July 27, 1999



Honorable Frank J. Ochoa

Presiding Judge, Santa Barbara County Superior Court

1100 Anacapa Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


SUBJECT: My Individual Response to the 1998-99 Grand Jury Report

Entitled Planning and Development Department


Dear Judge Ochoa:


I am providing my individual response to the subject report as follows:



The Planning and Development Department suffers from erratic policy. Several years ago, land-use became the overriding issue for boards of supervisors in the State. Political forces polarized around slow growth and pro growth policies. Slow growth and pro growth forces often exchanged majority positions on boards of supervisors. This has been especially true in Santa Barbara County.


Each side attempted to convert its policies into local ordinances, state legislation and case law. California land values provided financial rewards for supporters on both sides. An industry developed devoted to getting projects approved or projects denied. It incidentally created other phenomena. Candidates for our Board of Supervisors could find tremendous political support by embracing one side or the other. Consultants, environmental experts, lawyers, and others found lucrative employment.


Planning and Development management faced the difficult challenge of adjusting to the policy swings. This management problem was made more difficult by the civil service system. Employees hired as planners during a particular political swing might find it difficult to cast off the philosophical direction that might be temporarily out of date.


Many of the very important services provided by Santa Barbara County began to take a back seat to land-use. Policy, implementation and funding in other areas suffered.


Many citizens found a maze of red tape when they wanted to develop even a small project. It was difficult to abide by the law, whatever that was.


Honorable Frank J. Ochoa Page 2


In order to restore some order out of this, the Board of Supervisors needs to call off the war, develop less complicated policies, compromise their differences, avoid micro-management, and then demand good management, good customer service and accountability from Planning and Development.


It is easy to criticize others. Self-criticism is far more productive. In order to improve, it has been important to look at my past errors. First, about eighteen months ago I put forward a proposal to study the Planning and Development Department operations. Had that been done, the Grand Jury Report might not have had to be written. Unfortunately, the proposal was brought forward at the time that the director of the Energy Division was leaving with the suggestion that this might be the time for some restructuring. That was a serious mistake. The proposal was seen as an attack on the Energy Division and maybe on the entire Planning and Development Department. It only exacerbated the polarization.


On other occasions, I have sought to argue too strongly for my point of view, perhaps with the thought that it would be better to cast a no vote popular with my side than to compromise.


Sometimes I have gone along with convoluted solutions that appear to satisfy everyone but produce vague and complicated ordinances, resolutions, or standards that the average person finds incomprehensible and over which planners, consultants, lawyers, and others argue interminably.


I agree with the general tenor of the Grand Jury Report and will attempt to do my job better in the future.






Tom Urbanske, Supervisor

Fifth District