Planning Commissioner steps down, giving Mayor Breed another vacancy to fill

Millicent Johnson departing to move to Oakland, start a philanthropic organization

A spot on the Planning Commission opened up with the departure of Commissioner Milicent Johnson last week.

Johnson, who was appointed by interim Mayor Mark Farrell in 2018, announced last Thursday that it would be her final day on the Planning Commission. She will be moving to Oakland and plans to launch a philanthropic organization that “supports the visionary leadership of Black women.”

Mayor London Breed will make an appointment to replace Johnson.

“I joined the commission because its work sits at the nexus of issues I have worked on my entire career; land use and planning are inextricably linked with issues of economic, racial, and social justice,” Johnson told the Examiner. “During my time I worked hard to build bridges across ideologies, support desperately needed housing for all San Franciscans, and diligently worked to champion our department’s racial and social equity work.”

A notable moment on Johnson’s time on the commission came during the social unrest spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, when she recounted in June being followed by a man who questioned why she was in Pacific Heights. She considers the resolution that followed, directing the Planning Commission to develop strategies to counter structural racism in housing and apologizing for past policies, as a culmination of her work on the oversight body.

Johnson previously worked for Women Donors Network and Tipping Point Community to help obtain grants that target homelessness and criminal justice.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have served our city on the Commission,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, it’s my hope that both the Planning Department and Commission will continue to evolve to embody the vision statement of the department’s Racial and Social Equity Initiative laid out in the department’s vision for its racial and social equity work.”

Johnson’s departure will mark the fourth opening on the Planning Commission in about a year.

The seat Johnson previously occupied is under the purview of Mayor London Breed, who has say over four designated seats. The Board of Supervisors nominates three designated seats.

Breed nominated Commissioner Sue Diamond, land use and real estate attorney, to replace now-Planning Director Richard Hillis in October. Board of Supervisors President Yee nominated Commissioner Theresa Imperial, founder of an affordable housing nonprofit, to replace Myrna Melgar, who stepped down to run as Yee’s successor for District 7 Supervisor.

Yee also nominated former Chinatown Community Development Center planner, Deland Chan, to replace Dennis Richards, who stepped down after ethical issues arose over his use of tenant buyouts and a dispute with the Department of Building Inspection.

The terms of Diamond, Imperial, and Planning Commission President Joel Koppel expired on June 30, but commissioners are allowed to vote up to 60 days after appointments expire. The Rules Committee will hear their reappointments in the coming weeks.

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