The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is earnestly preparing for significant departmental changes in the New Year. As we reported in June, the department will be split in half at the behest of Mayor Ed Murray. Comprehensive, long-range, and code development planning work will be housed in the newly created Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), a new unit within the Mayor’s Office. Meanwhile, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) will be formed from the permitting and development review, construction and rental housing inspections, code compliance, and tenant protection competencies of today’s DPD. SDCI will also retain a small group for code development.
The Mayor had intended the OPCD to be a broad planning group with experts from nearly all current City departments and offices. The Mayor’s stated goal in the organizational change was to integrate all city priorities and enhance coordination on how the city grows and invests. However, the initial direction has changed, and now the group will essentially consist of current staffers within the City Planning Division of DPD. Still, the office will directly collaborate between other departments and offices to align planning policies and goals, investments, and implementation. The relationship with SDCI will also be very strong with staffers from both groups working very closely. Leading up to the changes, Director Diane Sugimura has been instrumental in implementing the organizational split, at the request of the Mayor.
Sugimura is staying on in an interim management role until the OPCD director position has been filled. She plans to retire sometime in 2016, leaving a lifetime’s legacy behind in city planning. Sugimura has contributed 38 years of service to the City — 14 years of those as DPD director. Meanwhile, Nathan Torgelson has taken the helm as Director of the new SDCI. His appointment was confirmed on December 11th by the City Council, and summarily sworn in the same day by the Mayor. Torgelson had already been Deputy Director of DPD, making him a natural successor.[…]