PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT
It was with no small sense of frustration that the 1999-2000 Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury (GJ) began its investigation into the Planning and Development Department (P&D). This exercise has become something of an annual rite of passage for incoming Grand Juries.
Ratcheting up the effectiveness and customer friendliness of P&D had been described as requiring a Herculean effort, therefore it was gratifying for this GJ to find that sweeping reform is actually underway. The effort is being made.
For any real resolution to P&D problems, however, the active support of both the Planning Commission (PC) and Board of Supervisors (BOS) is required. The BOS needs to follow stated Board policy on land use issues or change or amend it. The PC must continue efforts to make its part of the planning process more efficient. Hopefully, subsequent Grand Juries will address the interaction of those bodies with P&D and detail what needs to be accomplished.
When this investigation began in November, 1999, frustration ran high because the Department’s problems seem to have remained the same for more than a decade despite the best rehabilitation efforts of past Grand Juries and others. It was disturbing to have to start over again, however there seemed to be no responsible alternative.
Three letters were received early in the Jury’s tenure from citizens describing what seemed like egregious violations by P&D of anyone’s idea of fairness or good business practices. Other letters followed. Applicants detailed spending thousands of dollars in frustrating or failed attempts to get projects through the P&D process.
The first objective of this GJ was to find out why the Department has never been able to streamline the permitting process, causing frustration as well as financial and emotional distress to applicants who simply want to remodel or build on their property.
Secondly, the Jury sought to find out if this seemingly stubborn refusal to entertain general reform was because of sloth or indifference on the part of personnel, or the lack of staff education, training and experience, or management incompetence, or all of the above, some of the above, or something else.
Past Grand Juries had annually become incrementally more specific in pointing out problems that needed fixing, as well as detailing how to fix them. One Jury had a noted governmental accountancy firm do a managerial audit. The 1998-1999 Jury was particularly diligent in its examination into the workings of P&D.
This Jury was told by several people that the Department’s unofficial defense after each Grand Jury report was that the reports were “superficial” and did not address the complexity of the problems. In the case of the management audit, the justification for not seriously addressing the delineated problems and attempting to resolve them was that the auditing firm “just didn’t understand the County.”
Members of the 1999-2000 Grand Jury were eager to be as thorough as possible during this five-month investigation. Eighty six taped interviews and seven untaped interviews were conducted in North and South County with current and former staff members in the building and the five planning divisions. Also included in the interview process were division heads, the Department Director, all members of the Planning Commission, all members of the Board of Supervisors, the County Administrator, other County personnel, City of Santa Barbara Community Development Department personnel and customers who had been through the P&D process.
In addition to the site visit to the County building and planning divisions, visits were conducted at the Monterey County, Santa Cruz County and San Luis Obispo County planning departments. Interviews were conducted with the head of each department and some staff. Brochures and other information given to the public were examined.
Among the documents studied by the Jury were past Santa Barbara County Grand Jury reports and the management audit as well as forms and materials the Department gives to the public. Also read were P&D documents such as the County General Plan, Guidelines for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act, Environmental Thresholds and Guidelines Manual, Permit Compliance Procedure Manual, and the guide to Conditions of Approval and Mitigation Measures as well as several Environmental Impact Reports, Negative Declarations and the report of the P&D Customer Group.
The investigation began with the Jury interviewing present and past Santa Barbara County P&D Department employees who daily are dealing, or have dealt, with the public. The idea for starting with interviews of counter help, clerical staff, planners and inspectors was that they could tell the Jury, from experience on the front line, why the department seemed so customer unfriendly and resistant to reform. Giving testimony before the Grand Jury was a first for most of these people.
The Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department (P&D), like the County itself, is suffering growing pains.
For the past few years, P&D had not been able to attract and retain staff to deal with the upsurge in requests for department services that the current heated economy has engendered. Experienced personnel have left for the private sector and other venues where the workload is less stressful and the pay better. With land use applications increasing and staff dwindling, a backlog of casework resulted. Cases often went from one planner to another causing confusion for the applicant.
It was clear, when this investigation began, that, because of the backlog and urgent need to step up recruitment, things would probably get worse before they got better, and they did in both respects.
Another factor impacting P&D’s ability to deliver timely service continues to be the divergence of public opinion about how, when, where and under what circumstances growth should occur in the County.
