The City of Vancouver fired Brent Toderian, its director of planning Tuesday.
Toderian had been with the city for six years and led programs including the eco-density initiative, the laneway housing program, and the Cambie corridor plan.
“Following due consideration, it has been determined that it is an appropriate time for a change in leadership in the Planning Department,” a city press release stated.
Mike Klassen, who ran unsuccessfully for an NPA city council seat in November, said he wasn’t surprised by the move.
“He’s not a Vision man. He’s not somebody that was hired by Vision and it’s a very high-profile position. He was already at the top so they really had nowhere to go except to let him go, whereas other senior managers they managed to coax out of the system and replace them with people they thought were more compatible to doing Vision’s work,” he said.
Klassen, a co-founder of the website Citycaucus.com, maintains Toderian was in a difficult situation.
“He had to please a lot of people and they weren’t going to give him too much of a break in the high-stakes world of development. You have to deal with some pretty tough customers and it’s true many developers had a difficult time working with Brent,” he said.
Klassen noted it’s interesting to look at how Toderian worked compared to his predecessors Larry Beasley and Ann McAfee.
“Larry Beasley got to make all the deals with the developers while Ann sort of ran the operations and made stuff happen,” he said. “Brent didn’t have that colleague sitting beside him who could do the same thing. He had to do it all. He had to run his department, as well as work with the development community. He probably just wasn’t well suited to it—I should say well-suited to the kind of deal making Larry Beasley used to do.”
Former COPE councillor Ellen Woodsworth wasn’t surprised by the firing either. Woodsworth said there were problems with how the planning department has been working with various groups in the community since Toderian was hired and asked to go out and implement the eco-density initiative.
“That was the first time I really got a sense that people were really unhappy with his work and that the way in which the planning department was going forward and talking to neighbourhoods had changed from the way it had been under Larry Beasley and Ann McAfee, who were co-chairs of the planning department,” she said, explaining residents felt “collective neighbourhood discussions” were no longer happening.
Woodsworth said after the 2008 election the planning department continued to operate the same way and there continued to be “community reaction to spot zoning, high rises and STIR projects.”
“Some of it is questionable whether Brent Toderian should have worn those criticisms or whether the politicians who were driving eco-density or driving the STIR program should bear more of the responsibility,” Woodsworth added. “The planning department has certainly worn it.”
The city will be conducting an international search for a new director of planning and Klassen suspects it will be looking south of the border,
“This is such a significant hire that they will be looking for somebody in the mould of Sadhu Johnston, [so there’s] a high probability it will be from the United States and definitely they’ll be from the network that Joel Solomon, Gregor [Robertson] and Mike Magee come from—that whole social enterprise, very political, social change agenda group of folks.”