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Mayor nominates Sam Assefa to lead Office of Planning and Community Development

Mayor Ed Murray announced he is nominating Sam Assefa – the senior urban designer for the City of Boulder, Colorado – as the next director of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD).

Prior to Boulder, Assefa served as Director of Land Use and Planning Policy for the City of Chicago, and as a deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Richard Daley.

“Sam Assefa brings leadership and a holistic approach to urban planning that integrates land use, transportation, design and sustainability,” Mayor Murray said. “Throughout his career, Sam has shown a passion for placemaking and a commitment to working with all communities to solve the challenges of growth. His experience will be invaluable to implementing our shared vision for building neighborhoods that are affordable, livable and equitable.”

OPCD was created to better integrate strategic planning across departments, while coordinating public investments in transportation, parks, housing and other areas.

Sam Assefa speaks at the Mayor's press conference.

Sam Assefa speaks at a press conference regarding Mayor Murray’s nomination as new Seattle OPCD director, March 9, 2016.

“I have always admired the City of Seattle for its natural beauty, innovative spirit and strong commitment to social justice,” Assefa said. “I am thrilled at this opportunity to help implement Mayor Murray’s vision for building thriving and vibrant communities through an integrated and equitable approach to city planning and community development.”

Since 2010, Assefa has worked for Boulder’s Department of Community Planning and Sustainability, where he was responsible for urban and building design policies and directed the City’s Sustainable Streets and Centers Program.

Prior to Chicago, he served the City of San Francisco as director of Special Projects for the Department of Planning and Development. He was responsible for the implementation of various urban design policies and redevelopment plans, including the Hunters Point Shipyard, the Trans Bay Center, Rincon Hill, and the Better Neighborhoods Program.

Assefa has a master’s degree in city planning from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He brings perspective as an immigrant to the United States, having fled Ethiopia as a teenager when his father was killed in a coup. In San Francisco, Assefa served on the city’s Immigrant Rights Commission.

Assefa, if confirmed by Seattle City Council, will replace Diane Sugimura, who has served as interim OPCD director since the new integrated planning agency launched January 1. Assefa is expected to start June 1, with an annual salary of $167,000.

“This is a very exciting time for Seattle — to have someone of Sam’s caliber, experience and talent coming to Seattle to lead the Mayor’s new Office of Planning and Community Development,” Sugimura said.  “I look forward to seeing great things happening as we grow toward becoming a more equitable city for all.”

“I am thrilled to join the Mayor in endorsing the nomination of Sam Assefa as the new Director of the Office and Planning and Community Development,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson, chair of the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee. “Mr. Assefa’s list of accomplishments achieved during his tenures in Chicago, San Francisco, and Boulder reflects his passion for urban design and transit oriented development, and but I am mostly impressed by the manner in which he so thoughtfully engages the citizens of the communities he serves. I look forward to the prospect of working side by side with such a creative, big-picture thinker with the knowledge and experience to tackle Seattle’s complex housing, gentrification, and affordability challenges.”

As Seattle grows, OPCD will play a role in implementing Mayor Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). HALA provides a comprehensive strategy to creating 50,000 housing units over the next 10 years, ensuring that Seattle can remain an affordable, walkable, and equitable community for people of all incomes and backgrounds.

Seattle is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, adding 70,000 residents and 63,000 jobs in the past five years. The city is expected to be home to another 120,000 residents and 115,000 jobs by 2035.