After 19 years with the City of Richmond, Planning and Building Services Director Richard Mitchell will retire effective December 30, 2018.
In the 45 years I have lived in Richmond, Mitchell is by far the best planning director Richmond has had, probably the best ever, and he will be missed.
Michell started with the Richmond Redevelopment Agency in 1999 and was appointed planning director in 2005 by former City Manager Bill Lindsay. Richard is a Richmond native who graduated from Kennedy High School in 1969. He holds a B.A. in Economics and Urban Design from Harvard University and a Master’s Degree in Planning and Development Studies from the University of Southern California. Mitchell also completed a number of courses in redevelopment, planning and real estate development under the California Redevelopment Association, the University of California Extension, the California Center for Land Recycling, the Urban land Institute, the Planner’s Institute and Contra Costa College. Richard has an employment background that spans both the public and private sector including assignments in planning and land use consulting, business development, employee relations, production and distribution for both local and Fortune 500 companies. He also once taught math and English at Richmond’s Kennedy High School.
What has made Richard unique is his persistence in pursuing quality in Richmond’s built environment. For decades, Richmond had been a dumping ground for bad projects of bottom feeding developers. Richard raised the bar, embraced historic preservation, smart growth and new urbanism, and either discouraged poorly designed projects or worked with developers to make them much better. Under his watch, Richmond adopted the General Plan 2030 and the new zoning ordinance to go with it, both aggressively pro-growth documents that also encourage quality and sustainability.
Under his tenure, significant projects completed include the rehabilitation of the Civic Center, the Ford Assembly Building (Craneway) and the Richmond Plunge as well as several new housing projects and the Chevron Refinery modernization.
Richard has a reputation for being hard on developers, but those who have persisted acknowledge that his intervention typically resulted in better and more successful projects.
One thing we will miss most is Richard’s talent in impressionistic imitations of various people. We have all been victims, but especially woe to the developer who has earned a Richard Mitchell parody. He has a future in comedy if he gets bored with retirement.