Planning Director Who Oversaw S.F. Development Boom to Retire

John Rahaim led the department through a recession into another tech boom.

The leader of San Francisco’s Planning Department will step down after leading a period of massive development, Mayor London Breed said Wednesday.

Planning Director John Rahaim plans to retire but will remain in office while the city looks for a replacement. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Rahaim in 2008, guiding San Francisco’s housing development through the bust of a major recession and boom brought on by the tech industry. 

John Rahaim

“John oversaw the department and city through unprecedented times of recession and growth,” Mayor Breed said in a statement. “Under his leadership, the Planning Department delivered area plans which allowed for new levels of public benefits and much-needed housing in transit-rich neighborhoods. We thank John for his service to the city of San Francisco and its residents and for being a true public servant.”

Before coming to San Francisco, Rahaim served the same role in Seattle and worked in Pittsburgh’s planning department. Under Rahaim, the Planning Commission approved major development plans for areas like the Dogpatch. 

The changing The Central SoMa Plan was most recently adopted in 2018 despite concerns from local groups like South of Market Community Action Network (SOMCAN) that it would drive up housing costs due to a jobs imbalance. 

To counter massive displacement of lower-income residents with high-paid workers drawn to the city, the Planning Department had to also work stabilize communities like the Mission with affordable housing. Of the 72,865 units in the pipeline as of this year, about 20 percent are deemed affordable, according to the department.

Rahaim also oversaw the formal designation the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District in 2014, a first for the department and the SoMa Filipino Cultural Heritage District in 2016. He called his role as planning director “the greatest honor of my career.

“I am grateful to have led this exceptional Department through the growth and change that San Francisco has experienced over the past decade and continues to see today,” Rahaim said. “The Planning Department staff continues to handle an unparalleled volume of work while addressing substantial policy challenges, while we work harder than ever toward neighborhood livability, community development, and for a San Francisco that is accessible to everyone.”

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