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Irvine Planning Chief, Under Fire, Quits Post

December 23, 1987|STEVEN R. CHURM | Times Staff Writer

Irvine planning director Larry Hogle has resigned, two months after his department came under fire for mistakes that led to overbuilding in the Irvine Business Center, city officials said Tuesday.

City Manager William Woollett said he accepted Hogle's letter of resignation late Friday. Hogle's last day as director of the city's Community Development Department will be Jan. 29.

Woollett said Hogle, 50, had been looking for a new job in the private sector "long before" the results of a private audit revealed in October that the city had violated City Council-approved growth limits in the prestigious business complex east and north of John Wayne Airport.

Those mistakes, generally regarded by most officials as a major embarrassment to the master-planned community, prompted the City Council earlier this month to slap a 10 1/2-month ban on most new development in the business park. A study is under way to determine what went wrong and how to fix it.

Following the city audit, Hogle and his 75-member planning staff were strongly criticized by several council members.

But Woollett said Tuesday it was Hogle's decision to step down. The city manager said he never asked for Hogle's resignation. However, Woollett acknowledged that the discovery of planning problems in the business park--bounded by Campus Drive, the Costa Mesa Freeway, Barranca Parkway and San Diego Creek--accelerated Hogle's departure.

"I was and I still am very upset with the mistakes made in IBC, and I hold Larry responsible," Woollett said. "I knew he had been looking for some time to move into the private sector, and I went to him and said maybe it would be better for all of us if we moved up his plans."

Hogle was on vacation and could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Woollett said Hogle plans to open his own consulting firm.

After the city audit, Woollett said, Hogle's status was discussed several times by the council in closed-door sessions. Woollett said the council never took a vote to fire Hogle, although sources said most council members made it clear during the executive sessions that they no longer had confidence in Hogle's ability to manage the planning staff.

Mayor Larry Agran said Tuesday that the "magnitude of the management errors" involving the business complex necessitated a "serious shake-up . . . and that point was made clear to the city manager."

Hogle's problems involved how much retail and commercial office space had been approved by his department staff, which was supposed to monitor the square footage to make sure the city's growth limits were not being violated.

The city audit discovered that 39.5 million square feet of retail and commercial office space--in direct violation of the city's environmental impact report for the area--had been approved. But roads in the area can handle just 34.5 million square feet, raising the specter of serious traffic problems if the entire area is developed.

Hogle has been the city's top planner since 1979, when he came to Irvine from Oxnard, where he managed several departments. He was Irvine's fifth city planner and held the job longer than anyone else.

Woollett and Agran praised Hogle's overall performance, as did Councilwoman Sally Anne Miller, who said she did not believe he should step down.

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