Fired Vancouver planning director knew one week before news broke

Brent Toderian says it 'takes two to tango' at city hall

Brent Toderians biggest disappointment about being fired is that he couldnt tell planning staff at city hall that he had been terminated before reports hit the national and morning news.

The former director of planning knew for a week that he was being terminated but couldnt say a word until city council made the final decision at an in camera meeting Jan. 31.

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I loved working at the city, Toderian said Feb. 1. And Im very proud of the team that Ive rebuilt and they are extremely talented and creative people. And Im very proud of the legacy of planning Ive done.

Toderian spoke to the Courier during a break from work at the city, where he volunteered to help the planning department with its transition until the end of the week. He said he was gratified his termination was without cause. He was told he was fired because of fit and alignment, but he believes getting the boot was about management style.

He wouldnt specify whose style was involved, adding, It takes two to tango.

Toderian says hes always considered relationships to be important but as director he had to make tough decisions.

If you listen to developers, youre accused of being in their pocket, and if you listen to communities, youre accused by the developer of pandering to NIMBYs.

Toderian came to the city from Calgary in 2006 when former mayor Sam Sullivan and his NPA council were pushing controversial initiatives including EcoDensity. But Toderian said hes proud of EcoDensity, noting the city is about to approve its 500th laneway house since bylaws were changed in 2009.

Hes happy to have contributed to greenest city initiatives and planning work for Northeast False Creek, worked to protect land for job creation, created new view corridors in the city while approving tall towers, encouraged denser development along Cambie Street and more varied architecture in Vancouver and for bringing an ideas competition about future plans for the viaducts to the city.

Toderian is particularly proud of the recently approved Telus development downtown, which he says maintains jobs in the city centre, includes extra density for developers who protected heritage structures elsewhere, will see the creation of a new downtown park and incorporates interesting architecture.

I think very highly of Ian Gillespie [of developer Westbank Projects] and [architect] Greg Henriquez, Toderian said.

Larry Beasley, Former co-director of planning for the city, said Toderian, who was hired at age 36, did a competent job working through trying times that included budget and staffing freezes and losses of senior staff.

Beasley believes the city fired Toderian because it wants to focus on housing affordability and its green agenda. Both of those take a very subtle, diplomatic negotiator and a person who really, really, with a great experience, builds public-private partnerships and teams, he said.

The city is conducting an international search for a new director of planning.

Beasley says Toderians successor should enjoy negotiation and public engagement. Again, thats going back to a tradition which was a deep one in the planning department, but became a little vague over the last few years, he said.

Toderian plans to remain in Vancouver with his new wife. Hes investigating establishing his own urbanism practice. He received a years salary, approximately $201,000, in severance.

The city refused to comment on its decision beyond a press release and Vision Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertsons media scrum Jan. 31

crossi@vancourier.com

Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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