The catastrophic Jan. 29, 1969 oil spill--that ravaged the pristine coastline in South County and gave birth to the national environmental movement--turned residents into perhaps the most environmentally aware and vigilant in the Country. In public hearings about land use issues, they are as vocal as they are vigilant.
However, environmental consciousness is often at odds with the concerns of individuals, companies and corporations determined to exercise their legitimate rights as property owners and developers.
Environmental legalities in permitting are another constant challenge the Department faces in delivering timely service. Planners in the Development Review Division, who deal with the more complicated development applications, have the burden of explaining to applicants how community regulations as well as the weight of current Federal and State environmental laws, particularly the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), will affect a proposed project.
Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs), triggered by CEQA, may cost $35,000 or more and take months to complete. The planner’s Guidelines for Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act runs 169 single-spaced pages (with updates and corrections). Although the State suggests EIRs should be 150 pages or less, some fill up a shelf full of binders. And CEQA is only one of the hurdles owners may face in developing property.
Even building one house or making a home addition may involve satisfying a community plan or a Planning Commission judgement about how high and big the home or addition may be, as well as what type of roof, driveway, fencing, color and style is acceptable and what kind of shrubbery and lawns should be planted. The Board of Supervisors may weigh in, in the appeal process, with more conditions for approval.
The permitting process also has, as previously noted, felt the impact of citizen concerns on environmental issues. Public input often slows down the process considerably. The Grand Jury learned, on visits to other counties with similar concerns about environmental and growth management issues that they, too, struggle continually with permitting simplification. In Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, like Santa Barbara, permitting is often prolonged by public hearings.
So, before recounting P&D’s shortcomings, it is important to note the tremendous power that public input, the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors exert over a project. As for Federal and State laws, the responsibility lies with the electorate, not P&D.
Also, many of the problems experienced by applicants and their representatives in the planning and building process are of their own making. The applicants may not have filled out required forms. They may not have listened carefully to what their planner says. They may have refused to accept plan revisions or mitigations a planner suggests to help them through the long and often tedious planning experience. They may think that they know better than the planner what can and cannot be done in their neighborhood.
During the investigation of applicant complaints about P&D, the Grand Jury found a variety of causes for customer dissatisfaction. In one case, the Department simply dropped the ball, compounding mistakes and initially charging the applicant for the time it took to sort out the problems. This case, however, was the exception, not the rule.
In other instances, the problem was a misconnect because of personnel changes, or due to late input from another department in County government, or because of the objections of neighbors. In fact, many of the complaints directed at P&D might better be directed toward other County departments or governing bodies, or to the rules of a particular development, such as Codes, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs), over which the Department has no jurisdiction.
Employees in the Santa Barbara permit processing divisions are far from indifferent or slothful. As an example, between Jan. 1, 1999 and Feb. 23, 2000, planners in Development Review Division worked more than 1,100 hours of unpaid overtime in an effort to get applicants through the process. Senior planners worked 532 hours of unpaid overtime, and the four supervising planners and Deputy Director worked 625 hours. Although there is a Department policy to give compensatory time off for unpaid overtime, planners were loath to take advantage of the practice. They simply had too much work to do.
This Grand Jury commends members of the permit processing divisions for their diligence, loyalty and professionalism in persevering despite the heavy workload, lack of suitable workspace and the lure of better wages elsewhere. With few exceptions, the experienced staff has not only soldiered on resolutely amid escalating pressures, but taken the time to do the important work of getting new hires oriented.
The P&D Director has shown a marked enthusiasm, during this Jury’s term, to end staffing and management problems that either directly or indirectly impact the level of service Department employees provide to the public. Results of the aggressive hiring campaign, still underway, have been fruitful and needed as Department vacancies have been the genesis of many past problems.
The Department has also stepped up new-hire and in-service training. Between October, 1999, and April, 2000, 23 topics with 665 participants have been covered in training sessions provided to staff aimed at improving skills. In an effort to support cooperation between divisions in P&D, the Director has held staff retreats, interdivisional meetings and workshops. He and senior staff are working on an employee recognition program.
Work is being done on updating procedure manuals and simplifying the permitting process, although much still needs to be accomplished.
