Ann Gardner | Via Latina
|Kathy Garcia at busy desk.
Photo Ann Gardner
Almost ten years ago Kathleen Garcia, Principal Landscape Architect at a prestigious planning and design firm in San Diego for over 25 years, was ready for a new challenge, and many of the skills she had were needed when Del Mar wanted to fill its vacant Planning and Community Development Director position. When former City Manager Karen Brust hired “Kathy” in November 2010 she was looking for someone who could kick start “priority projects” that were being pushed to the back burner by development permits, e.g. 183 last year.
Kathy discussed those priorities when we met before she is retiring at the end of this month. Village revitalization, the Fairgrounds Master Plan EIR review, review for a temporary train platform at the Fairgrounds and revision to our Parking Ordinance were on the list. The new Director would also be responsible for day to day permit applications, monthly Design Review Board and Planning Commission meetings, ongoing building permits and clean water, i.e. keeping pollutants out of storm water.
Kathy had lots of experience pulling together resources to implement projects. What was new, she recalls, was being part of local governance. “In my consultant role once a project was completed we were no longer part of the community. As Planning Director in a municipality we stay involved after the project is done. And, of course, municipal financing was a new learning experience for me.”
And, she said, her last six weeks will be “chock full.” “We’re working on the EIR and Economic Report for Mirasol as well as the requested 9212 report. We also have our housing actions…in order to meet our (State) mandate. There is a lot to get underway and to finish up as much as possible. That is fairly typical; we have a fast-paced work program and many Council priorities to accomplish. That’s what keeps the job stimulating!”
Landscape design was Kathy’s interest from an early age. She got both her degrees in Landscape Architecture, at Berkeley and Harvard. During the latter she interned with Benjamin Thompson Associates, an offshoot of The Architects Collaborative and one of the most notable firms in post-war modernism that supported sustainable design. During her time as a Principal Landscape Architect in San Diego’s private sector, she worked on the planning of many of the UCSD neighborhoods, but her favorite was “the BIG (Beach Improvement Group) project in Santa Monica which included the design of Palisades Park along the bluffs and the promenade along the beach, including the original Muscle Beach.”
After retirement she will continue as a lecturer in the Urban Studies and Planning Program for sustainable planning at UCSD and in her participation with the Landscape Architecture Foundation that provides scholarships for landscape architects to create a more sustainable future.
Garcia credits her staff, in fact all City Hall staff, with the talent, hard work and staying power to accomplish the City Council’s goals. “It’s very refreshing to work in Del Mar where the staff is empowered to be their best, to being part of a solution. Del Mar is a mighty small city,” she says adding: “I want to thank the community for welcoming me, for sharing opinions, for participating…for coming along for the ride.”