Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

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Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director
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Source: City of Santa Barbara

The City Council has approved the City Administrator’s appointment of Elias Isaacson as Community Development Director, following a nationwide recruitment process. He is an architect and currently serves as the Planning and Land Use Director for the City of Santa Fe. As Community Development Director, he will oversee planning and development services, building and safety, and housing and human services. The Community Development Department is comprised of 77 employees with a budget totaling $16 million. 

Mr. Isaacson joined the City of Santa Fe in 2018, and has led the Planning and Land Use Department since 2019 where he managed 65 employees and implemented the City’s land use, development, and growth management policies. Under his leadership, he streamlined internal procedures and adopted innovative practices and policies despite budget constraints. With the pandemic, they shifted core planning and permitting functions to a completely digital “e-government” model. He also served as Planning and Land Use Director and Interim City Manager for the City of Espanola where he managed the drafting and implementation of a new Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Code revision. Prior to his municipal service, he started a real estate development consulting firm, performing work in the US and abroad. He also has experience working with an architecture firm preparing design and construction documents for the restoration of historic residential properties.

He received a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Wisconsin, a Master’s degree in Urban Design and Development from University of Pennsylvania, and a Master’s degree in Architecture from the University of New Mexico. He is a member of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Elias Isaacson said, “I am very excited to join the great team at the City of Santa Barbara, and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.”

According to City Administrator Paul Casey, “Elias will bring the experience and design background that are needed to move the department forward during this pivotal time. I’m confident that he will be a great addition to our leadership team.”

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PitMix Jun 10, 2021 07:06 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

BUS, they have to do that, or they get accused of nepotism or cronyism or some other ism. The lesson for any current employees is they have to start job hopping to other cities if they want to eventually get the big prize.

RHS Jun 08, 2021 06:26 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

This is ridiculous. Were there not competent people in the department? Do we want to look like Santa Fe? Hiring a person so unfamiliar with the Santa Barbara environment (Wisconsin?) is bizarre. Does the city want to constantly stress its regular employees with such outside influences? We need a serious revision on city management.

biguglystick Jun 09, 2021 01:00 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

I agree wholeheartedly! Not only that, but we do NOT need more out of towners moving here when we already face a crippling housing crisis! UGHHHHH. Let the city government stay LOCAL. FFS.

ChillinGrillin Jun 08, 2021 07:56 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

I have yet to see justification for hiring out-of-towners to senior positions at the City. Police Chief Luhnow flopped despite having an excellent department. Bob Samario was a creepy disaster. Now he's collecting retirement from the taxpayers while doing his old job for a native tribe. Must be nice to make two salaries after resigning in disgrace. Paul Casey is quite possibly the city administrator in CA who has done the least with the most resources at his disposal. It's too bad the GOP in California is a group of loony incompetents, our local hacks need some legitimate competition.

Byzantium Jun 09, 2021 09:10 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

Every recent election there has been sound competition candidates for the non-partisan city council. It was the "loony, hack" voters who kept siding with the local Democrat political machine candidates and refused to risk anyone who did not come with full city employee union endorsements. Give all independent candidates a fair hearing, because we have a city to save. Bring a new balance of viewpoints; not just canned, partisan agendas to the critical discussions our city needs to undertake: budget; crime; administrative overhead; funding priorities, vagrancy, city infrastructure, public safety and general consensus about future of the city in pragmatic terms - not partisan futuristic ideology.

Byzantium Jun 10, 2021 09:49 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

it is also about vacancies, pending vacancies and in-house career ladders. Key positions in prime locations only come up infrequently so sometimes one has to jump when the opportunity presents itself since it can be often a long time waiting for an opening to happen again in the more desirable locations - we pay well and this is pleasant place to live and work. Not as blatantly corrupt as other localities. Public administration is a unique career niche.

salsa guy Jun 09, 2021 08:58 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

