Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Vancouver appoints chief planner after six-month vacancy

Josh White appointed general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability; position of director of planning remains open
Josh White has been appointed as the permanent chief planner, also known as the general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability.

After roughly half a year without a captain at the helm, Vancouver has appointed a new chief planner.

Josh White will be taking on the role of general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability (PDS) following the September 2023 departure of Theresa O’Donnell. She also served as the director of planning.

Matt Shilito will continue to serve as director of planning until a permanent appointment is made, said the city in an email to BIV.

He’ll report to White, whose new job sees him leading “the overall operation, administration and policy-related aspects of the department,” according to the city.

“The director of planning has regulatory and discretionary responsibilities delegated by council, including overseeing rezoning enquiries and applications and development permits.”

White previously served as Calgary’s co-chief planner, and director of city and regional planning.

“Josh has a wealth of experience leading innovative change in the urban planning realm across Canada and a strong record of responding to the many challenges facing growing cities today,” Vancouver city manager Paul Mochrie said in the March 20 announcement.

Vancouver was left without a chief planner at a time when a cascade of new provincial housing legislation was introduced and local initiatives were enacted to expand the number of units allowed on lots previously reserved for single-family homes or duplexes.

“Vancouver is experiencing tremendous growth, and I’m committed to leading the city in managing this growth, as it continues its transformation and standing as one of the world's most livable, sustainable and inclusive cities,” said White in a statement.

The announcement comes almost a week after the city revealed general manager of development, buildings and licensing Andrea Law will retire May 17, making way for colleague Corrie Okell to take over.

During his time in Calgary, White “stewarded the adoption of a new housing strategy” and led the adoption of simpler planning policies and regulations, according to March 20 announcement.

“In White’s tenure at the City of Calgary, he also initiated and led the significant transformation of the development approvals system, which resulted in improved planning outcomes, benchmarked as among the most efficient in Canada,” said the announcement.

White has held various positions with the City of Calgary since 2019. He starts his new position in Vancouver on May 1.

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University's City Program, said White would benefit from taking the time to “understand the 22 distinct areas in the City of Vancouver, as well as the long history of community and urban planning." 

"It's particularly important for somebody from who isn't from Vancouver or hasn't come through the system,” he said.

[email protected]