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Rebecca Esau announces retirement

News Article
This is a photo of Rebecca Esau, director of the Bureau of Development Services.
After six and a half years as director of the Bureau of Development Services, and nearly 30 years of service to the City of Portland, Esau leaves in December with a record of accomplishment.

Bureau of Development Services director Rebecca Esau announced to bureau employees on Oct. 10 that she is retiring. Her last day will be Monday, Dec. 18.

Esau was named interim director by then-Commissioner Chloe Eudaly in April 2017 and promoted to the permanent position six months later. Previously, she served as manager of the bureau’s Land Use Services division, which reviews development projects for conformance with the City’s zoning code.

Under her leadership during the past six and a half years, the bureau implemented significant improvements to the development review process, a few of which include:

  • The creation of the Empowered Communities Program that assists BIPOC property owners and those with disabilities in navigating the permit process and obtaining volunteer resources to help them bring their homes and businesses into compliance with state and local codes
  • The implementation of online permitting and plan review services, including the transition to an upgraded permitting database, creation of an online permitting portal, digital plan review, and an app equipping inspectors to do all of their work in the field
  • The expansion of video inspections, which kept inspections services moving during the pandemic while reducing risks to customers and city staff
  • The formation of the BDS Customer Success Team to provide customers with a single point of contact for receiving assistance
  • The expansion of the Field Issuance Remodel program which provides residential remodelers with one point of contact for their projects

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Rebecca and have tremendous respect for her. She is a leader who never feared to speak up for the right thing – even when it was hard to do,” said Commissioner Carmen Rubio, the commissioner-in-charge of the Bureau of Development Services. “Rebecca’s leadership brought the City’s permitting system into the new era and positioned us well for continuous improvement as we meet the housing and other development needs of Portland. She will be difficult to replace, and I wish her well in her retirement.”

Esau joined the City of Portland in 1996 as a land use planner and advanced to positions of greater responsibility throughout her tenure. Before joining the City, she served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in its Urban Planning Program in Nepal from 1990 to 1993, working as a planner for a local city government in a city west of Kathmandu. She also worked for the City and County of San Francisco and for Clatsop County.

Esau told employees she is looking forward to the next chapter in her life. “I feel very good about the improvements we’ve made and those still underway, and I am at a point where I am ready to hand the baton off to someone to run the next leg of this race,” she said. “I also want to have the energy and time to do other things that interest me and that I enjoy.”

Esau’s successor has not yet been determined.