The Director has stepped up performance reviews that may lead to a pay increase or advancement for employees. He has worked with the County Administrator to improve salaries to be more competitive with other venues. This is all long overdue and a work still in progress.
The Grand Jury is hopeful that with the arrival of an Assistant Director (AD) that the Department will receive a steady hand in imposing managerial discipline on the Department’s systems and operations. It is imperative that a united Board of Supervisors empower the AD in efforts to streamline the Department.
One of the more pressing needs in the Department is for boundaries to be clearly drawn for each Division. Although much attention has been given to getting Divisions to work well together, equally important is focusing each Division on its assigned tasks. One example of “boundary blur” is the way Comprehensive Planning Division planners become overly involved in permitting issues rather than completing the Comprehensive Plan update, which is their mission.
The majority of problems in this Department are of long duration. Many were observed before the economy took its precipitous dip in the late 80s and early 90s and then began its unprecedented upswing in the past few years. An abbreviated overview follows.
Chronic problems for the applicants have included:
The inability to get realistic time and cost projections for a project.
The inability to get timely responses to questions.
A lack of understanding about the process.
The inability to get on the Planning Commission (PC) agenda in a timely manner.
Lack of understanding as to the specific functions of the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors (BOS) and Board of Architectural Review (BAR).
The Department has instituted, during the past months, some measures to speed up the permitting process for projects without environmental implications. It is currently possible to get a ministerial (simple) permit by going to the Zoning Division counter, turning over the required forms, paying the fees and going to the next counter to get a Building Division permit. In the works is a true one-stop shop where a Zoning-Building permit takes only one visit.
The Department now has a 24-hour call return policy so applicants have some assurance of getting a speedy response to questions. Planners seem to do their best to advise applicants about specific functions of the BOS, PC and BAR, but the lines of responsibility are unclear and often as confusing to planners as they are to applicants. Other problems for applicants may not yet have been addressed or are unsolved.
Chronic problems for the planning staff have included:
The workload problem is being addressed with the enterprising recruiting plan instituted by the Department and augmented by an increase in new employee training and ongoing in-service training. Some problems persist.
Chronic problems for the building staff have included:
Not enough time to do a thorough job on building inspections.
Not enough time to do paper work and return phone calls.
Lower pay for comparable positions than in other jurisdictions.
The Department’s recruiting efforts have been successful in filling many vacancies in this Division. Staffing up is relieving some of the workload problems. Some other problems endure.
The Planning and Development Department
The Planning and Development Department includes six Divisions. They are:
The Department has offices in Santa Barbara as well as satellite offices in Santa Maria and Buellton.
Issues that impact the entire Planning and Development Department include the lack of management training for Division deputies; a lack of, or outdated, procedures; a need for customer service training and a lack of adequate workspace.
All current Deputy Directors came up through the ranks, a morale booster but one with a down side. Many Deputies have degrees in environmental studies or other sciences, but no education in management techniques. Most Deputies would benefit greatly from training in this area. It is not prudent for the County to promote people to leadership positions without giving them the tools necessary to do their jobs.
It is the Grand Jury’s opinion that there is good reason for everyone in the Department to have a course update in planning ethics. According to the Director, that training is underway.
The Department is almost totally focused on planning issues and still suffers from areas of operational dysfunction. The necessary procedural infrastructure, codified in manuals and other written documents that would insure smooth operations, has developed erratically and, in many cases, is absent or completely outdated. Although the Department is working on this problem, as well, much remains to be done.
Particularly in the Zoning Division, where customers initially come face to face with the Planning and Development Department, it is imperative that the counter help project an attitude of concern for the customer. This is an acquired skill all Department personnel should gain. Although P&D personnel are almost uniformly conscientious, training should be scheduled for staff to be able to project that.
A greeter to help guide people to the proper counter as well as answer questions during peak times might also be helpful, as would a reception desk where applicants go to sign in. An ombudsman would also be a help to customers with questions and problems during the planning and building process.
The work space problem is being addressed by the County with the assistance of a consultant, but plans to further physically divide the P&D leadership in Santa Barbara are unreasonable and the results would be counterproductive. The Department should be unified not further divided.
