The Board of Supervisors recognizes the critical importance of the Countyís land-use decision making process to the community. Further, the Board understands that the operations of the Planning and Development Department have a major impact on that process. Finally, the Board agrees that it is ultimately responsible for land-use policies and decision making and commits to taking whatever actions are necessary to ensure the process is effective, responsive to the public and protective of constitutional rights.

The responses of the Planning Commission (PC), County Administrator (CA) and the Planning and Development Director (P&D) are referenced in the Boardís response and are attached. A copy of the Grand Jury Report is also attached.

 

Finding #1:

Application approvals or denials are delayed or inconsistent because of a breakdown of the application review and permit process. This is the result of dysfunctionality in the P&D Department. Management allows too much distributed decision making with little or no accountability which leads to a lack of interdivisional cooperation.

Response to Finding #1: Agree in part. Agree that there are applications which could have been processed with fewer delays and/or more consistency and that the application review and permit process can be improved. However, as documented in P& Dís response, the large majority of applications are processed timely and consistently.

Disagree that the reasons for delays and inconsistencies rest entirely with P&D . There are several hearing boards that make and use policy decisions and various independent special districts and other County departments that are involved in the process (reference the responses of both the CA and P&D).

 

Recommendation #1:

The director, in concert with the CA, should identify those elements of the operation that are contributing to the degradation of the process and formulate an integrated plan for improved performance, even if it means reassignment or dismissal of personnel.

Response to Recommendation #1: The recommendation has been partially implemented (reference the responses of both the CA and P&D) and will continue to be implemented on an ongoing basis.

Achieving excellent operational performance in P&D and throughout the land-use decision making process requires an ongoing commitment by the Board, Planning Commission, P&D, other departments involved in the process and the CA. It can be achieved over time through utilization of professional management tools such as project management, process improvement, cost containment, performance measurement, workload standards and staff training. It also involves increased accountability for regulatory decisions as well as development and implementation of county land-use policies, plans and ordinances that are functional, integrated and up to date.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, achieving excellent performance in the land-use process requires that the Board of Supervisors (irrespective of its membership at any given time) value and keep to its role as policy maker and that staff value and keep to its role as implementer of those policies. The Board is committed to this end and commends the CA and the P&D Director for their recent efforts in this regard. (Reference the CAís and P&D responses).

Standard management strategies as outlined below will be utilized to ensure that the relevant P&D operations are regularly evaluated and improved:

A. Quarterly Operational Review Meetings between the CA and the P&D Director to evaluate departmental performance measures, staff productivity and other major issues of concern.

B. Monthly budget review meetings between the budget staffs of both P&D and the CA to help ensure cost containment.

C. Annual employee performance reviews of the P& D Director by the CA and the Board to evaluate the leadership and management of P&D and its role in the land-use process.

D. Annual budget hearings at the end of each fiscal year (June) and then January mid-year budget updates to the Board to monitor both revenues and expenditures in P&D and other departments.

E. Bi-monthly project management reviews of selected P&D land-use projects by the CA, Auditor-Controller and County Counsel. These reviews will also help ensure the integration of P&D land-use projects with Public Works, Fire, Environmental Health and other departments as appropriate.

F. Development and potential implementation of the Case-Sorting System proposed by P&D on page 8 of its response to the Grand Jury. This system will be reviewed during of the quarterly operational review meetings between the CA and P&D Director.

G. Development of regular ways and means of receiving input from customers on P&D operations and measuring satisfaction with departmental performance. Development and implementation will be reviewed during the bi-monthly Project Review Meetings.

In order to keep the Board of Supervisors advised of the progress with respect to the various management improvement type projects described in this report, the Board of Supervisors will receive copies of the project management reporting system reports relevant to the various improvement projects described herein and by the P&D Director in his answer to the Grand Jury. Moreover, the County Administrator has been directed to notify each member of the Board of Supervisors of the actual date and times of the project reporting system meetings in the event that the Board members wish to attend.

In addition to utilizing management strategies, the performance of the land-use planning process is addressed and resolved through the democratic process of public Planning Commission and Board of Supervisorsí meetings.

 

Finding #2:

Departmental policies, particularly in the area of land use, and procedures are outdated and ambiguous. They do not serve as adequate references for departmental operations and are applied inconsistently with little predictability across the department. By broadly interpreting existing policies, planners create de facto policies.

Response to Finding #2: Agree in part. Agree that some land-use plans, policies and ordinances have not been regularly updated and could be considered ambiguous. However, others are current and clear (reference P&Dís response).

Agree that the community plans which are outdated or non-existent do not serve as good references for departmental operations and therefore, on occasion there is inconsistent application and interpretation of policy by staff.

Recommendation #2:

a) The Board of Supervisors should review and formally adopt an updated version of the Environmental Thresholds and Guidelines Manual to provide clear, predictable guidelines to the public.

