In Memory of Paul Zucker, FAICP

By | 2018-07-31T13:10:57+00:00 July 25th, 2018|San Diego Planning Journal|

Well known planner and management consultant, and former San Diego County Planning Director, Paul Clarence Zucker, 83, Former San Diego County Planning Director, passed away on July 20, 2018 from pancreatic cancer. He had prepared this obituary.

Paul was preceded in death by his mother and father, his brothers John and Ray, sister Jo, infant brother Robert, son Pete and daughter-in-law Monica. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Kathy; two sons and daughters-in-law, Erik and Karen of Los Altos, CA; and Andy and Valerie of San Diego; along with five grandsons, Aiden, Keenan, Ryan, Zachary, Lucas, and one granddaughter, Anika. Also surviving are one brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Duane and Anitra Loe of Spicer, Minnesota; and sister-in-law Vi Loe of Maynard, Minnesota.

Paul Zucker was a peripatetic architect, planner, management consultant, and author whose career spanned coast to coast directing four major planning departments, creating a non-profit economic development company, consulting with clients throughout the United States and Canada and teaching thousands of planners in his short courses. San Diego County found his aggressive management style a difficult fit during the controversial Board of Supervisor days of Bates, Eckert, Hamilton, Hedgecock, and Moore. He weathered the storm from 1977 to 1982, then created his own planning and management consulting firm, Zucker Systems. He spent the next 36 years advising over 170 planning and building departments in 33 states, the Cayman Islands, Barbados, Washington D.C., Calgary, Alberta, and Markham, Ontario on how to better manage their planning and development functions. He wrote extensively on this topic publishing eight books: The Management Idea Book, The ABZ’s of Planning Management, What Your Planning Professors Forgot To Tell You (also translated and published in South Korea), The ABZ’s of Planning Management Second Edition, Mis-Management, Cats Dogs and Friends at the Office, Planning is Funny, and What Kind of a Planning Director Will You Be This Year.

He traveled the country teaching planning management to over 10,000 planners. In 2000, the American Institute of Certified Planners recognized his work and made him a member of the College of Fellows (FAICP). In 2007, he received an Honor Award from the California Planner Emeritus Network.

He was born in Scribner, Nebraska on December 9, 1934. He grew up in this small town of 900 people who in 2003 recognized him with its Native Son award. He graduated in Architecture from the University of Nebraska and obtained his Masters’ Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a Sears Fellow. In addition to his San Diego experience, he was Planning Director for Marin County, California and Tucson, Arizona. The former head of the Marin County Planning Commission said that his creative ways of preserving agriculture and Marin’s recreation and open spaces actually saved Marin County. In his early career he worked for the Bucks County, Pennsylvania planning department and then ran a Boston consulting firm for the renowned Dean of MIT’s Planning School, Jack Howard. For five years he also ran a non-profit corporation bettering the lives of low income Hispanics in California’s Central Valley where his program worked closely with Cesar Chavez.

He met his wife Kathy at the University of Alberta Fine Arts School in Banff, Canada in 1956 and it was love at first sight for both of them; they were married the following year. They moved many times following Paul’s career having lived in Bucks County, PA; Berkeley, CA; Brookline, MA; Alexandria, VA; Marin County, CA; Fresno, CA; Tucson, AZ; and finally, San Diego, CA. Kathy was key to raising the three boys and also taught public elementary school and music in many of the communities.  

During his career, Paul became acquainted with former Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis who wrote the Foreword to one of his books, Senator Barbara Boxer who helped him with his unsuccessful run for elected office as a Marin County Supervisor, and CNN’s Bill Press who described him as a brilliant planning director and one of the most visionary people in the country.

In addition to his consulting practice and writing, Paul played trumpet and baritone in a band he and his wife created, Z Band, which performed at their Oktoberfest for over 27 years. In more recent years he became an ardent ukulele player having started playing in 1949. He was a member of the Hau’oli’Strummers ukulele club and taught many beginning players. He always said he could teach anyone to play in five minutes and was seen as a pied piper of the ukulele. He also started ukulele classes and taught ukulele to three fourth grade classes at Sunset View Elementary school in Point Loma.   

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to ALSTDI in honor of his son Pete who passed away in 2013 from ALS.  https://www.als.net/donate/