Most of the Department in South County is currently crammed into rabbit warren-like offices on two floors of the County Engineering Building. The Energy Division of P&D is in offices two buildings away. The idea of further separating the Department’s South County leadership by putting some staff (including the incoming Assistant Director!) in another building across the street with offices above a coffee shop, is inconceivable. The Grand Jury has two suggestions that could ease this pressing problem.
The first is that the Planning Commission use the Board of Supervisor’s meeting room on Wednesdays for their hearings. The current first floor Planning Commission meeting room could then be converted to a state-of-the-art reception counter for Zoning and Building, one that would better serve the public. It would replace the unattractive, crowded counters on the second floor.
There may be room in the area behind the proposed counter for a much needed conference room. This would also open up space for more offices and a library on the second floor, as well as storage space. At times, the Department has had to store closed case files in hallways.
Secondly, the Department’s South County-based building inspectors report to the Engineering Building each morning where their County vehicles are located in the parking areas near the Courthouse and Administration Building. This makes it necessary for inspectors to travel through morning rush hour traffic to receive their work assignments and return phone calls before going out in the field. If space for parking and a small office could be retained at a location in or near Goleta, it would cut down on travel time for some inspectors as well as free up some office space.
The Zoning Division
The Zoning Division is where it all begins in P&D. The Zoning counter is where an applicant first goes for initial guidance about the permitting process. Zoning Administration Division handles most of the permits for projects that do not involve environmental laws and regulations.
It is important that optimum standards of efficiency and service be the norm in this division. As mentioned, training should be given in customer service so applicants come away with the sense that they will be well and courteously served.
Many customers receive 30-day incomplete rather than complete letters from Zoning. This means their applications were not filled out properly or that required items are missing. Often this is the fault of applicants. Staff needs to work with applicants to ensure they understand what is needed. Some applicants or agents submit incomplete applications deliberately to “get in line.” There should be sanctions for this.
In addition to plans for instituting the one-stop system at the counter, two other improvements have been initiated recently by the P&D Director. A much needed new compliance team has been assembled to look into complaints about zoning violations, and a senior planner is now available at the Zoning counter to help with more complicated applications.
The Development Review Division
The Development Review Division handles the most difficult, environmentally impacted (discretionary) projects. These planners have to break the news to applicants that the process may take months to complete and that costs may be upwards of $10,000 or even $100,000 in fees and concomitant charges. Development Review planners may have to require that the applicant engage the services of a biologist, geologist, seismologist or other professional specialist, as well as get further approval from other County departments such as Fire, Environmental Health or Public Works.
The hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime logged by senior planners is only one manifestation of their dedication. Burnout is a serious problem that is blamed for many vacancies in the Division. The vacancies begin the cyclic problem of workload back up, new hire catch up, staff overwork, staff stress and resignations. Keeping positions filled in this Division is critical.
In addition to the generally high degree of technical difficulty of their jobs, Development Review planners face two major problems. They must cope with receiving required information late in the planning process from other divisions within P&D and from other County Departments. They must also deal with the unpredictability of the Planning Commission.
New Case Review is a forum in which a planner receives the benefit of the institutional knowledge about an applicant’s site from senior planners in his or her Division and other divisions within P&D. The Subdivision Committee meeting is where the planner receives input from other County departments. These meetings usually occur within a week of one another and are meant to front-load the planner with information relevant to the project site he or she is case managing.
Information might include a heads up about grading, septic, archeological or habitat issues in or near the applicant’s site, or an insufficiency of water or roads to the area. This is critical information to have when a planner begins to organize a case plan.
The information can be a bombshell if it comes after a planner is confident he or she has covered all necessary ground and is getting ready to make a presentation to the Planning Commission on behalf of the applicant. A “late hit” is being informed that there are wetland or traffic issues, for example, late in the planning process. These are complicated problems that should not be dropped into the equation once a project is headed for the Planning Commission agenda.
There should be zero tolerance for late hits, or any sloppiness in meeting deadlines. Development Review planners have a right to expect timeliness and professionalism from other P&D divisions as well as from other County departments. Deadlines must be observed if the inherently difficult discretionary permitting process is ever to work smoothly.
Work is also needed on the Development Review planners’ relationship with the Planning Commission. It is necessary for Commissioners to remember that the planner is the professional and should be treated respectfully.
