Losing Shaun Donovan at the helm of HUD was a blow for urbanists. This afternoon President Obama formally announced the nomination of San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to replace Donovan as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. What will the transition mean for the agency, which under Donovan championed smart growth and the integration of transportation and housing programs?
At HUD, Donovan was known to chastise the federal government for policies that encourage sprawl and disconnection. At a 2010 smart-growth conference, he emphasized one firm solution: “America must find a way to connect housing to jobs.” Under Donovan’s watch, HUD launched its Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, which works with DOT and EPA to ensure that all three agencies mesh — rather than clash — in their decisions.
With Donovan now expected to take a larger role in Obama’s administration with the top spot in the Office of Budget and Management, Castro is next in line for HUD.
Now in his fifth year and third term as San Antonio’s mayor, Castro, 39, has risen to national prominence in Democratic circles. This isn’t even his first chance at a cabinet role — he turned down a chance to become transportation secretary last year and has talked with Obama about the education post.
Clues for how Castro would fare at HUD come from his record governing the country’s seventh-largest city. A San Antonio native of Mexican descent, the Harvard Law grad first joined the City Council in 2001 at age 26 — the youngest person in the city’s history to do so. He took over as mayor in 2009, presenting a bold policy vision to shape the next decade of the city’s growth.
The fundamental goal of Castro’s SA 2020 plan is to transform San Antonio into a lively, economically competitive “brainpower community.” The plan aims to revitalize the downtown core and improve the streets, transit, and walkability.