Planning Director's Unforgettable Achievements

Hometown Hero: Eileen Fogarty

Friday, 25 Mar 2011, 6:33:00 PM

Susan Cloke

Susan Cloke, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Susan Cloke, Columnist

“Values frame opportunities,” said Eileen Fogarty, speaking of why she came to Santa Monica in 2006 to lead the City through the process of creating a new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE). The LUCE, adopted to acclaim this year, is now part of Santa Monica's General Plan and will guide development and planning in Santa Monica for twenty years to come.

Fogarty said her introduction to Santa Monica was one of “a community where the people had a commitment to the social well being of all its residents, an interest in the City as a whole, and a commitment to sustainability. It was important to me that it was a progressive community. These values give a positive flavor to a community and I knew I would be expected and allowed to be creative and innovative.”

Santa Monica’s City Council offered Fogarty the job as Director of Planning and Community Development after an extensive search and after ensuring she had the experience and the skills to build relationships with the neighborhood and business communities in Santa Monica and to lead the City through an inclusive and transparent planning process.

Before coming to Santa Monica, Fogarty was the Director of Planning in Alexandria, Va., which she describes as "a combination of prime real estate and residents who love and care deeply about their town. I found in Santa Monica the same kind of sophisticated, educated community and people who are passionate about their quality of life.”

When asked what she hopes and expects from Santa Monica in the future, Fogarty said, “The long–term health of the City depends on the continued involvement of the community.

“Conservation of neighborhoods is a top priority. We need a proactive community to identify character and have greater control over neighborhood decisions. We need a community that continues to remain integrally involved in every project to ensure projects fit into context, scale, and neighborhood character.

“Implementing all the strategies in the LUCE for getting around town easily is also a priority. Any new development will be subject to very aggressive transportation demand strategies which will create opportunities for funding/construction contributions to downtown, such as Exposition Light Rail Station benefits, having large employers make it viable for their employees to come to work on Expo, and wider sidewalks, street trees, bike amenities – all of the connections talked about in the LUCE. In the neighborhoods it will be green streets, bike paths, street trees, protection of neighborhood character, and preservation and reuse of buildings.”

When asked about what the LUCE means for the person living in Santa Monica, Fogarty said, “I’m planning to still be living here when the plans we’ve made begin to become a reality.

“I would walk or bike most places. I wouldn’t need to get into the car to get around Santa Monica. I’ll be able to go to art events at the exciting Bergamot neighborhood with its open space and its farmer’s market and special character. Getting to downtown L.A. will also be easy on Expo.”

With the completion of the LUCE, Fogarty feels it is time for her to work on new projects. She submitted her official resignation letter to City Manager Rod Gould on March 4, 2011, although she plans to work here through the end of spring to help prepare for the work to implement the LUCE.

Fogarty called leaving the job a “very hard decision because I’m very involved in every project and I’m so attached to this community and it was hard for me to make a decision. I think pragmatically and objectively it is the right one and the right time.”

Fogarty gives great credit to her parents for her concepts about good cities and about working with people in communities. She grew up on the Jersey Shore in Seaside Heights, a much smaller town than Santa Monica, and also in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Even as a child growing up I could see the beautiful towns and the towns that had been neglected and had deteriorated and I could see the cycles of neighborhoods and communities,” remembers Fogarty.

Her dad worked for Con Edison and was a union leader. Her mom was a Quaker and took her to demonstrations against the Polaris submarines. “As a kid I was embarrassed – other kids’ families had a Cadillac in the garage and my family had a house full of Freedom Riders. But it was my parents’ commitment to standing up for what you believe in that stayed with me,” Fogarty stated.

Fogarty and her husband, the artist John Clendening, originally met on an East Coast beach. They both have a tremendous love for the beach and the small town feeling that comes from living in a beach community. “One of the greatest draws for us is the beach. I swim in the ocean, especially in the summer, and I’m looking forward to doing more swimming,” said Eileen Fogarty.

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