Leadership changes signal shift in city planning


In July, Brian Jackson, the City’s General Manager of Planning and Development Services, announced his retirement. Jackson left in November after holding the position for 3-1/2 years. In September, City Council concluded Penny Ballem’s service as City Manager, a position she held almost seven years.

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Potential Significance

Brian Jackson’s departure was seen as an opportunity for a new approach to city planning.

Many observers expressed the hope that the change in leadership would be a turning point leading to a planning director who listened to and worked with planners, architects and urban thinkers in the community. For some, the prospect of new leadership occasioned discussion about the current lack of vision and planning in the City’s planning department as well as the top-down approach to planning, and fuelled calls for a city-wide plan.
Some considered Penny Ballem’s dismissal as a response to criticism of City Council’s approach to public engagement, described by some as ‘tone-deaf.’


On July 24, 2012, the City of Vancouver appointed Brian J. Jackson as General Manager, Planning and Development Services, replacing former Director of Planning Brent Toderian. His tenure was marked by public opposition to proposed tower developments in the Grandview Woodland plan, adjacent to the waterfront and downtown. In a speech before leaving, Jackson was critical of ‘haters’ in the community and former city planners who had spoken out on planning-related issues.

Penny Bellum was appointed in December 2008, after Vision Vancouver won a majority on City Council. She succeeded former city manager Judy Rogers. She has been praised for her adept handling of the financial problems associated with the Olympic Village development and was criticized for being a micro-manager.


Bula, Frances (2015, July 26). “Vancouver’s chief city planner to step down”. The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/vancouvers-chief-city-planner-to-step-down/article25715227/

Smith, Charlie (2015, July 27. “Vancouver’s top planner, Brian Jackson, announces retirement after three-year tenure marked by controversy”. The Georgia Straight. http://www.straight.com/news/496491/vancouvers-top-planner-brian-jackson-announces-retirement-after-three-year-tenure-marked

City of Vancouver (2015, September 15). “Mayor and City Council announce senior leadership transition at City Hall.” http://vancouver.ca/news-calendar/mayor-and-city-council-announce-senior-leadership-transition-at-city-hall.aspx

Bula, Frances (2015, September 15 ). “City manager Penny Ballem is gone; internal staff memo here ”. http://www.francesbula.com/uncategorized/city-manager-penny-ballem-is-gone-internal-staff-memo-here/

On The Coast, CBC News (2015, September 21). “Vancouver city planner Brian Jackson fires back at critics”. CBC. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-city-planner-brian-jackson-fires-back-at-critics-1.3235136

Gold, Kerry Gold (2015, November 4). “Outgoing Vancouver chief planner Brian Jackson speaks out: BCB exclusive”. BC Business. http://www.bcbusiness.ca/people/outgoing-vancouver-chief-planner-brian-jackson-speaks-out-bcb-exclusive

Link to more 2015 emerging milestones