Let me ask this, you work at the CDD for a number of years, your reviews are fantastic, you are promoted and given additional resonsibitlites, you have lived in the community for a number of years, but when it comes time for your ultimate advancement your are passed over. Why ? Why does the City, as well as the county, spend our dollars making sure that their employees are the best only to be passed over in favor of someone from outside the area? If these employees are routinely passed over for positions because they are not qualified, why are they still employed -let them go look at Santa Fe, I hear there's an opening. This nationwide search is a joke. As an aside what kind of moving and housing incentive is this going to cost? Is the new guy going to work for less money while he has on the job training? City leadership starts at the top, get rid of the current city council next time around

Byzantium Jun 10, 2021 09:38 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

"Equity" demands you do a nationwide search to widen the pool of candidates and avoid charges of in-house cronyism or demographic in-breeding. Price of doing business today to help insure, at least on the surface, an equal opportunity hiring process. However, job descriptions can also be tailored so only a pre-chosen applicant is the only one who qualifies. Hiring top officials at best is a murky process with competing agendas, as we have recently seen. Ultimately it is your elected city council members who make these directional decisions, and give final guidance to the process. We do need fresh new perspectives on cost containment and administrative efficiencies. We are not getting anyone with that perspective on the current council. None, let alone a definitive majority with more practical, and less ideological, viewpoints about doing the city's business..

biguglystick Jun 09, 2021 12:58 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

WHY on God's green earth would the City of Santa Barbara hire from OUTSIDE our city? Surely we have many qualified LOCAL people who not only KNOW our city, but will do a great job. This is the kind of rubbish that really makes me angry!!! WHAT THE HECK? WHO decided to search outside our city? Keep it LOCAL.

Byzantium Jun 09, 2021 03:22 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

Zillow Santa Fe NM housing prices and inventory - I suspect he knows well what he is up against. Premium locations outside of California also have premium prices. Santa Fe is a very desirable location. In fact, home to many former Santa Barbara residents who wanted to leave some of the recent and growing Santa Barbara problems behind.

PitMix Jun 10, 2021 07:10 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

The unfortunate reality of bureaucracies is that almost all employees get good reviews, because it is near impossible to fire anyone, and if you give a negative review, you are just saddled with a disgruntled employee that you can't get rid of. So reviews are almost useless in terms of evaluating past performance. Almost everyone gets recommended for "merit" increases each year. But if you are looking at a high level employee from another jurisdiction, and they managed to implement some good programs and have good personal and professional references and get along well with others, that is a pretty good sign.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jun 10, 2021 08:08 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

Dont confuse local government for anything but a bureaucratic cesspool. If you're good at what you do you DO NOT WORK in local government. The ONLY people who work in local government are mediocre or worse, overly educated 'academics' who spent 20 years in school in order to learn how to outsource the actual work to capable professionals. This is just a fact of life. No one with ambition or drive or intelligence higher than the mean, works for small city government. No one. So instead of the best, or even slightly better than avg. we're left with self serving mediocrity that thrives in a bureaucratic environment built to only serve the needs of the bureaucracy... And that's one of the big reasons why our city spends more than others and gives us less than any other. We're overtaxed, over staffed and over managed and yet our city is still faltering and flaying. Decades of bad management, ever increasing taxes and expenses should make people wonder if we're on the right track. But does it? Nope.

PitMix Jun 10, 2021 02:32 PM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

My experience is a good number of the employees that actually do the work are efficient and do the best job they are allowed within the system. The problems come from management who have learned to win by increasing their budgets and number of people supervised because that is what the game looks like to them. Also because sycophants get promoted, not necessarily the person who would help improve things. And private corps have the same problems so it is unfair to pick on public agencies only. It is just the human condition.

Byzantium Jun 27, 2021 08:48 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

A quarter million a year plus compensation package, including a lavish pension for life, is an adequate draw for many talented persons who choose public employment. In fact it is the best and perhaps only way to "afford living in Santa Barbara, as the website Transparent California amply explains.

Bob Wilson Jun 10, 2021 09:35 AM
Santa Barbara Appoints New Community Development Director

An architect. Most certainly pro development. He’ll help fast track high density projects, AUDs, and most anything the architect good old boy club wants to do. He’ll help continue the ruin Santa Barbara.

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