City of Vancouver's chief urban planner makes abrupt exit

Sep 18 2023, 6:11 pm

Just over two years ago, Theresa O’Donnell was appointed as the City of Vancouver’s director of planning and general manager of planning, urban design, and sustainability.

In a brief bulletin on Monday morning, the municipal government states her appointment has “concluded” effective today.

This follows last week’s Vancouver City Council decision to approve her team’s recommendations for the Missing Middle housing policy of enabling up to eight units on a single-family lot.

She also oversaw the Broadway Plan and Vancouver Plan planning processes.

O’Donnell first joined the municipal government in January 2019 as the Deputy Director of Planning, before becoming Gil Kelley’s permanent replacement as the chief planner starting in May 2021. Kelley also suddenly left the municipal government under the previous makeup of City Council.

“It has been a unique privilege to work with Theresa over the past four years. In addition to her technical expertise and incredible work ethic, I have deep respect for Theresa’s exemplary professionalism, her concern for team members, and her unfailing commitment to public service,” said City of Vancouver Manager Paul Mochrie in a statement.

Prior to 2019, she served various roles with the City of Dallas over the span of nearly two decades, including the director of planning, interim assistant city manager, and chief resilience officer.

She was also the director of planning and development for Las Vegas, Nevada and Arlington, Texas.

Doug Smith, who is currently the acting general manager of the planning department, will become the interim chief. The City will be initiating a search for a permanent replacement immediately.

The City’s financial statements show O’Donnell made $281,000 in 2022.

This is the second major departure in the City’s bureaucratic leadership during the ABC Vancouver party’s governance following Donnie Rosa’s departure from her role as the general manager of the Vancouver Park Board in May 2023. Rosa has since joined the Squamish First Nation as an executive director.

city of vancouver leadership team 2022 2

City of Vancouver leadership team, 2022. (City of Vancouver)

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City of Vancouver leadership flow chart, 2022. (City of Vancouver)

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