Development Center staff to grow? | September 2, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 2, 2011

Development Center staff to grow?

As rest of City of Palo Alto workforce shrinks, manager recommends new positions to oversee permit-processing center

by Gennady Sheyner

While layoffs, vacancies and retirements continue to shrink the workforce at Palo Alto City Hall, city officials are planning to significantly bolster the number of workers who process building permits and development applications.

This story contains 685 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:48 am

It's about time! People are waiting hours just to pick up a permit, or get an over-the-counter permit for small remodels. I hear the plan is to have several tracks for permits, like the express lane at the supermarket. There is even going to be a self-help station!

I can't wait!


Posted by Do-It-Online, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:55 am

> People are waiting hours just to pick up a permit

And why can't these permits be issued on-line? The permit requester could print out the document, and inspectors would use iPads so that they could check the on-line database of active permits/paperwork to see if the permit is valid--with or without the paper document being provided by the builder.

Why isn't all of this being done on-line already?


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:26 am

"Revenues, according to his report, have been increasing over the past few years -- a sign of strong demand. Because the center is supposed to be revenue neutral, the city has a choice of either lowering fees or investing more resources in providing services."

Instead this should read, "Money extorted from citizens via exorbitant fees are being used to hire more incompetent idiots, who can extort more fees from citizens."

The number of permits required to do anything and the cost of said permits is staggering. The fees to build a house in Palo Alto exceed the actual cost of construction in many places. It truly is opportunistic extortion.

The fees should be lowered and more staff should be cut. We are being taxed without any representation on the matter.


Posted by permit, a resident of Southgate
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:34 am

it is not the people who are working there not helpful,i've actually been there a lot of times,they are very helpful.the problem is the city inspection department they have different requirement sto a project which is perfectly accepted by the development(permit) department. this results the repetitive correction by the builder in order to satisfy the inspector.it is a waste of time and money.


Posted by Michael, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 4:24 pm

The city needs to become more efficient and accomplish more with the resources it has, which are plenty. If it is unable to do this, the current staff should be replaced by more efficient workers who can. Better yet, the jobs should be privatized and the savings passed on to the ratepayers.

There is no excuse right now for sticking taxpayers with the bills for any more bureaucrats or their outlandish, defined benefit pensions.


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Where will they advertise these jobs? I know quite a few people who have been out of work over the past couple of years.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2011 at 8:44 am

I have a completely opposite take on this. Rather than expanding the development center I recommend shrinking it or disbanding it entirely. Although it is cash-flow positive, and on paper the city shows revenues of, they say $8 million, what it really is is the taxpayers subsidizing a special interest in the form of the commercial real estate developers. Those guys make profits in the tens of millions or hundreds of millions versus the one or two million positive cash flow attributed to our budget. The changes suggested, indeed the formation of the center, is geared to serve the industry not the citizens. The greed of the industry is dissatisfied and wants more more more.

What percentage of staff time there is spent on commercial projects versus home projects?
What percentage of that income?

The term "Palo Alto Process" as a pejorative is propaganda put out by these same special interests, the real estate interests, to lambast the very idea of governance and is a smokescreen.

Meanwhile anything of value to residents is given lip-service and back-burner treatment compared to the commercial real estate cartel. It is most distinct in the way the Big Three are treated -- preferentially -- and how they seem to control council and direct staff. Also, I've heard that there seems to be a suspicious imbalance in the way that bonuses are awarded -- to build beyond code -- in that when certain people apply they are more likely to be applied than when others are.

The general issues of whether we have lost control of our governance and staff due to the phenomenon of the Big Three Developers is never actually covered by the local press. Hardly, they are organs for their views. Even though the Palo Alto Weekly is in business with a big developer, at 450 Cambridge, it would still be in their best interests to cover this issue, rather than risk being dismissed as like the other two rags.

Or prove me wrong here. (And I think the matter of The Varsity is perfect case in point -- and I watched their proposal being given the silver platter treatment last week at The Development Center, as citizens did indeed wait their turn. Apparently you can make an appointment to not wait, or some people can).


