Elias Isaacson

Elias Isaacson

The planning and land-use director from Santa Fe, New Mexico, has been hired to lead the city of Santa Barbara’s Community Development Department

In closed session on Tuesday, the City Council approved City Administrator Paul Casey’s selection of Elias Isaacson for the position. 

“I am very excited to join the great team at the city of Santa Barbara, and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead,” Isaacson said in a news release. 

Isaacson, an architect, joined the city of Santa Fe in 2018, and since 2019 has led the Planning and Land Use Department, where he managed 65 employees and implemented the city’s land-use, development, and growth-management policies, according to a news release.

He is credited with streamlining internal procedures and adopting innovative practices and policies.

He also served as planning and land-use director and interim city manager for the city of Espanola, New Mexico, where he managed the drafting and implementation of a new comprehensive plan and land-use code revision.

Prior to his municipal service, he started a real estate development consulting firm, performing work in the U.S. and abroad. 

In Santa Barbara, he will oversee planning and development services, building and safety, and housing and human services.

The Community Development Department has 77 employees with an annual budget totaling $16 million. 

Isaacson holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin, a master’s degree in urban design and development from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in architecture from the University of New Mexico.

He is a member of the American Planning Association and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

He will receive a salary of $190,000.

“Elias will bring the experience and design background that are needed to move the department forward during this pivotal time,” Casey said. “I’m confident that he will be a great addition to our leadership team.”

Isaacson replaces former Community Development Director George Buell, who resigned in June of last year. Assistant City Administrator Rebecca Bjork has been acting community development director in the interim.

The city’s community development department has faced criticism for a sluggish permitting process and an adversarial relationship with businesses. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com.