Ojai hires assistant planner to help with long-term projects

Aug. 13, 2013
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent

The city of Ojai hired Heather Waldstein July 12 as the new part-time assistant planner. Waldstein will be responsible for assisting with both long-range planning initiatives — like the state-mandated Housing Element — as well as processing planning applications. Waldstein will typically be in the Community Development office three days a week.
“The addition of the part-time city planner will allow the city to devote more resources to a multitude of planning and policy-related projects that are high priorities for the City Council and community, including the city’s neighborhood planning initiative, the 2014-2021 Housing Element Update, Historic Preservation projects and implementation of the city’s Complete Streets policy,” states a press release.
Waldstein, a resident of Woodland Hills, attended California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo and graduated from California Polytechnic University at Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning.
“When I was going to school in San Luis Obispo, it was very private sector-oriented. The curriculum was based on design and very developer-oriented. I knew that was something I was not interested in,” says Waldstein. “I enjoy working with residents, working with legislation, but also design. In the private sector, you’re more invested in the initial design; you don’t see the finished product.”
Waldstein has worked for the cities of Beverly Hills, Brea, Coachella, Oxnard, Santa Clarita, West Hollywood and the County of Ventura. She says it is Ojai’s small size and character that drew her to work here.
“I enjoy working for destination cities with character. I like small-town planning, where there is more planning, not sprawl,” Waldstein states. “I want to be part of the planning process, good planning, and I think Ojai is one of those cities.”
Waldstein says every city is different in terms of planning issues, from code enforcement to affordable housing, but she’d wager historic preservation is a priority for Ojai and its residents.
“This is a great community. There’s a lot of history here, and residents want to see that preserved, which basically takes good planning,” affirms Waldstein.
Her favorite project that she has been a part of thus far was completing the general plan update for the city of Brea, which she says was “comprehensive and exciting.” When approaching a project, Waldstein keeps the “end user” foremost in her mind.
“Usually the first thing I look at is the site plan and the circulation,” Waldstein says of analyzing a project proposal. “I look at, ‘Is it planned right? Is circulation easy?’”
In terms of Ojai’s hot-button issues of protecting its small-town feel vs. not creating too many constraints for a vital, dynamic city in the future, Waldstein believes appeasing both sides of the fence is definitely possible.
“Part of planning is taking everything into consideration,” she posits.
“We are very pleased to have Heather coming on board with the city,” said Rob Mullane, the city’s community development director until Aug. 22, when he will begin working in Carmel. City officials said they do not feel Mullane’s resignation will affect Waldstein’s ability to do her job, as an interim community development director will soon be put in place until a replacement can be found. Mullane voiced his support of Waldstein, saying she “Has an extensive background in both development review and long-range planning, and will be able to hit the ground running.”

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