, building permits and code enforcement. She also brings ample experience in parking and traffic management. Between 2001 and 2004, she directed the planning department of the Presidio Trust, a federal agency charged with preserving the Presidio in San Francisco for public use and keeping it financially self-sufficient. According to the city, she was responsible for developing the Presidio Trust Management Plan, the PresidiGo shuttle system and parking-management program.
Gitelman had also worked as the environmental-review officer for the San Francisco Planning Department, where her job was to make sure the city complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. In her decade with the City and County of San Francisco, she conducted environmental reviews for major projects such as the AT&T Park (then known as Pac Bell Park), the Mission Bay Redevelopment project and the Third Street Light Rail project.
She holds a bachelor's degree in history of art from Yale University and a master's degree in historic preservation from Columbia University. She is also affiliated with various historic-preservation organizations, including the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association; the American Planning Association; and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, according to the city's announcement.
Gitelman will be taking over a high-profile position that has been vacant since Curtis Williams retired in June. Currently, the city is struggling to address downtown's parking shortage, reviewing several controversial office developments, updating its Comprehensive Plan and considering revisions to its design guidelines for new buildings.
"I am thrilled to have this opportunity and look forward to working with the staff and citizens of Palo Alto on a wide variety of planning and transportation issues," Gitelman stated in the announcement.
Keene said Gitelman's selection followed a national search, input from community and business stakeholders and two interview panels. In a statement, he called Gitelman "our top candidate" and said the city is "fortunate to have someone with her breadth of experience join the city in this critical leadership position as we address the very complex planning and development issues facing us today and in the future." The role of planning director, he said, is "central to the future of our city."
"This is an especially important point in time for Palo Alto," Keene said. "The director position requires a person with the drive to make necessary changes in our plans and policies and to meet the demands of our community, and do so with diplomacy, and a commitment to inclusiveness and open government. Hillary brings all of these qualities to her new role and will be a tremendous asset to Palo Alto."