Management Doctor Needs Your Help

One of our clients has asked us for a list of planning departments that relate to the following nine issues. Quickly, give us your best estimate. We will share the data with you as part of a future Management Doctor communication.

  1. Do your use project planners handle projects from “cradle to grave”, i.e. from pre-application through approval?
  2. For California departments with CEQA review, how many days on the average does it take you to complete mitigated negative declarations?
  3. Do you use stand-by consultants to supplement your staff to conduct development reviews?
  4. How many days do you give reviewing departments, such as the engineers, to give you comments on projects?
  5. Do you ever schedule public hearings before a key reviewing department has responded to you?
  6. How many days after a project is received at the counter before it is in the hands of a planner ready to work on it?
  7. Does your planning commission use a consent calendar?
  8. If a staff decision maker or planning commission takes a case under advisement or continues a case prior to making a decision, does your ordinance set a time limit for action? If so, how many days?
  9. Are staff reports from reviewing departments on the Internet?

The Management Doctor

Management Doc Responds

Thank you to the 37 who responded to our request for some planning department benchmark data. This information will be used in a study we are completing for a city. We are pleased to share the data with you which is linked in this email. The Management Doctor has a few comments on the data as follows:

  1. Cradle-to-Grave Planners
    Virtually everyone said that their planners handle projects from cradle to grave. While this is excellent we often find that this simply means you assign a project to a planner. In true cradle-to-grave the planner handles any pre-application, does the intake if it is a complex case, keeps everything on track, solves problems for both the applicant and neighbors, challenges other department conditions when appropriate, presents at the public hearings, and signs off on all conditions as well as the certificate of occupancy. He or she also follows up a year later to see how it looks.
  2. Mitigated Negative Declarations
    It was interesting to see the great variation in how California communities handle the negative declarations under the California Environmental Quality Act. Timelines ranged from two days to 180 days. We have always believed that most California communities take far too long for this process. As a standard, we suggest 14 days after any required technical studies are received.
  3. Stand-by Consultants
    We were surprised to see that only seven out of 37 communities routinely use stand-by consultants for reviewing applications. While we don’t have hard data, we speculate that the percentage is much higher for California communities. We like the flexibility that is offered by stand-by consultants – the so-called “blended staff.”
  4. Reviewing Departments
    Reviewing departments were given from one to 30 days to provide comments. We were pleased to see the low numbers. As a rule of thumb, we believe 14 days should normally be sufficient with 21 days for very large projects.
  5. Scheduling Hearings
    Half of the respondents proceed to hearing, even if reviewing departments have not responded. While not ideal, if departments won’t respond, this technique can be useful.
  6. Counter to Planner
    It takes from zero to 30 days before an application reaches the planner's desk. We believe that long timelines here are inexcusable. One or two days should be the maximum. The process often takes too long anyway, lets get it started.
  7. Planning Commission Consent Calendar
    We were surprised to see that only 16 of the Planning Commissions use a consent calendar. We like to see Planning Commissions spending time on planning and use of a consent calendar can free up time for planning.
  8. Cases Under Advisement
    Allowing time limits for cases under advisement did not produce useful results. Generally this is set by ordinance or State statute and does not appear to be an issue of concern.
  9. and 10. Reports on the Internet
    Our ninth question about having reports from reviewing departments on the Internet was also misleading. Nine of the communities put these comments on the Internet as part of the entire staff report. Only a few put the comments on when they are received. Increasingly, we like to see all these comments available to applicants and the public on the Internet.
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