Kathy Nyland will be replaced May 16 by Andrés Mantilla, who has been serving as director of external relations and outreach in Durkan's office. Nyland will move to a senior adviser position at Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Share story

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has removed the Department of Neighborhoods director who oversaw changes in City Hall’s interactions with members of the public about adding density.

Kathy Nyland will be replaced May 16 by Andrés Mantilla, who has been working as director of external relations and outreach in Durkan’s office, the mayor announced in a news release Friday. A onetime aide to former Mayor Greg Nickels, Mantilla will serve as Neighborhoods interim director.

Appointed by then-Mayor Ed Murray in 2015, Nyland led Neighborhoods as it embarked on a new approach to public engagement.

During her tenure, the Murray administration severed official ties with 13 district councils of neighborhood-group volunteers and with their umbrella organization, the City Neighborhood Council.

Last year, a new Community Involvement Commission took over from the City Neighborhood Council in advising City Hall on priorities, policies and how to distribute grants for neighborhood projects.

Nyland and Murray said their goal was to hear from different and diverse groups, including more young people and renters. Critics of the district councils said they had been dominated by wealthy, white homeowners.

Some district council leaders shrugged at the change. The groups had never held much power.

Others objected to what they saw as a shift from bottom-up to top-down engagement, noting the Community Involvement Commission’s members would be hand-picked by the mayor and City Council.

Nyland insisted the district councils could continue sharing ideas about the city, along with everyone else. She said she wanted Neighborhoods to develop better strategies for engaging people online and in languages other than English.

“Some people think this is a power grab,” she told The Seattle Times in late 2016. “But I truly believe this is a power share.”

Under Nyland, Neighborhoods also carried out an effort to hear from Seattle residents about upzones proposed in conjunction with new affordable-housing requirements.

The department used open houses, focus groups and online surveys to solicit feedback about the changes now under consideration for 27 urban villages.

During her mayoral campaign last year, Durkan repeatedly criticized the Murray administration for adopting a top-down approach at the neighborhood level.

Nyland will move to a senior adviser position at Seattle Parks and Recreation, the mayor said.

“Kathy has worked tirelessly to help communities across Seattle have a strong voice in their government, and her leadership has helped to foster more coordinated, citywide outreach on Seattle’s most urgent challenges,” Durkan said in a statement.

“We will build on her important work to bring more equitable engagement to our neighborhoods.”

Referring to Mantilla, Durkan said, “His commitment to equity and communities of color will elevate the work of our city.”