Dear Management Doctor:

Late in December I sent a request to be put on the mailing list, and I look forward to receiving it throughout this new year. But I wondered if you could help me with something else. I am the new City Planner for a small municipality in the Sacramento Delta region; I am the first full-time in-house planner here. I have been here all of three months. One of my many tasks is to establish new departmental procedures for all the functions here, including building permit submittals, planning entitlement processing, and design review procedures.

What resources do you have to assist in setting up these departmental procedures? Are any resources freely available on the internet or elsewhere? What is available for a fee?

Thank you.
Eric Veerkamp, AICP
City of Isleton, CA

P.S. I look forward to attending one of your upcoming two-day training workshops for Planning Managers. I wish there was something available sooner than Fall ’06.

Dear Eric,

Unfortunately, I am not aware of any handy procedure guide that would satisfy your need. Maybe a few of our California readers will offer to share theirs with you. My thoughts are as follows:

  1. I have now worked for about 150 planning departments in 26 states and find procedures vary substantially from state to state. As such, your best bet would be to look at California procedures.
  2. I find that most planning departments have not written formal procedures, although they should. Formal procedures are essential for staff training.
  3. The procedures should list all the activities surrounding a submittal and these should be put on a flow chart. A target time schedule for each activity should be indicated. For example:
    • Can applications be received at any time or will there be an application cut-off date?
    • What does the application form look like and is it available on the website?
    • When the application comes in, is it date-stamped?
    • Is the application reviewed for completeness when it comes in or later?
    • Is the application entered into the computer system up on receipt or later?
    • Who sets up the file and when?
    • How long does it take after being received before it is assigned to a planner?
  4. Check all the timelines in the California statutes for both planning applications and CEQA. Solano Press Books has some good reference material.
  5. Call a few of your neighboring cities or a county or two and ask them if they have any written guidelines that you could see.
  6. Zucker Systems does this type of work for a fee but this is probably not practical for the size of your community. I can share the following process overview list that I use in my management class:
    • Pre-application
    • Handouts
    • Front counter staff
    • Intake and intake requirements
    • Fees – credit cards
    • Distribution and file set-up
    • Assignment to planner
    • Notices and early notice
    • Field review
    • Inter-departmental coordination
    • Quality first reviews
    • Staff reports
    • Public presentations
    • Appeals
    • Post-approval plan check
    • Certificate of Occupancy
    • Project impact analysis
I hope this gets you started. Feel free to give me a call as you get underway and I can give you a few tips, pro-bono.

The Management Doctor

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