City Hall insider may be tapped to replace popular commissioner 

  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Richard Hillis

Mayor Ed Lee’s nomination of an experienced San Francisco development planner to sit on The City’s powerful Planning Commission appears headed to confirmation after the nominee received glowing praise from supervisors and community groups.

A Board of Supervisors committee unanimously forwarded Rich Hillis’ appointment to the full board on Wednesday. Hillis could replace another well-liked commissioner, Ron Miguel, whom Lee declined to re-appoint for unspecified reasons.

“I would’ve stayed, yes, but it’s entirely up to him,” Miguel said. “We had a very nice conversation regarding it.”
Miguel, who turns 81 next month, said Lee has asked him “to remain active within city government.” He continues work on an advisory committee for the rebuilding of Market Street.

“The mayor appreciates and thanks Ron Miguel for his service,” said Lee spokeswoman Christine Falvey, when asked about the decision not to re-appoint him. Planning Department Director John Rahaim added that “everyone greatly admired Ron for his commitment to the commission and the Planning Department, his strong work ethic and balanced judgment.”

Miguel, a former commission president appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2008, is considered a pragmatic, thoughtful, pro-development commissioner.

“Cities are not static,” Miguel said. “I understand how neighborhoods think and they get a little scared of change, but you really have to take a longer view than, ‘Something’s going to tear up a street next year.’ And that’s been my attitude straight through.”

His proposed replacement has worked for The City for 15 years, serving four mayoral administrations, primarily on land use and economic development issues. He was the point man for the planned Treasure Island redevelopment project and the development of Octavia Boulevard, and he recently served on the Board of Appeals.

Hillis garnered praise from both developers and neighborhood and affordable housing groups for his knowledge of both planning issues and City Hall mechanics, and his willingness to listen to community members and achieve practical solutions.

Supervisor David Campos called Hillis an “excellent appointment.”

“I couldn’t think of a better candidate,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell. Supervisor Jane Kim called Hillis “incredibly diligent,” and attentive to community members. Her only concern was a lack of diversity on a commission tasked with overseeing important development projects, many of them in minority neighborhoods.

Ken Cleaveland of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco said he was disappointed Miguel was not re-appointed by the mayor.

“He was a very thoughtful and productive member of the commission,” Cleaveland said. He added that Hillis would be “a great addition.”

“He’s a practical guy and I like that,” Cleaveland said. “I think the business community supports decision-making from a practical standpoint, without ideology clouding their vision.”

Rich Hillis

  • Executive director of the Fort Mason Center, a nonprofit arts and cultural center in the Marina
  • Served on Board of Appeals from February through July 2012
  • Former deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development
  • M.A. in public policy analysis, University of Chicago

Source: Mayor’s Office

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