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Palo Alto hires director for its permitting operation

Original post made on Oct 3, 2012

Palo Alto's aggressive effort to reform its famously frustrating permitting operation hit another landmark this week when the city hired its first-ever Development Services Director.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 3, 2012, 5:15 PM

Comments (17)

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Posted by Angry
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Another C student whose job is to take my money.

Web Link


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Posted by sure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2012 at 9:08 pm



Maybe Development wants to be nicer to residents now, so they can shove that commercial development monster on University and Alma up our nose.

Who knew, that all the while there is a famous "Palo Alto process" for residents, there is an entirely different one for commercial developers. Commmercial developers get a free light, and can destroy views, light, traffic, the environment, with the City clamors for more, more, more.

Does the City get anything right?


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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

So, what's the total cost of this dysfunctional Development Services department? Please take in to account the pension costs for all of these new hires. How much of it is coming from the increased utility rates?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 3, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Jem Keene is steadily building his empire.He recently hired several (3 or 4) MANAGERS for the Development Center, now this.
Looks like he really wants that monster project to get approved. Question is, will the council ever stop him or will they repeatedly thank the staff for all their good work.
We need to know what's in that mammoth boondoggle for him.


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Posted by sure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2012 at 8:16 am




The idea of Development certainly needs transparency and inclusion. Does anyone know of any group or person or people, or how to get a referendum going, to vote against tall buildings in Palo Alto?


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Posted by Michael
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2012 at 8:50 am

We've just added a very expensive bureaucrat to the most underperforming city government department (one which recently saw the addition of several more bureaucrats to address their inability to meet the city's needs).

How is this new director going to be held accountable? What timelines, metrics, and deliverables will he be accountable for? In the real world, such highly compensated professionals are accountable for the value they add, and if they fail, they aren't kept on the payroll for very long. Will the department become more streamlined? Will ineffective planners be weeded out and dismissed? Will the process be improved, and if not, what are the consequences?

I'm tired of the city government overpaying its own while completely failing to hold its highly paid bureaucrats accountable for their performance. The slow, chronically underperforming planning department should have been outsources a long time ago.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

This sounds just like another expensive Palo Alto employee to me.

From our experience, it is the rules and procedures in the paperwork that need to be revamped, not the people.

When are we going to streamline our city government to save money rather than throwing more money away on administrators?


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

There has got to be a more cost-effective was of smoothing out the permitting process. When I got a new roof last year, they kept my roofer waiting all day e Rey day for,two weeks before even seeing him about getting the permit.

A few years ago, we put in new windows and doors. The permit was applied for in October, but was not approved until January.

In both cases, the contractors wanted to know who they had to pay off to get anything through!


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Well, I hope Mr. Pirnejad doesn't read this thread. What a welcome! I am (yet again) amazed at the vitriol that is posted on these forums in nearly every topic. I've lived in Palo Alto for 34 years, and if I had found that people here were as nasty in person as they appear to be online, I expect I would have moved away long ago.


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Posted by unhappy camper
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 4, 2012 at 12:42 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Don't-Reward-Failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2012 at 12:54 pm

If the planning department is as bad as this --- then no incumbent should be returned to the Council, or anyone who contributed to this mess--such as Liz Kniss.


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Posted by Lazlo
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Adding more management to a dysfunctional department seems to be the Keene and Klein's team standard fix for incompetence. The Developement Center now has two managers for every staff employee. How many manager's does it take to screw in a light bulb? According to Keene and Klein, 10 or more. The problem isn't the need for more management, the problem is that we have a city manager with no vision and whose management capabilities have cost Palo Altans millions and continues to produce no results. A change of management at the top would be a positive step by council to assure the public that they are committed to a change for the better.


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Posted by notmyopinion
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

"Improve customer service and efficiency at the Development Center"
Sound like a lot of new money coming into the city budget. These new jobs are definitely more important than school crossing guards and the traffic cops altogether!


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Jan H. is a registered user.

Brian, there was an article about rude Facebook and email users in the Wall Street Journal just a couple of days ago. It has to do with not being face-to-face or voice-to-voice with whomever you are addressing, sort of a protective armour of anonymity. It emboldens the user. Rather like rude drivers!


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Posted by Don't-Reward-Failure
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2012 at 8:12 am

> A few years ago, we put in new windows and doors. The permit
> was applied for in October, but was not approved until January.

Could you add some detail here? How much work did the City have to do to approve this permit request?


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Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 10, 2012 at 7:25 am

All the City had to do was come out and look at the exterior of my house, and look at the proposed plan, complete with drawings and photos, that the contractor had drawn up. How long could that take?


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Posted by The Truth
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm

It sounds like alot of City residents have insight to how municipal government employees on the management level are over paid and under perform.

If Peter was so good tell me why he was not promoted in Daly City after the Director of Economic and Community Developmrnt Dept.left that City? Peter was his assistant for over 4 years! Could he not learn that job? The credit for change in Daly City that was contributed to Peter's skill set is way too much!All he did was follow along with a software company installation program and their consultants. There is nothing difficult about that. Palo Alto was sold a bill of goods believe me I know Peter.


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