Input about Commission project considerations and questions should be given to the planner at the earliest opportunity to discuss with the applicant, not used to blindside and embarrass the planner during Commission hearings.
The P&D Director should disabuse Development Review planners of the idea that they work for the Planning Commission. Development Review and the Planning Commission each has its own mission.
The Grand Jury strongly suggests that many of the applicant’s billing questions would be alleviated if each planner were required to keep track not only of hours billed but what he or she accomplished during each of those hours. This is a common practice in business and should be instituted in the Department and the information made available to customers. Instead of being viewed as a burden on already busy planners, it can be used as a tool for judging how well time was spent and on what issues.
Because many planners feel their long hours and diligence is not fully appreciated by management, Department efforts toward acknowledging employees for exemplary work is welcomed. Commendations should be issued and entered into employee files.
The Comprehensive Planning Division
With the ominous reminder to the south of urban sprawl and its attendant miseries, the Comprehensive Planning Division is charged with taking the lead in divining how this County will look in the near and distant future. Its recently issued Five Year Plan updating the Comprehensive Plan is the timetable for the projection of orderly build out.
It has been 20 years since the entire Plan has been updated. About 10 years ago, it was decided to revise the Plan community by community. Some planners and government officials now look upon that decision as a mistake, but agree there is no turning back at this point. The Division should engage in Plan update with due diligence.
The Grand Jury is adamant in its conviction that this Division needs to stop assigning planners to oversee planners doing Development Review case work. It is an exercise in redundancy, and worse when the Development Review planner has more experience with the Comprehensive Plan than the Comprehensive Planning Division planner.
The Jury thinks there is an obvious need for an experienced representative from Comprehensive Planning to give guidance to case planners in Development Review during New Case Review, as well as be available for consultation if needed.
The BOS could help Comprehensive Planning focus more clearly if it would refrain from loading the Division with work extraneous to its central mission.
The Building and Safety Division
The Building Division has undergone great turnover in the past several years and is disadvantaged by the recent loss of key employees. It is just now, with Department recruitment efforts, slowly returning to a full complement.
Staff that have stayed feel overloaded with work to the point that inspections may be spotty or, in some cases, barely a formality. Paper work has been neglected and phone calls unreturned.
Because of time constraints, inspectors told of having to do hasty spot checks or, in one case, simply going to the contractor and asking what he wanted the inspector to look at. This practice, according to one supervisor, should not be tolerated.
Division personnel have been disheartened by having to work up to twice as many inspections per day as a City of Santa Barbara building inspector and for less pay. Staff feels under-appreciated for this work output.
The Building Official (Deputy Director) has struggled with integrating women into his field inspection crews. It is a somewhat daunting task since this kind of field work has long been an all-male purview. Men usually have the experience of having worked in construction before becoming field inspectors, while women have not.
The Building Official provides ride-along training for women he has promoted to fieldwork, an exemplary practice in theory. However this type of mentoring has received mixed reviews.
When this Division was taken out of the Public Works Department and put into the Planning Department, it looked like a perfect marriage on paper. Now some in the Division think it should be reunited with Public Works, or put under the auspices of the Fire Department, or made into a separate department. It may be best to get the personnel problem stabilized before any real consideration of these options is undertaken.
The Administration Division
The Administration Division has a variety of tasks, including fee collection, but one of the most pressing needs is to get the Permit Tracking System upgraded, running properly and all appropriate staff trained in its usage. If the software currently in use is not appropriate for the job being required of it, it should be scrapped and another system employed.
Another goal for this Division should be to get more information about the Department on its web site including information about where a customer’s project is in the process.
The Energy Division
The Energy Division has changed its focus over the years from one of primarily permitting to permit compliance and overseeing facility shut downs.
Energy is seldom scrutinized by Grand Juries or other watchdog bodies. It is financially self-supporting, keeps the public apprised of its functions through public testimony and Division publications, and seems to be a model of efficiency, for which the Division Deputy deserves much of the credit and is to be commended.
The Planning Commission
The Planning Commission (PC) is the politically appointed citizens’ board whose members may or may not have knowledge of, or training in, land use issues. Each member of the Board of Supervisors appoints one Commissioner and then seems to maintain a hands off policy. This means the Commission functions as an independent body without oversight.
