Study supports years of criticism of city hall

city-hallA new study of the Planning and Development Department cites a negative culture, silo mentality and much more and recommends 325 improvements.

Paul Zucker, president of Zucker Systems, on Thursday told the city council: “They (developers and builders) think your system is broken, they think it has been broken for a long time; we pretty much share that perspective.”

People have long said it takes too much money and time to get plans and projects through city hall.

The city had good intentions to improve that when it merged codes work and city planning and development in 2005, Zucker said, but “You merged people, relocated their desks, but they were never really integrated.”

The department suffers from a silo mentality, a negative culture and a host of other problems that even include the need to remodel its 5th floor permit center, he said.

The department has 13 managers, more than needed, he said, and not enough staff.

For instance, the city talks about the importance of long range planning but each year cuts the number of long range planners, from 17 in 2009 to seven today.

He told the city council that amounts to “not putting money where your mouth is.”

The department culture is described in its written records, Zucker said, with things like “stay in your own lane,” a true isolated silo approach for staff.

“We say get out of your lane.”

It also says, “Let the applicant work out any issues, he said, while consultants suggest it’s the department’s job to work out the issues.

City culture says to “meet our regulations,” while the goal should be to build a better city, he said. “Problem solve those regulations and keep an eye on what you’re really trying to do here …”

The department also needs more money and should consider raising fees and hiring consultants to move projects faster, he said.

As for its permit center, “You walk into the fifth floor, it feels it’s out of date before you even walk to the counter.”

Bob Langenkamp, director of the department, said they expect to act on about 39 of the recommendations within a month and 50 more in about two months.

The key will be to change the culture to shift from being regulators to serving as problem solvers as well, he said.

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