City welcomes new planning director

  • Brooke Fisher<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:45am

When it was suggested that Joseph Tovar present the Critical Areas Ordinance to the City Council on his first day as Shoreline’s new planning director, he didn’t say no.

He just laughed.

Tovar, 54, is the city’s new planning and development services director. He succeeds Tim Stewart, who relocated with his wife in September to teach and conduct research in urban planning at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

“I am very enthusiastic about doing this job,” Tovar said. “It will take some amount of time to get to know the community and issues.”

Tovar has 30 years of experience in planning. He served as planning director for the city of Kirkland for 11 years, where he was involved in the implementation of plans for downtown design guidelines, business district revitalization, public access and public involvement.

He also was a member of the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board for Central Puget Sound, a position he held for 12 years after being appointed by the governor to two six-year terms. The three members of the board are responsible for hearing and determining disputes regarding compliance with goals of the state Growth Management Act.

Most recently, Tovar served as assistant city manager for strategic planning in Covington, Wash., for more than one year.

Tovar was interested in working for Shoreline because he said he has experience working for a new city. While employed for Covington, which is seven years old and smaller than Shoreline, he said he saw the city experience “growing pains.” He also said he was interested in working for a larger organization where he could manage more people.

“My role down there was to provide planning advice to staff and Council,” Tovar said. “But I didn’t mange any people.”

Tovar helped the city of Covington comply with the state Growth Management Act, as well as solve annexation issues, which were done under the authority of the state Growth Management Act, he said.

One issue Tovar hopes to address in Shoreline is the Critical Areas Ordinance, which the City Council is currently evaluating. The Council has asked him to review the documents and come up with recommendations, he said.

Tovar also hopes to address cottage housing and said both the Planning Commission and City Council have struggled with the issue. He said it is largely a “neighborhood fit” question.

“We need to look at the question of housing and housing choices and the situation here,” Tovar said, “and where cottage housing might fit into that.”

Born in Oakland, Calif., Tovar grew up in Orange County, and moved to Seattle in 1974 to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. Although he currently resides in Bellevue with his wife, they are looking to buy a house in the Shoreline vicinity.

“We are excited to welcome Joe to Shoreline,” said city manager Steve Burkett. “With his strong and varied background — especially in the area of the Growth Management Act — he brings a wealth of experience and depth to our city organization.”

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