In addition to offering their personal opinions about projects, Commissioners factor public opinion into the project equation. They hear citizen comments about a development, consider community values and concerns and then offer suggestions about how an applicant might mitigate problems by agreeing to certain conditions.
These Commission suggestions are often vague, unfortunately. An applicant coming before the Commission has satisfied all legal requirements for the project with the aid of the planner—a process that often seems interminable. It is inappropriate, then, to make the applicant wait for weeks to get on the Commission agenda. It is unconscionable to make the applicant return one or more times after getting incomplete or conflicting information about how to fix the project to the Commission’s satisfaction. The Planning Commission can hold up a project for months and even years, costing the applicant not only time, but tens of thousands of dollars in architectural revisions and other fees.
The Planning Commission should conduct its business in a more efficient manner. Often, with television cameras rolling, a Commissioner will deliver a lengthy discourse on the variety of factors that went into the Commissioner’s decision on a project. This misuse of time is one reason it takes so long to get onto the Commission agenda.
Another reason the calendar is clogged is that Commissioners spend time talking about paint chips and flower plantings, information that, if the Commission insists on this level of detail, should be discussed with the planner before the hearing. In order to avoid due process problems, the Commission should consider a preliminary conceptual review of large, discretionary projects during which Commissioners could meet with an applicant and planner to provide input.
As P&D’s Customer Advisory Group noted, the roles of the Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review need a clear division. The PC should attend to planning and environmental issues, focusing its review of site design to community compatibility and size and scale issues.
Additionally, the Planning Commission secretary (from Development Review) and the PC chair should work out a mutually agreed upon timing of the agenda and then work within that time frame.
Recently the GJ has noted a concerted effort on the part of the PC chair to move hearings along in a more expeditious manner, which is commendable.
The Board of Supervisors
More than 40 percent of the Board’s time at Tuesday BOS meetings is taken up with land use issues. With constituent input and Grand Jury reports, common sense should have been the warning to Supervisors that reform in P&D was needed.
The reformation that has been sweeping through P&D in the past year has been a long time coming. It was only after the Board demanded improvement that progress began, although most of the problems and problem solutions have been known for years, even before the current Board was sitting.
Part of the problem has always been the Board’s concern with the political ramifications of land use issues. Often land use policy is ignored or not implemented. A split in Board voting on growth issues is almost boilerplate with South County traditionally pro environment and slow growth and North County, pro growth and pro business. This may be an expedient way to placate constituents, but it is not a demonstration of the kind of leadership now needed.
The Board must learn to speak with a united voice, considering only what’s good for the entire County.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Finding 1: The permitting process is still cumbersome and confusing.
Recommendation 1a: P&D should accelerate plans for the one-stop Zoning-Building permit for simple ministerial projects.
Recommendation 1b: P&D should provide active assistance in helping applicants get approval on their first 30-day complete/incomplete letters.
Recommendation 1c: There should be a reception/sign-in area at the second floor Zoning and Building counters.
Recommendation 1d: The ministerial permit routing system chart should be placed in plain view of applicants.
Recommendation 1e: A simple explanation about the difference between a ministerial and discretionary permit should be posted in view of applicants.
Recommendation 1f: All brochures and other information given to the public should be reviewed for clarity and updated to reflect the improvements in P&D service.
Recommendation 1g: All instruction manuals and other written aids planners use should be updated.
Recommendation 1h: The reasons a pre-application conference or planner consultation is required or advised should be explained thoroughly to customers.
Recommendation 1i: Customer service training should be mandatory for all counter advisors to project the real concern staff has for clients.
Recommendation 1j: To avoid future misunderstandings with discretionary project customers, Development Review planners should thoroughly explain the process to applicants, agents or other representatives, even those who may think they understand it.
Recommendation 1k: Deadlines must be set and strictly observed to get necessary information about a project to the case manager in writing before New Case Review (for P&D divisions) and before Subdivision Committee meetings (other County departments).
Recommendation 1l: Applicants should be invited to Subdivision Committee meetings to promote their sense of inclusion in the planning process.
Recommendation 1m: Within a week after New Case Review and Subdivision Committee meetings, a revised time and comprehensive cost estimate, including assessments, should be generated for the customer.
Recommendation 1n: The actual cost of the planning process should not exceed the revised cost estimate by more than 10 percent.
