New Community Development Director ready for job’s challenges

Brad Johnson has been settling nicely into his new job as Claremont’s Director of Community Development.

He officially started August 7, at the front end of the city’s summer recess, when council meetings are in recess and business at city hall seems a bit slower.

“For me, it was the perfect time to start my employment, because it gave me that kind of calming period.” Mr. Johnson said.

The quiet summer also gave Mr. Johnson ample time to become familiar with Claremont and the city staff.

“I’ve been impressed by the quality of staff here,” he said. “A lot of long-term staff is a good thing for a city and a department because you have that long term knowledge.”

Mr. Johnson comes to Claremont from Pomona, where he spent a decade working in different jobs, including two years as the city’s development services manager and eight years as the city’s planning manager. Overall, the Cal Poly Pomona graduate has more than 23 years’ experience working in city government.

A San Diego native, Mr. Johnson started off in the architectural world, working for his father’s firm after graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in urban regional planning. By his account, many would-be architects eventually get steered into the planning field, and he later moved back to the San Gabriel Valley, working for cities such as Walnut and Rosemead.

He replaces former Community Development Director Brian Desatnik, who left in May for a job as the development services director for Redlands.

Already, Mr. Johnson is getting a feel for the essence of Claremont. He lauded the sense of community and citizen engagement the city is known for.

“The residents are certainly engaged and I think everyone takes planning very seriously in this city,” he said. “As a planner, that intrigues me.”

From a planning perspective, he said, it’s important to hear both sides of an issue in order to end up with a better project. That collaborative nature is rife in the City of Trees.

“You feel like you get support, not only from your commissions and your council but also from your residents,” he said. “Not all cities have that high level of engagement.”

While in Pomona, Mr. Johnson worked on numerous projects that seemed to have paved the way for his job in Claremont: he helped steward two specific plans in Phillips Ranch as well as multiple Pomona corridors, and had a guiding hand in the city’s ten-year general plan update process.

He worked as a city liaison for three commissions—planning, historical preservation and cultural arts. These are three aspects of town life Mr. Johnson takes seriously.

“All three of those issues are high priority in the community,” he said. “Working [in Pomona] 10 years and staffing the historical preservation commission, cultural arts and planning commission that deals with all of those very same issues, it gives me a good perspective in coming to Claremont.”

He also has experience dealing directly with the Gold Line Construction Authority on Pomona’s share of the Glendora-Montclair light rail expansion. It is a project that will change the face of Claremont, and Mr. Johnson is ready to tackle it, especially when it comes to the possible bridge over Indian Hill Boulevard.

“I know the Claremont citizenry has an aesthetic view of what they want in the community, and bridges are impactful,” he said. “The city’s already got ahead of the curve and hired a local architect who helped redesign the bridge to have more appeal, or at least less of an impact of a barrier in the community, whether it was a perceived barrier. Certainly to lessen that impact, it was money well spent, I think.”

Other than that, two upcoming developments come to mind that Mr. Johnson is especially excited to work on—The Village South expansion, which is proposed on the west side of Indian Hill Boulevard below the railroad tracks, and Clara Oaks, an upcoming luxury housing development to be built near Webb Canyon Road.

“I’m sure any development in the foothills is going to get a high level of citizen participation, and obviously the hillsides are a part of Claremont’s landscape,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see how that project goes through the approval process.”

When he’s not poring over specific plans or overseeing development, Mr. Johnson likes to golf in his free time. He and a group of friends travel up and down the I-15 corridor, visiting courses along the way. 

Mr. Johnson was formally introduced during the September 12 council meeting. In his introduction, City Manager Tony Ramos noted Mr. Johnson’s background and experience featured many similarities and tackled the same issues that Claremont has faced and may face in the future.

“He’s proved to be a really great fit for our community and within our team,” Mr. Ramos said.

—Matthew Bramlett


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