Response to Recommendation #2A: The recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted. Although the Board adopted the referenced environmental thresholdsí document in 1994, previous grand juries have been critical of the Countyís dependence on a separate environmental review process as a source of policy direction.

Policies to guide land-use decision making should come from the General Plan, community plans, and through zoning ordinances. Using a CEQA document to supply policy guidance will not resolve the problems the Grand Jury finds. We believe Recommendation #2b is more to the point.

Recommendation #2:

b) The Board of Supervisors, together with the department, should update all land-use policies and ordinances, include EIRs with community plans and implement a regular schedule for review and revision.

Response to the Recommendation #2b: The recommendation has been and will continue to be implemented in part by periodic community plan updates and revisions. In FY1999-00, P&D will assess the set of documents constituting the General Plan, including community plans, and present the Board with options and recommendations to update those documents. The Board will consider a schedule for their review and revision consistent with Board priorities and resources available. The Board will also consider the feasibility of updating and simplifying the Countyís scheme of land-use planning and regulations. This effort will include a five (5) year plan to update and revise the various planning documents as appropriate.

 

Finding #3:

Appeals by the public result from the lack of clearly articulated policies regarding land use and environmental thresholds. Outdated community plans offer planners excessive latitude in issuing findings on projects and attaching mitigating conditions to those projects. This leads to inconsistent treatment of projects by planning staff and creates multiple appeals. The Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission spend excessive time hearing appeals that could be resolved through alternative processes.

Response to Finding #3: Agree in part. Agree that some appeals result from the lack of clearly articulated updated land-use polices and staffsí interpretation of those polices (reference the Boardsí response to Finding #2). In addition, the Board can testify that time spent hearing appeals is often long and arduous. Further, we agree that some appeals could be resolved and/or focused through alternate processes such as the Facilitation Process for Land-Use Appeals adopted by the Board in October, 1995.

Disagree that project findings and mitigating conditions are issued by staff. They are in fact drafted by staff and carefully reviewed and subsequently issued by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Finally, we disagree and take issue with the implication that almost all public appeals result from the lack of clearly articulated policies and/or inconsistent treatment of projects by staff. The vast majority of projects are not appealed. The reasons for those which are appealed vary widely and the majority concern neighborhood compatibility issues or project denials (reference the PC and P&D responses).

 

Recommendation #3:

a) The director together with the Planning Commission should ensure that all policies and procedures reflect current application of land use policies and the comprehensive and community plans are continuously updated to provide a tight framework for each community.

Response to Recommendation #3a: The essence of the Grand Juryís recommendation is that the land-use planning process should have comprehensive, up-to-date, accurate and effective community plans and General Plan. Further, that those plans should always provide a tight but workable land-use framework for each community in the unincorporated area of the County. The P&D and PC responses appropriately state that such "continuous updating" of the comprehensive and community plans, although a laudable idea, is really not possible in practice. The Board agrees.

However, the recommendation is being implemented in part by ensuring that the P&D Director, PC, and Board work together to effectively evaluate and update land-use policies, the General Plan and community plans on a regular periodic basis consistent with Board priorities and available resources. The FY 1999-00 update and evaluation process is outlined in the Boardís response to Recommendation 2b.

Recommendation #3

b) The director should exercise more leadership of the deputy directors to ensure that departmental policies are being implemented as intended.

Response to Recommendation #3b: The recommendation is being implemented (reference the Boardís response to Recommendation #1 and P&Ds response to Recommendation #3b). The Board will hold the P&D Director accountable for the leadership and operations of the department through the annual Employee Performance Review (EPR) process.

Recommendation #3

c) Deputy directors should clearly define division processes to ensure that consistent findings and mitigations are presented that actually reflect the policies of the department.

Response to Recommendation #3c: The recommendation is being implemented (reference P&Dís response).

Recommendation #3

d) The Planning Commission should adopt a mediation or mandatory arbitration requirement as part of the application appeals process.

Response to Recommendation #3d: Although the Board supports the existing facilitation process for appeals to the Board, the recommendation will not be implemented because it is not warranted. An arbitration process could take policy authority outside of the public democratic process (reference the Planning Commissionís response).

 

Finding #4:

The current pre-application process does not add value to the application review process. It is perceived to cause unnecessary delay and increased cost for the applicant and increased work for the department without generating adequate revenue.

Response to Finding #4: Agree in part: Agree that the pre-application process costs the applicant money, (however, it does not generate revenue sufficient to cover all costs).

Disagree that the pre-application process does not add value to the entire application process. For instance, it provides information about development site constraints; gives previous permit history for the site; informs applicants of environmental issues; presents a set of zoning ordinance and community plan issues related to the project; and alerts applicants of the need for permits, etc. from other County departments (reference P&Dís response).

