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Sadhu Johnston, Vancouver's deputy city manager, was named the city’s top civil servant Thursday.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

A city bureaucrat who appears to be the temperamental opposite of Vancouver's previous hard-driving and sometimes abrasive city manager has been chosen as her replacement.

Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston, who was brought to Vancouver from Chicago 6 1/2 years ago by the then-new Vision Vancouver council to drive forward the city's environmental efforts, was named the top civil servant Thursday.

Mr. Johnston, 41, has two children under 10 and rents a townhouse in the Strathcona neighbourhood on the border of the Downtown Eastside. He rides a bike to work and said he doubts he'll be able to buy a house in Vancouver ever, even with his new $316,000-a-year salary.

Prices for single-family housing have soared to astronomical heights in the last year, prompting a frenzy of concern about what the future holds for Vancouver's less-than-wealthy.

"I do think this is a crisis. I personally think it's the biggest challenge the city is facing."

Mr. Johnston's predecessor, Penny Ballem, was picked by Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and installed days after his inauguration in 2008. But he announced in September of 2015 that Ms. Ballem was leaving, saying there needed to be change in the city.

The announcement of Mr. Johnston as the new city manager came with not just the expected enthusiastic endorsement of the mayor, but also praise from councillors in other parties as well as people who have been critical of the city in recent years.

Mr. Johnston, who convened a meeting in January of former city planners to get their advice, will help repair a damaged system, said some who were there.

Many of the city's former planners had become increasingly vocal in their criticisms of rushed decisions that didn't respect communities or good urban design, adding their voices to those of unhappy residents groups opposing individual buildings or whole neighbourhood plans.

"He's bringing a style right now that's needed for the organization to heal. It's been brutalized," said Nathan Edelson, the city's former planner for the Downtown Eastside.

Another, Frank Ducote, said: "I am thrilled to see he got the position. I don't think he would have taken it without a firm commitment from the mayor about the need to do things differently, including the need to depoliticize the planning process, less micromanagement and more respect for work-life balance."

And former chief planner, Larry Beasley, who has been asked to act as a consultant on better ways to engage with the public, said he believes Mr. Johnston will bring a new approach to the city.

"It's going to be a fresh, contemporary leadership because he's of that new generation."

Mr. Johnston was often overshadowed by Ms. Ballem, who introduced a very centralized style of management to a city bureaucracy that had previously been run in a much more federalist style.

Although a significant number of staff admired her ability to drive through complex projects and eliminate fuzzy approaches, others found her overwhelming and disempowering because of her tendency to take over projects large and small.

Mr. Johnston said he has no plans to change city hall's goals. But he is hoping to change the tone and leadership style, as well as bring more innovation to tackling problems.

"I don't see going in a different direction," he said. "Penny Ballem is a really smart person and I see continuing a lot of the work we're doing [that she started]. But a change in leadership is an opportunity to restart relationships."

He has already decided to make a structural change in the planning department, hiring two people to replace the recently departed Brian Jackson. One will work more on the technical side – trying to speed up the building-permit system, for example – while the other will focus on issues such as urban design and overall city planning.

"It's a lot for one person, when every development is a controversy and it also takes way too long to get a permit."

He'll be making recommendations about those positions soon.

He also said he'll be bringing a new style when it comes to work-life balance.

"When I was first named as the acting city manager, I hadn't intended to go for the position because of the work-life balance. But what I found is that I can achieve that balance and I think I can serve as a role model. It's part of a healthy work environment."