British Columbia

Vancouver council fires chief planner Brent Toderian

Vancouver's high-profile planning director Brent Toderian has been fired, officials at city hall have confirmed.
Vancouver has fired the man behind many of its recent planning concepts, such as laneway housing 2:16

Vancouver's high-profile planning director Brent Toderian has been fired, officials at city hall have confirmed.

The dismissal was formally approved by city council Tuesday morning and confirmed in a unsigned news release.

"Following due consideration, it has been determined that it is an appropriate time for a change in leadership in the planning department," said the statement issued by the city's communications department.

According media reports, Toderian was told last week his contract would be terminated without cause. Toderian was appointed six years ago by then-mayor Sam Sullivan, in part to implement his eco-density strategy for the city.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the dismissal had nothing to do with Toderian's ability or style, but instead just wasn't the right fit for the job.

"This is really about looking forward and looking at the challenges the city faces, especially around housing affordability and looking at economic development and the priorities of the city," Robertson said.

"Council felt that it's important to have some new leadership and new direction to get that job done."

Robertson said Toderian was let go at the recommendation of city manager Penny Ballem.

'If Brent couldn't do it, I don't know who could'

Local planner Michael Geller says he was not surprised to hear Toderian will be dismissed.

"He was unpopular with many developers. He was also unpopular with many community groups. One of his famous quotes is, 'Being the director of planning is not a popularity contest.' With that attitude, ultimately, it is just a matter of time," said Geller.

In a recent interview with CBC News, Toderian spoke of the pressure he felt to open up new land in the city to developers.

"There is continuous pressure, because of the challenges of finding new sites for easy residential development, there is continuous pressure to use our industrial lands," he said.

But former Vancouver senior planner Neal Lamontagne says Toderian faced the difficult task of improving affordability and density, while satisfying developers.

"If Brent couldn't do it, I don't know who could. I always thought Brent had exceptional instincts, of understanding what the demands were and still maintaining that respect for good urbanism. So I don't know who else could do it better than Brent could," said Lamontagne.

Larry Beasley, a former Vancouver planning director, said Toderian's dismissal goes with the job, adding the city needs a strong personality at the head of the department.

"You have to have a planner who speaks his or her mind, that tells the council what it needs to hear and talks to the public constantly and regularly and that is really what matters the most about this," he said.

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