Recommendation 1o: Should the cost exceed the revised cost estimate by more than 10 percent, the additional expense should be billed back to the P&D division(s) or County department(s) that caused the readjustment. It should not be billed to the customer.
Recommendation 1p: Planners should keep accurate records of what was accomplished during each of their billable hours.
Recommendation 1q: Information about work accomplished during billable hours should be available to the customer.
Recommendation 1r: As the customer is the ultimate beneficiary of the new hire training and in service courses now being offered to P&D personnel, the programs should be systematized and continued.
Recommendation 1s: A course on planning ethics should be required of every member of the staff in P&D.
Recommendation 1t: Information about where an applicant’s project is in the system should be available on the Internet.
Recommendation 1u: A brochure should be produced of exit interviews with first time applicants about their experience in getting through the planning process. Tips from actual customers, in their own words, could be of real value to new customers.
Finding 2: P&D needs to have its systems and procedures updated and streamlined.
Recommendation 2a: The incoming Assistant Director should have extensive experience in the areas of operations and management in order to address this challenge.
Recommendation 2b: The incoming AD must have a mandate from the Department Director and BOS to streamline and update.
Finding 3: The Department Director, Assistant Director and Division Deputies should be housed in one building.
Recommendation 3a: Plans to house some P&D personnel over a coffee shop across the street from the Engineering Building should be abandoned immediately.
Recommendation 3b: Plans should be initiated to unite the Energy Division with the rest of the Department.
Recommendation 3c: The current Planning Commission hearing room should be converted to a new state-of-the-art Zoning-Building counter.
Recommendation 3d: If space allows behind the proposed counter, a conference room should be created.
Finding 4: Many problems within the Department have been caused or exacerbated by staff vacancies.
Recommendation 4: The aggressive hiring campaign, currently underway, should continue and other effective ways of hiring outreach should be developed.
Finding 5: Many staff have not been evaluated for several years.
Recommendation 5: Performance reviews of all staff should be completed annually.
Finding 6: Exemplary work has gone unrecognized in the Department.
Recommendation 6: Commendations should be awarded for exemplary work and entered into the employee’s file.
Finding 7: Senior planners are working hundreds of hours of uncompensated overtime.
Recommendation 7a: The Department should observe a 40-hour work week.
Recommendation 7b: If emergency overtime occurs, staff should be encouraged to take compensatory time.
Finding 8: There are many aspects of Department service about which the public is unaware or unaware of how to access.
Recommendation 8: Information about the Department’s services and procedures should be placed on County Access television as well as the Department’s web site.
Finding 9: Other jurisdictions have a greeter to help newcomers to the Department get oriented, answer questions and help sort out problems.
Recommendation 9: Consideration should be given to this way of projecting the Department’s customer service orientation.
Finding 10: The Department does not have an ombudsman.
Recommendation 10: Consideration might be given to this new position aimed at giving clients a person to consult about problems. It would underline the customer service element of the Department.
Finding 11: The Department currently partners a Comprehensive Planning planner to the Development Review case manager.
Recommendation 11: This practice should stop. Comprehensive Planning should, however, have a planner at New Case Review to give all necessary information to the Development Review case manager.
Finding 12: Comprehensive Planning has the important task of keeping to the timetable outlined in its Five Year Plan for updating the Comprehensive Plan.
Recommendation 12: This is the division’s mission. It should not get bogged down in case work or other extraneous work.
Finding 13: The Permit Tracking System has never lived up to Department expectations.
Recommendation 13: It should be fixed or replaced immediately.
Finding 14: Building inspectors may have to travel through rush-hour traffic to get to their County vehicles as well as pick up their work assignments and return phone calls.
Recommendation 14: The Department should investigate locating a satellite office in or near Goleta to alleviate this problem.
Finding 15: Building and Safety Division has suffered from personnel losses which has impacted morale and the work product.
Recommendation 15: This Division needs to maintain a full staff as well as providing support for, and acknowledgement of, the work effort.
Finding 16: Because of projected growth in North County south of Santa Maria, a full service P&D office is needed in Buellton.
Recommendation 16: Plans should be made to enlarge the staff and include planners.
Finding 17: The position of Deputy Director of Development Review Division has become overly burdensome for one person.
