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.
Do your use project planners handle projects
from “cradle to grave”, i.e. from pre-application
For California departments with CEQA
review, how many days on the average does it take you
to complete mitigated negative declarations?
Do you use stand-by consultants to supplement
your staff to conduct development reviews?
How many days do you give reviewing departments,
such as the engineers, to give you comments on projects?
Do you ever schedule public hearings
before a key reviewing department has responded to you?
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?
Does your planning commission use a consent
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?
Are staff reports from reviewing departments
on the Internet?
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.