Vista, CA -October, 2023) – City Manager John Conley has selected 25-year city planning professional Joe Vacca as the City of Vista’s Community Development Director. Vacca received the highest recommendation from stakeholder interview panels and begins his new role today. Vacca replaces John Conley, who was promoted to City Manager on March 8, 2023.
“Today, we are thrilled to announce the appointment of Joe Vacca as Vista’s Community Development Director,” said City Manager John Conley. “Vacca emerged as the top recommended candidate from our community interview panels, showcasing his remarkable expertise and deep commitment to our city’s future. With 25 years of experience as a municipal planning professional, Joe Vacca has demonstrated his unwavering dedication to fostering sustainable growth and enhancing the quality of life in numerous cities. We believe his leadership will be pivotal in helping to shape Vista’s future.”
“I have been looking forward to becoming part of the team and working with the talented staff in Vista’s Community Development Department,” said Joe Vacca. “I am also extremely pleased to join and work with the gifted executive team and City manager. I am proud to serve the conscientious Planning Commission and very thoughtful and dignified City Council. Vista is a wonderful City, and rest assured, I will be a dedicated servant who will work hard to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all who live, work, and play in Vista.”
In his most recent role, Vacca served the City of Camarillo as Director of Community Development for the past eight and a half years and managed and directed the Community Development Department. This included oversight of the Planning, Housing, Building and Safety, and Code Enforcement divisions. Vacca worked with staff to make recommendations to the City Council on policy matters, long-range planning projects such as General Plan Element updates and amendments, Specific Plan Amendments, and current planning for permitting and construction of development projects. In this position, Vacca also served as Secretary to the City’s Planning Commission. Vacca expanded community engagement platforms and public noticing procedures to provide more access to all community members for their anticipated participation in the public decision-making process.
Vacca has managed various land use entitlements throughout his career, including subdivisions, planned development permits, conditional use permits, zone changes, and municipal code amendments. During his tenure in Camarillo, Vacca oversaw the development of thousands of residential market-rate units consisting of single-family detached homes, condominium projects, and multi-family apartment developments, including the construction of hundreds of affordable units. The department also completed several complex commercial, office, and industrial development projects, including redeveloping underutilized properties and multiple projects focused on economic development. Several development projects were also completed as “mixed-use” projects with ground floor commercial and service businesses, in coordination with residential units being constructed in the multiple stories above, contributing to the fabric of the City’s Old Town and the mixed-use neighborhoods of Specific Plan areas.
Before working in Camarillo, Vacca served the City of Moorpark as a Principal Planner for almost nine years. Before that, he worked at the City of San Dimas, where for nearly eight years, he served the city in two positions as an Associate Planner after being promoted from Assistant Planner. Vacca also had two prominent urban planning internships, first with the City of Los Angeles and next with the City of La Verne.
Vacca earned his Bachelor’s degree from California State University Northridge (CSUN) with a major in Geography, focused on Physical Geography/Geomorphology. He also holds a Master of Arts in Geography, focused on Land Use Planning and Environmental Studies. This included the completion of an extensive Master’s Thesis in 2002 entitled “Hillside Development in the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains: In the Cities of Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, and Claremont,” In 2012, Vacca earned membership as a certificated urban planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners of the American Planning Association. Vacca also maintains memberships with the California American Planning Association and the California Association of Environmental Planners. He has maintained strong relations with the Urban Studies and Planning Department of CSUN, serving as an Alumni Council mentor to students and as a part-time faculty member, where in 2018, he taught a graduate student seminar on Sustainability and Environmental Impact Analysis.
Over the past two decades, Vacca established a strong work history, mentoring and motivating staff to complete tasks efficiently and effectively according to prioritized work programs. He has an extensive background in administering substantial and varied planning entitlement caseloads together with building and safety permitting to ensure compliance with Federal, State, and Local laws while collaborating with developers and city staff for completing projects, focused on maintaining and enhancing a very strong quality of life for the community being served. Vacca has worked well as a facilitator to bring together various stakeholder positions, including government decision-makers, administrative management employees, developers, and citizens, to coordinate the goals and desires of all participants while sustainably accommodating growth and development.
When out of the office, Vacca spends most of his quality time with his wife of 23 years, and from time to time, this includes their two adult sons.
For more information about the City of Vista, visit cityofvista.com.