The new director of the Planning Department hired by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, S. Gail Goldberg, could be just what Los Angeles needs. The 62-year-old comes from San Diego, where she shepherded California’s second-largest city through a tough growth spurt with a neighborhood-focused strategy called the “City of Villages.” Like every other city in California, San Diego over the past 15 years – while Goldberg was either a planner or the director of planning – saw tremendous growth and the challenges that comes with it. As well as just figuring out how to accommodate and serve more and more houses, city officials in the once-sleepy Navy town worked to keep the entire city livable. Part of that was seen in the stunning transformation of a seedy and half-abandoned downtown into a gleaming entertainment center in the late 1980s and 1990s. But what should be most notable to Angelenos is the success that Goldberg’s department had in developing specific growth plans that helped the city’s sprawling neighborhoods (sound familiar?) each retain their own unique flavors as they absorbed new growth. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Already Goldberg is speaking music to the ears of Los Angeles neighborhood activists. “In order to increase density or do smart growth you need to work with the neighborhood groups,” Goldberg told the Daily News. That’s exactly what they have been asking for over the years. On the face of it, Goldberg appears a wise choice to head the expanding planning department. Perhaps under her stewardship Los Angeles can finally realize its tremendous potential as the “City of Neighborhoods.” For that to happen, City Hall will have to give the residents of the neighborhoods first crack at approving developments before council members sell them out to the developers. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!