Q&A With New Community Development Director Tom Liao

By SLNext
In Uncategorized
Nov 8th, 2018
1 Comment
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On May 15, 2018, the City appointed Tom Liao as Community Development Director. Liao has worked with the City since 2004 when he began as Housing Manager. In 2010, he also assumed management of the Planning division and was consequently promoted to Deputy Community Development Director in 2014.  Liao adopted the role of Acting Community Development Director upon Cynthia Battenberg’s resignation in March, 2018 before taking on the role permanently in May. Liao has 23 years of experience in planning, community development, and affordable housing finance/development.

“Tom is an incredibly dedicated public servant,” says City Manager Jeff Kay. “He approaches his work with compassion and focuses on the best interests of the community. These are exciting times in San Leandro, and Tom is the right person to ensure that we implement our plans and vision in a way that provides maximum benefit to our residents.”

We recently sat down with Tom to discuss his vision for development in San Leandro and what the future may hold.

SLNext:

What are some of your top goals in Community Development, and what will be your focus?

Liao:

“Some of my top goals in Community Development include working towards fulfilling the forward looking visions advanced by the City’s 2035 General Plan and the long-range 2007 Downtown Transit-Oriented Development Strategy and 2018 Bay Fair TOD Plan;  continuing to advance San Leandro as a city of innovation, culture and diversity; and ensuring a high quality of life for residents and businesses. “

SLNext: 

What do you see as the most significant development opportunities in San Leandro as we look to the future?

Liao:

“Because the need for new housing construction has reached a crisis level not only State-wide, but in high cost areas like the Bay Area, the City has over 1,000 proposed housing units in the planning or building pipeline that will enhance the surrounding neighborhoods and provide needed housing, both market rate and affordable.  Much of the proposed or planned new housing developments will occur within ½ mile of the San Leandro BART Station (under the Downtown TOD Strategy) where most of the City’s residential growth has been projected to occur in the next 20 years.”

SLNext: 

You have worked on a number of projects at the City over the years, what have been some of your most fulfilling?

Liao:

“I came to work for San Leandro’s Community Development Department in 2004 and have been fortunate to wear several hats including Housing Manager, Planning Manager, Deputy Community Development Director and now Community Development Director. Notable projects I’ve managed include new affordable rental housing developments such as Casa Verde (formerly the Islander Motel) and Estabrook Senior Apartments and the first two major residential (Marea Alta and La Vereda) and commercial projects (San Leandro Tech Campus) to be implemented under the Downtown TOD Plan.  I’m also very proud of working on the 2035 General Plan and the Bay Fair TOD Plan, both of which involved extensive public outreach and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the community’s needs, aspirations, and anxieties. “

SLNext: 

What do you enjoy most about serving as the Community Development Director?

Liao:

“I enjoy the interesting and wide-ranging projects and issues that the Community Development Department encounters on a daily basis from affordable housing, planning, building permitting, economic development and code enforcement.  l feel fortunate to work with talented, experienced and dedicated public servants in Community Development staff who strive to make San Leandro a better and safer place to live, work and play.”

SLNext: 

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the City in the coming years?

Liao:

“Looking forward, I think the biggest challenge will be how long the economy will stay strong. Already, the City is hearing from developers and businesses regionally that high construction costs and rising interest rates are beginning to cause serious concern or slow their decisions to move ahead on their development plans and projects particularly for needed new housing.”

One Response to “Q&A With New Community Development Director Tom Liao”

  1. Michael says:

    I want to see more interviews like this! Very interesting.

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