New Planning Director Bill Fulton ‘s early days in San Diego have coincided with one of the city’s most notorious scandals but he says there’s been plenty else to keep him occupied since his arrival.
Fulton, the former Ventura mayor and national planning expert, has been tasked with leading the city’s reconstituted planning department.
Since he took the post in early July, he’s been getting to know San Diego and etching out how the city’s planning efforts should look under his watch.
Fulton sat down with Scott Lewis at Politifest on Saturday and answered questions about his first month leading the city’s yet-to-be formalized planning department.
Here are some excerpts from that conversation.
On whether his efforts are slowed by the scandal surrounding Mayor Bob Filner:
Fulton said Filner’s decision to name former County Administrator Walt Ekard  as the city’s interim chief operating officer has ensured business keeps moving.
“If anything, we’ve actually upped our game, recognizing that in the emerging planning department that we really are moving forward and I’m really excited,” he said.
Why he’s stuck with his new job despite the upheaval:
Denise Montgomery, the new head of the city’s arts commission, resigned  late last month after just weeks on the job. She said she couldn’t remain part of the Filner administration.
Lewis asked why Fulton decided to stay.
“The mayor asked me to come and be a line department head with hundreds of employees,” Fulton said. “I made that commitment to the mayor, I made that commitment to the people who work in the planning department and I made that commitment to 1.3 million people. I’m prepared to move forward. The reassuring thing for me is there are 10,000 people who work for the city of San Diego who come to work every day to try to make a better city for everyone who lives here and works here. I’ve made that same commitment to my staff of people who work for me, the people in the neighborhoods and the people of this city because the challenges and the opportunities that I was presented with when I chose to take this job, those are unchanged.
Why communities should work with planners rather than simply oppose growth and development:
“In my experience of 30 years in California, what I have found is that when a community tries to deny that growth is going to occur, that backfires and that is not as useful as understanding that some growth will occur and figuring out how to manage it to the community or neighborhood’s advantage,” Fulton said. “To simply deny that it’s gonna happen usually means it’s gonna happen anyway and it doesn’t happen as well as it could.”
How the city’s infrastructure backlog will affect his plans:
“If we are going to put additional growth in the right locations in the neighborhoods, mostly in transit-rich locations around the city, we’re gonna have to address the infrastructure problem as well,” Fulton said. “Remember that although developers can pay their fair share of infrastructure that is required by their development they can not legally be required to cover the deficit that already exists.”
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