Finally, it is difficult to agree or disagree with whether the pre-application process is perceived to cause unnecessary delay.

Recommendation #4:

The director should develop a pre-application process that is beneficial to the applicant and reduces departmental processing time in the long term at a cost that is equitable for both the department and the applicant.

Response to Recommendation #4: The recommendation is being implemented (reference P&Dís response). The pre-application review process and the Directorís proposed enhancements will be reviewed as part of the quarterly operations review meetings between the CA and the Director.

Finding #5:

Inadequate and poorly trained staff and employee turnover, particularly in the Development Review Division, has created a large backlog of unprocessed project applications.

Response to Finding #5: Agree in part. Agree that there is a backlog of applications and that the reasons stated in the Finding are a substantial contributor to the backlog. However, the recent increase in applications is also a significant contributor (reference P&Dís response).

Recommendation #: 5

The director should develop a comprehensive three-part training program that targets skill sets for appropriate tasks. It should include, but not be limited to:

Response to Recommendation #5: The recommendation will be implemented in phases over the next sixteen months (reference P&Dís response). Development and implementation of the three part training program will be tracked as part of the bi-monthly Project Management Reporting System. The Board of Supervisors places a high priority on training which focuses on intra-departmental and inter-departmental communication and coordination.

Finding #6:

An adversarial climate exists between the development and agricultural communities and the planning department.

Response to Finding #6: Basically agree. Agree that an adversarial climate exists between P&D and some of the development community and P&D and some of the agricultural community (reference P&Dís response).

 

Recommendation #6:

Response to Recommendation #6a: The recommendation to streamline and clarify the application and review processes including an explanation of the processes to the applicant will be implemented within the next twelve months (reference P&Dís response). The application and review process improvements will be monitored through the Quarterly Operations Review Meetings between the CA and the Director.

The re-engineering of the application/approval process by an outside agent will not be implemented at this time. Instead, the management strategies indicated in the Boardís response to Recommendation #1 will be advanced. Input from professionals experienced in relevant process issues and P&D customers is an important aspect of the management strategies.

Recommendation #6

b) The director should initiate a dialogue with the development community that results in practical actions and a more collaborative process. This could include opportunities for the private sector to provide seminars for planners on issues that drive project designs.

Response to Recommendation 6b: The recommendation is being implemented and implementation will be accelerated over the next sixty days (reference P&Dís response). The Board will monitor the process of implementation as part of its oversight outlined in its response to Recommendation #1 and progress will be reviewed as part of the Quarterly Operational Review meetings between the CA and P&D Director.

 

Finding #7:

Fees are charged to applicants for project review and permitting with no ceiling for the amount to be charged, no requirement on the part of the P&D Department for timeliness and no detailed explanation of the charges.

Response to Finding #7: Agree in part. Generally, less than one-half of project applications are subject to P&D hourly rates; most applicants pay fixed fees (reference P&Dís response). P&D has several performance measures that pertain to this issue which are published in the Countyís Proposed Budget and reviewed quarterly by the CA. Finally, the schedule and costs of projects charged hourly rates will be monitored through the Project Management Reporting System.

Recommendation #7:

Response to Recommendation #7c: The recommendation will be implemented within four months in accordance with P&Dís response to have activities listed on billing statements. Development and implementation of the billing will be reviewed during Quarterly Operational Review meetings between the CA and P&D Director.

 

Finding #8:

Reported zoning violations are not dealt with in a timely manner. Fines and penalties, when levied, are either not collected or are waived.

Response to Finding #8: Agree in part. Agree that many zoning violations are not dealt with timely. During FY 1998-99, 53% of 325 violations were investigated within 30 days of complaint receipt. Disagree that fines and penalties are generally not collected and/or are waived. In fact, the large majority of violation fines and penalties are collected (reference P&Dís response).

 

Recommendation #8:

Response to Recommendation #8d: The recommendation has been implemented. The P&D response indicates that the director has considered contracting but has decided against it at this time. (Reference P&Dís response.) This is consistent with general County policy to utilize staff for law enforcement purposes.

 

Finding #9:

Inefficient use of and insufficient workspace impede the departmentís ability to function effectively.

Response to Finding #9: Agree. Agree that more efficient use of existing work space and additional office space would be helpful to P&Dís ability to function more effectively.

 

recommendation #9:

The Board of Supervisors and the director should diligently explore a space solution that reduces the fragmentation of the department and provides a physical environment that will support a seamless planning and permitting process.

Response to Recommendation #9: The recommendation is being implemented in phases as space and funding can be secured (reference P&Dís response). In addition to the information contained in P&Dís response, additional office space in the Santa Barbara Engineering Building is planned to be made available to P&D within approximately three months.