Planning Commissioner Rich Hillis steps down to seek role as department head

San Francisco Planning Commissioner Richard Hillis has resigned from his post and is seeking a position as the department’s director, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Earlier this month, long-time Planning Department Director John Rahaim announced his retirement after more than a decade in office.

Planning Department spokesperson Gina Simi confirmed the resignation, but could not comment on whether Hillis is being considered for the director job. Hillis did not return requests for comment by press time.

Hillis, a development planner who was nominated to the Planning Commission in 2012 by former Mayor Ed Lee, informed his colleagues on the commission of his resignation Thursday morning.

“I was very surprised myself,” said Commissioner Dennis Richards, who confirmed that Hillis “self-selected” as a candidate for the director’s job. Hillis had to resign from the commission to be considered for the job, according to Richards.

Per the San Francisco Charter, the Planning Commission is responsible for providing the mayor with “at least three qualified candidates for director of planning, selected on the basis of administrative and technical qualifications, with special regard for experience, training and knowledge in the field of city planning.”

Simi said that Department of Human Resources is currently “developing the desired qualifcations” for the director position, after which it will send out a job announcement.

“The City will also be contracting with a firm for a nationwide search. Ultimately the Planning Commission will send the mayor a list of three recommended candidates, and she will make the final decision,” Simi said.

Hillis is the executive director of the Fort Mason Center and has previously served as Deputy Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, where he led development projects such as the acquisition and redevelopment of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island and oversaw plans for the development of the Octavia Boulevard corridor.

Richards said that Hillis “makes a very interesting candidate” and added that the commission “will take his candidacy as seriously as the other candidates.”

“He is going to need to check as many boxes that he can that the commission establishes for the new director to have,” said Richards. “I imagine that with such an important position at this crucial time in The City, that there would probably be other candidates as well.”

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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