10/18/12

Red Tape Reduction Task Force Impacts

As a farmer, I know what it takes to grow fruit. People say patience is a virtue, and for a law maker it is definitely true because in order to develop quality and lasting change people want it takes time. This was definitely the case for the Red Tape Reduction Task Force (RTRTF), which was a policy I conceived and later co-authored with Supervisor Ron Roberts. We are now beginning to see the fruit of our labor. 

Below is a compilation of some of the things being implemented as a result of the RTRTF. 

Modernizing Regulations
Tracking ongoing project conditions or deferring conditions to coincide with actual project impacts has been frustrating for customers and staff, given the tools currently available. 

This will change with the Site Implementation Agreement (SIA). 

The SIA is a mechanism that accompanies a subdivision map application and provides more flexibility and creativity in condition writing and implementation, while maintaining a high level of transparency. For example, where we currently rely on multiple tools to track conditions, the SIA provides a single location where all ongoing mitigation requirements can be located. The SIA will also be recorded on the property title so future property owners will know their ongoing obligations. Additionally, mitigation measures previously deemed not feasible because they require implementation after the map records (i.e. rooftop solar and other greenhouse gas mitigation measures) can be considered with the use of the SIA. 

We received mostly favorable comments from various stakeholders and customers for the SIA during the public review period that ended in August. The SIA is now on target for the Board of Supervisors’ consideration by this winter. 

For questions or comments, please contact Joe at (858) 694-3690 or by e-mail atjoseph.farace@sdcounty.ca.gov

A New Department—A New Building
Planning & Development Services (PDS) was delighted to open and begin service in a new state-of-the-art building last month. 

The last day at the County Annex on Ruffin Road was Friday, September 21, and doors to the department’s new facilities opened to the public Tuesday, September 25.  

Here are some highlights for our customers in the new building: 
- Comfortable seating in the permit center lobby, with additional seating outdoors 
- A business center in the permit center lobby with workstations, basic office supplies and a copy machine for our customers and members of the public 
- Free WiFi in the lobby and on the third floor 
- Visitor parking on the ground floor of the parking structure next door, unmarked parking spaces in the rest of the structure, and surface parking throughout the campus are all available 
- A café in the permit center for customers 
- Speakers outside and in the restrooms so customers do not miss a number called in the permit center 

The new County campus also features a large hearing room with flexible seating; large screens and cameras set for internet broadcasting; a new “Commons” cafeteria with a large variety of delicious, healthy foods and drinks; a fitness trail presented by the Department of Parks and Recreation; and public art pieces worthy of a tour. 

Enhancing the Skills of Our Workforce
The County’s Strategic Plan includes a Required Discipline for Excellence to have a “Skilled, Adaptable and Diverse Workforce.” As we reorganize into Planning and Development Services, we are taking stock of our employees’ training needs and professional development interests. We’ve surveyed our team to find out what types of training would be the most beneficial and valuable. With this information, we’re able to prioritize a training plan with both staff and supervisor input. 

Our training program will kick off this fall. 

These days there are numerous ways to be trained ranging from group trainings (large or small), to online trainings like webinars. We’re tailoring our training programs to individuals and making the trainings pertinent and relevant, designed to have the most impact possible for our customers. 

Elizabeth Amstadter joined the team just a few short weeks ago as the new departmental human re-sources officer. We asked for her initial thoughts. 

“I really see the County’s Learning Management System (LMS) as an opportunity to not only develop individual training plans for our team members, but also as a way to keep track of all the training we do,” she said. “I know we’ll be focused on customer service over the next year and I’m really excited to roll out a mentor/mentee program, modeled after the Department of Human Resources’ program, to our staff this fall.”

Self Certification
Every year thousands of people come to the County’s building counters to get the permits they need to build everything from new roofs to tract housing projects — a process that includes County inspections to make sure those projects are safe. 

This year the County is making the inspection process easier and faster for a lot of people while maintaining safety standards with a new service — “self certification.” 

It works by letting homeowners’ contractors, architects and engineers sign off, or “self-certify,” simple projects without needing County inspections. 

Building inspections are an important part of the building permit process. They’re designed to ensure that people are safe in and around the homes and buildings in which they live, work and play. County building inspectors, for example, make sure that buildings are strong and structurally sound, and that electrical systems won’t short and create fires. 

In fact, San Diego County received top grades for its codes and inspection/enforcement system in 2009 from the Insurance Services Office, an independent rating/advisory organization that serves the property and casualty insurance industry. 

However, the state building code allows local governments to authorize state-certified contractors, architects and engineers to inspect and sign off on minor residential work, in recognition that: 
- Allowing “self certification” simplifies the building permit process and saves homeowners time by not having to schedule government inspections. 
- Professionals licensed by the State of California have the expertise to ensure safety. 

And that’s where San Diego County’s self-certification process comes in. By completing a few forms, homeowners can save time and skip County inspections on projects including: replacing water heaters, demolition work, new or replacement air conditioner condensers, window replacements, exterior siding or plastering, fencing and walls (over six feet in height and meeting all setbacks), interior drywall work, manufactured home retrofits, re-plumbing or re-piping, and non-structural roof replacements. 

The County’s building counter personnel are telling any and all customers who have projects that qualify about the new program. For more information call the County’s Building Permit telephone line at (858) 565-5920.