Recommendation 17: With the vacancy in the Deputy position in this division, two Deputies should be appointed, one for North County and one for South County.
Finding 18: The relationship between the Planning Commission and planners is occasionally confrontational and less than professional.
Recommendation 18: The County’s planners are professionals and should be treated with respect.
Finding 19: The current chair of the Planning Commission is attempting to move the Commission meetings along expeditiously.
Recommendation 19: She should be encouraged in this endeavor by the Board of Supervisors.
Finding 20: Members of the Planning Commission are dedicated volunteers with no required experience in land use issues.
Recommendation 20: P&D should develop a required training program for incoming commissioners as well as providing ongoing training.
Finding 21: The commissioners have copious amounts of paperwork to deal with yet are not provided with office space or clerical assistance.
Recommendation 21: Office space and clerical assistance should be provided.
Finding 22: Both the BOS and PC have hearing rooms.
Recommendation 22: The current Planning Commission hearing room should be converted to a state-of-the-art Zoning-Building counter space and the Planning Commission should hold its meetings in the BOS hearing room.
Finding 23: There is often disagreement between the planning staff and PC over the estimated length of items on the Commission agenda.
Recommendation 23: The Development Review scheduler and PC chair should create the schedule together and the Commission should abide by it.
Finding 24: The Planning Commission often gets to a high degree of detail in its deliberations about projects.
Recommendation 24: The PC should attend to environmental and planning issues, focusing its review of site design to community compatibility and size and scale issues.
Finding 25: Planners have come to believe that they work for the Planning Commission which results in an imbalance of authority.
Recommendation 25a: The P&D Director should make it clear to planners their responsibility is to the public.
Recommendation 25b: The BOS should ensure that the Commission is equally focused on serving the public.
Finding 26: The applicant and planner never know what the PC will require for a project before it comes to the first, and in some cases, second and third Planning Commission hearings which is a waste of applicant, planner and PC agenda time..
Recommendation 26a: The Commission should offer applicants the benefit of their initial thoughts during a preliminary conceptual review.
Recommendation 26b: In the absence of preliminary review, commissioners should give the planners their thoughts about a project in writing before the hearing. In this way, those ideas could be addressed by the applicant and planner before they reach agenda.
Finding 27: Some commissioners give their thoughts about a project to the planner before the project hearing but insist on going over the same process once the television cameras are on.
Recommendation 27: If this continues to be a problem, the PC chair and BOS might consider not televising the hearings.
Finding 28: The Planning Commission and Board of Architectural Review seem to have overlapping areas of authority.
Recommendation 28a: The boundaries should be articulated and codified by the Board of Supervisors.
Recommendation 28b: The BOS should provide oversight to ensure the Commission is functioning in an appropriate manner, being respectful of the time and cost concerns of applicants, being respectful of planners and staying focused on their areas of responsibility.
Finding 29: The BOS gives mixed messages to P&D, the PC and the general public on how the County should grow. Practice does not always follow policy.
Recommendation 29: The BOS should follow its stated policies on land use issues or change or amend the policies.
Finding 30: The BOS often divides along philosophical lines with no apparent effort to work together to reach real accommodation fair to all points of view.
Recommendation 30: No matter what the philosophical split of the BOS, the predictable philosophical division, heavy with political overtones, should stop. BOS members must do a better job of listening to, and hearing, one another. Politics must be put aside if the County is to grow in a way that provides housing and work for its citizens, accommodates business, and preserves the natural beauty of Santa Barbara County, given to us all in trust for future generations.
Findings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
Recommendations 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f, 1g, 1h, 1i, 1j, 1k, 1l, 1m, 1n, 1o, 1p, 1q, 1r, 1s, 1t, 1u, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 4, 5, 6, 7a, 7b, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25a, 26a, 26b, 28a, 28b, 29, 30.
Findings 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.
Recommendations 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25b, 26a, 26b, 27, 28a.
Findings 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30.
Recommendations 1m, 1n, 1o, 1p, 1q, 1r, 1s, 1t, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d, 4, 5, 6, 7a, 7b, 8, 9,10,11,12m, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25b, 26a, 26b, 27, 28, 29, 30.
Findings 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22.
Recommendations 1I, 1k, 1m, 1n, 1o, 1q, 1r, 1s, 1t, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 21, 22.