Mayor appoints former commissioner Rich Hillis to lead Planning Department

The Planning Department has a new leader — Rich Hillis.

Hillis, who served on the San Francisco Planning Commission from 2012 to 2019, which has oversight over the planning department, stepped down in September last year to seek the new role. Hillis is also the executive director of the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture.

He will take over the leadership of the planning department from John Rahaim, who was appointed to the position in 2008 by then-mayor Gavin Newsom.

Mayor London Breed announced the appointment of Hillis Wednesday and said he will start on March 9.

“Our housing shortage has made living in San Francisco far too expensive and too many people are being pushed out, including many who have lived here for generations,” Breed said, in a statement. “Rich recognizes that to address this equity issue, we need more housing in San Francisco for families and people of all income levels, and we need that housing built throughout our entire city. He shares my vision for streamlining the housing approval process and eliminating red tape so we can make The City more affordable and equitable.”

In her statement, Breed emphasized the need to streamline the planning process to build more homes more quickly in San Francisco, echoing her newly announced ballot measure to streamline the creation of affordable housing in San Francisco, dubbed “Affordable Homes Now.”

“The Planning Commission and the Planning Department face significant and unprecedented challenges, especially around housing affordability, and equity, and the decisions we make today will have impacts for generations to come,” Hillis said in a statement.

“I will bring my passion, experience, and a results-focused, collaborative approach to work with our communities, the Planning Commission, regional and state partners, and city leaders to effect real and meaningful change,” he said.

Rahaim, the outgoing planning director, announced his departure last September.

“John oversaw the department and city through unprecedented times of recession and growth,” Breed said in a statement announcing Rahaim’s retirement last year.

Rahaim led planning during The City’s tech boom, a time of great inequality in San Francisco and increased tension between pressures to preserve homes for existing tenants and foment new construction to accommodate future residents.

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