Just in time for the update of the City’s controversial comprehensive land use plan, Dallas has a new director of planning and urban design. Emily Liu, who most recently served as director of Louisville, Ky.’s Metro Planning and Design Services, will start her new job May 20, city officials announced Tuesday.

Andrea Gilles, who has served as interim director of Planning and Urban Design since Julia Ryan’s departure in September, will return to her role as assistant director. Gilles told CandysDirt.com she did not apply for the permanent post.

Liu will have her hands full as a draft of the ForwardDallas comprehensive land use plan is currently under review by the City Plan Commission, with a second public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday. There has been significant discussion lately about proposals for increased housing density, minimum lot size reduction, and parking reform. A much-needed overhaul of the city’s development code is also in the works.

Interim City Manager Kimberly Bizor Tolbert announced Liu’s hire in a memorandum to council members.

Prior to joining the City of Dallas, Emily Liu was the Director of Louisville, Kentucky’s Metro Planning and Design Services. During her decade-plus time there, she led the Office of Planning and Design, managing a spectrum of 18 Boards, Commissions, and Committees. Emily has broad expertise across various aspects of urban planning and design, such as long-range planning, zoning, housing, transportation, urban design, and historic preservation.

She was pivotal in leading Louisville’s acclaimed Zoning Reform initiative, which has been recognized as a model for other cities. Emily has nearly 30 years of professional experience working in communities across three states (Kentucky, Illinois, and Ohio). In 2022, Emily was awarded the planning profession’s highest honor and became the first woman in Kentucky to be inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners. She has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from The George Washington University and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Peking University.

Tolbert’s memo also announced the permanent appointment of Sarah Standifer as director of Dallas Water Utilities. Former DWU Director Terry Lowery retired last year. A search for a permanent director of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization remains underway. David Noguera resigned in September, and Cynthia Rogers Ellickson is serving in the interim.

April Towery covers Dallas City Hall and is an assistant editor for CandysDirt.com. She studied journalism at Texas A&M University and has been an award-winning reporter and editor for more than 25 years.


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