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Getting to know Petaluma’s community development director

In late April, the City of Petaluma announced Alex Greenwood as its new community development director, as part of its expansion of the city’s Building Division as it grows its partnership with the Planning and Housing divisions.

Greenwood was born in Houston, TX, and moved to Palo Alto at age 5, where he grew up. Now living in Pleasant Hill, he brings to Petaluma nearly three decades of experience leading community and economic development teams throughout California.

Find out more about Greenwood and his journey in this lightly edited Q&A.

Question: Tell us a little about yourself. What are three words you’d use to best describe yourself and why?

Answer: Conscientious, creative, community-minded. I am passionate about helping local communities create great places for living, working, and culture.

Q: You’ve had a number of roles throughout California.. What are some of your most memorable accomplishments and what ultimately brought you to Petaluma?

A: I led community development for South San Francisco at a very exciting time. We approved 3,600 new housing units (including 720 affordable units), built a new train station with an urban plaza and bike/pedestrian tunnel, supported our local merchants, restored the historic library, and approved new biotechnology, food production, and industrial uses that brought 13,000 new jobs to the city.

For Oakland, I was part of the team that redeveloped the Downtown under then-Mayor Jerry Brown. My projects included the construction of Frank Ogawa Plaza, several new office towers and hotels, new retail and the revitalization of Chinatown. But one project I’m really proud of is helping preserve a district of 58 historic buildings in the downtown, and setting up a program of economic incentives to help encourage the historic rehab of those architectural gems. I did similar work for the cities of San Diego, Concord, and Brentwood.

I chose Petaluma because I love the city – the people, the charming shops and restaurants in the historic downtown, the river, the beautiful natural setting.

Q: How do you feel about your new role as the City’s Community Development Director? What will your main responsibilities be in this position?

A: I love this job! Petaluma has some very exciting challenges and opportunities over the next couple of years, to improve the quality of life for all residents and to build a great city while acknowledging its unique heritage and character. So the work feels very important right now, and I am honored to be part of it. My responsibilities include planning, building and housing for the city.

Q: What has your experience been thus far?

A: People here have given me the warmest welcome. From day one, I’ve been so impressed by the people who work at City Hall – they are all exceptionally talented, dedicated, innovative, and passionate about serving this community.

Q: What do you hope to bring to the Petaluma community?

A: I’ve been lucky to work on such a wide range of projects: Genentech’s 200-acre R&D world headquarters, helping local businesses to survive COVID, restoring a 1913 historic building, setting up an independent organic grocery for a neighborhood that did not have access to fresh food, approving plans for well-designed urban housing, working with non-profits to support our local homeless and disadvantaged residents, building new plazas and streetscape improvements, overseeing development of the 80-acre mixed-use waterfront development at Oyster Point. I hope to use my background to help serve the Petaluma community as it takes on some very complex, important land use and development issues.

Q: How do you hope to shape the future of Petaluma from a development perspective while remaining aligned with the City’s climate change goals?

A: The City is currently going through the update of its General Plan, and it will be exciting to see what the City Council and the citizens of Petaluma decide about the vision for future development in our community. One challenge will be to guide development in a way that makes our city less dependent on cars. For example, creating opportunities to live, work, and shop within the same area. I look forward to being part of the conversation, and making sure the public has the best information and analysis available so that we can make informed decisions about new development.

Q: What can people find you doing in your spare time?

A: I try to spend as much time as I can with my family. My two children are at that age where they do a lot of sports and other activities. We also love going on road trips, enjoying the outdoors, and eating out. We have an older house, and weekends are often full of home improvement projects or working in the backyard.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at amelia.parreira@arguscourier.com or 707-521-5208.

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