City Appoints Director Of Planning & Building

Joanna Hankamer
Starts on Oct. 15

The city this week named a new director of planning and building, addressing one of the four departments that has been operating under interim leadership.

Joanna Hankamer, who formerly led West Hollywood’s capital and special projects team, will be taking the South Pasadena planning and building job as of Oct. 15, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe announced.

Hankamer will oversee the city’s land use and development regulations, land-use permits and long-range planning.

DeWolfe, the former city manager in West Hollywood before coming to South Pas two years ago, worked with Hankamer previously, and told the Review that the new hire is “a big-picture thinker’’ who is “great working with the community.”

“I think South Pasadena is a unique community, and we need somebody who can understand land development in a small town,’’ DeWolfe told the Review. “We need somebody who is beyond being a technician.’’

Hankamer takes over for interim Director David Bergman, who actually left in August. DeWolfe, with a background in planning, has been managing the planning and building department on an unofficial basis, along with staff, since Bergman’s departure, city spokesman John Pope said.

Bergman had been keeping the seat warm after David Watkins, the city’s previous full-time planning and building director, left in August 2018.

Watkins had been making between $100,000 and $134,000 annually, while Hankamer will be in the $118,000 to $158,000 range, according to Pope. Typically employees start at the low end and get step increases. The city releases only salary ranges, not specific pay in any step.

Hankamer was the survivor of a process that included two interview panels that screened eight candidates before recommending three finalists to DeWolfe.

DeWolfe made the final call.

DeWolfe’s announcement pointed out Hankamer’s experience as an urban planner “with extensive experience in community development, capital project management, design and construction.’’

“I’m very pleased to welcome Joanna Hankamer to our city team,” DeWolfe said in a release. “Her expertise, vision, leadership skills and collaborative approach make her an excellent fit for this important position.”

In West Hollywood, Hankamer led the city’s capital and special-projects team on a diverse program of projects, including Metro’s Crenshaw Northern Extension Light Rail line; a new Aquatic & Recreation Center; renovation of West Hollywood Park; and streetscape improvements with new public gathering spaces in the City’s Design District.

“I am a big believer in the value of collaboration and community partnerships to realize a shared, public vision,” Hankamer said in a statement released by the city. “I am excited to engage with South Pasadena residents, businesses, staff and city leadership to strengthen and implement the community’s best vision  for itself.”

Prior to West Hollywood, Hankamer worked for the City of Santa Monica, where, according to DeWolfe’s  announcement, “she implemented the city’s design vision for the Expo Line to ensure integration of the light rail line into the existing urban fabric.’’

Also, the announcement said, “She managed the creation of iconic public spaces for Downtown Santa Monica, including the Downtown Station, plaza, and complementary Colorado Esplanade Project with enhanced wayfinding and streetscape improvements.

Before her public-sector work, Hankamer was managing principal for the landscape design firm Nancy Goslee Power & Associates. She holds a Master of Architecture degree from UCLA, a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from USC, and a degree in Art History from Tufts University.

Meanwhile, the city’s finance and community services departments, as well as the library, are still being run by interim managers.

Pope, the city spokesman, told the Review last week that the city planned to begin recruiting a new permanent finance director as soon as the planning and building position was locked down.

The permanent library director’s position could be filled from within. The library is being run by interim director Cathy Billings, the former assistant librarian, who took over after Steve Fjeldsted announced his retirement in June. In July, Billings told the Review she was hoping to be considered for the permanent director’s job.