CITY HALL — David Martin is “acting” planning director no more.

City Manager Rod Gould announced Thursday that Martin would be taking over as the official Planning Director after proving his ability to lead the department over the preceding 10 weeks since his predecessor, Eileen Fogarty, retired.

“The decision came out of a competitive process,” Gould said. “We received applications from all over the country, but we didn’t find the right person.”

Martin successfully brought together the department after Fogarty’s departure, and has already waded through several contentious development agreement float ups and hearings in the last few weeks.

His great challenge now will be dealing with all the developments that waited in the eaves while Fogarty helped guide the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the general plan into fruition.

When Fogarty came on, Gould said, the LUCE process was in shambles.

“The city was four years into the LUCE and getting nowhere,” Gould said. “It was badly scattered and divided. It wasn’t clear that everyone could get together to put together a plan.”

In the meantime, developments bottled up, waiting for the LUCE to be finished so that they wouldn’t have to change course mid-design, potentially costing a great deal of money and frustration.

Now that the LUCE is in place, Martin and the Planning Department will have to take the guiding document and develop specific codes and policies, including a comprehensive zoning code and master plan to guide development for the city.

Martin is “the exact right person” to make that happen, Gould said.

“It’s a daunting job in Santa Monica, leading the Planning and Community Development Department,” Gould said, “but I think David is up to it.”

Martin could not be reached for comment.

Martin’s appointment brings cautious optimism from community leaders, who have been impressed with his openness to listening to their concerns, but not thrilled with his execution.

Jeanne Dodson, chair of the Neighborhood Council, said that people were taken aback at the ease by which the Hines Development Company’s 766,000-square-foot proposal for the Bergamot Transit Village passed through the Planning Commission and City Council.

“That was the first big project to come out under his leadership, and there were a lot of people who felt that it could have been more strongly backing the community,” Dodson said. “There are some reservations there.”

Since becoming the acting director, Martin has met with community leaders and talked to them about development in the city. Another such meeting is scheduled for the coming week.

That willingness gives the community hope.

“The best you can hope for is to have open communication to talk about all sides of the issue,” Dodson said. “It seems he’s willing to do that.”

Martin is no stranger to City Hall.

Most recently, he acted as the deputy planning director between 2009 and 2011. Prior to that, he served as assistant to the city manager as the business ombudsman.

Martin worked in the Planning Department from 1990 to 1999 as first an associate and then senior planner.

He left the public sector temporarily to serve as the vice president of the CIM Group, a real estate fund management firm.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Cal Poly.

As planning director, Martin will earn a base salary of $173,712 per year. He will oversee 103 employees and a $15.8 million budget.

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