Posted by BarronParker, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2011 at 9:52 am

The Palo Alto building department (permits, inspections) is notoriously awful. I know of no person who has built an addition, or added solar collectors, or made any significant improvement to their house, who has not suffered from arbitrary decisions, bad coordination, unreasonable delays and generally abysmal service by this department. Residents, builders and contractors have suffered, and continue to suffer, from an incalculable amount of frustration and added expense.

It is particularly ironic that this is happening in the heart of Silicon Valley, where you would expect the entire process to be handled online, including all appointments and records.

It is way past time to fix this problem, and the first step is to put the system up online. Everyone not doing that, including all the current building inspectors, should be fired. We need a clean sweep of this miserable dis-organization.


Posted by Ernesto, a resident of Ventura
on Sep 3, 2011 at 9:31 pm

The last thing we need right now is more government hiring. I agree with the sentiments above that the size of this department should be headed the other direction. The problem with government is that it loves to expand when times are good (as they are now supposedly for the building department, although that is artificial since its as much a reflection of overcharging residents and users for its services), but is nearly impossible to shrink once it becomes clear that we the taxpayers are saddled with a bloated, inefficient bureaucracy that drains our resources at a rate far disproportionate to the value it adds.


Posted by Kathy, a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

To the Mayor and city of Palo Alto: you will be extremely happy on the final product you will have with this development center. Don't hesitate to pass this. I worked in the Planning department during the time Austin developed this new system, it turned out to be very successful, and our customers were really happy. My hats off to you and your forward thinking.


Posted by Don, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2011 at 10:04 pm

When the glut of permit applications is gone, will these now extra workers be let go? Of course not. Somehow their services will still be required somewhere. This is the way bureaucracy works. Add, never subtract.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

Let's hope the City Council will be able to see through this sham like cellophane.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

City Manager's Report Here:

Web Link


Posted by Commenter, a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 6, 2011 at 11:22 am


From page 18 of 20 of City Manager's Report:

New Staff Salary and Benefits estimate

Development Services Official $ 204,127 Salary and benefits
Permit Center Manager $ 172,159 Salary and benefits
Plans Examiner $ 139,884 Salary and benefits
Project Manager $ 115,493 Salary and benefits
Project Manager $ 115,493 Salary and benefits
Project Manager $ 115,493 Salary and benefits
New Salaries and
Benefits Total $ 862,649


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm

To amend my previous post, anyone applying for a hearing in any of the thirteen categories needs to get an appointment to apply.
And the other posters indirectly answered my other question that only one of the five new positions is geared to residents, by salary that is closer to ten percent than twenty percent.
Steve Emslie coming out of planning to city managers office per se essentially works for development projects.
I hope this gets debated a little.
Meanwhile I am still rooting for Jim Keene in the Weekly's Moonlight Run and offered to pledge $100 to Rec department if he breaks 50 min in the 10K or places in his age group which is 60 plus.


Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

The irony of course is that while the developers complain of "the palo alto process" ie something getting between them and their profits arbitrarily that news of this goes online on friday and by tuesday it is a done deal.
congrats to karen holman for breaking from the pack to oppose this.

the key point is that 88 percent of the expenditure here and expansion helps the commercial real estate interests and not the citizens (12 percent, by salary, or 1 of the 5 positions).

Jim, you are selling the farm!

How can we as a community share in the profits of the real estate industry? They make tens of millions of dollars on this, and we get a small share in permit fees. The development center and this expansion is cash flow positive but it seems that it enables the greed of the developers and does next to nothing for the citizens. It is essentially a further subsidy of the industry. And meanwhile services are cut. The Arts and Culture department has had several unfilled positions.

this should be looked into more closely.


Posted by Charlie, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 9, 2011 at 10:05 am

"Staff anticipates between $7 million and $8 million in Development Center revenues in fiscal year 2012"

One thing I'm sure, the revenues will not be coming from the commercial/advertisement.


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