Archive for the ‘Wendy Greuel’ Category

CONTROLLER GREUEL RELEASES FOLLOW-UP AUDIT OF CITY'S PLANNING DEPARTMENT

April 2nd, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              
April 2nd, 2010                                                       

CONTROLLER GREUEL RELEASES FOLLOW-UP AUDIT OF CITY’S PLANNING
DEPARTMENT
Majority of Recommendations From 2005 Audit Found to be Unimplemented

(Los Angeles) –City Controller Wendy Greuel released a follow-up audit today of how the City’s Planning Department handles case processing.  The audit was a follow-up from a 2005 audit which looked at time and efficiency that the Planning Department handles land-use applications from Angelenos.

“Out of all of the audits I have done so far, this is among the most disappointing, because it appears that the City’s Planning Department was unable to implement the previous audit’s recommendations,” Greuel said.  “While the Department has used some of their resources to update community plans and zoning regulations in order to increase projects that can be built by-right, which reduce case processing times, this is not acceptable four and a half years after the original audit came out.”

The audit found that while the time it takes for a case to be processed has improved, it is still far short of the Department’s own goals and the timeframe recommended in the previous audit.

Controller Greuel also called on the City Council and Mayor to implement the “12 to 2” proposal, which was designed to help streamline the permitting process, but has languished for two years.  “It is symbolic of the City’s stagnant decision making process that little to no action has been taken on this proposal, which was intended to speed up the permitting process,” Greuel said.

Some of the audits findings included:   The Planning Department has not implemented the prior audit’s recommendations to streamline the case processing function

The prior audit recommended a “cradle to grave” approach whereby one planner handles a case from the beginning to the very end, which has not been done.  In 2008, two streamlined teams were created in the San Fernando Valley, however management has not yet implemented the planned reorganization Citywide.

The Department’s current case processing goals may not be realistic and it has not yet established targets, as recommended in the prior audit

Despite having approved case processing timeframe goals, they are consistently not met. Management indicates these goals were developed by previous management without any meaningful process analysis. Management should consider whether the current goals are realistic measures of performance.

Case processing timeframes have improved but fall far short of the Department’s current goals and the timeframes recommended in the prior audit

Commission and Division of Land case processing timeframes have improved since the prior audit, which is not surprising given the number of applications has fallen by 46% and 90%, respectively between FYs 04-05 and 08-09 because of the economic downturn. Zoning Administration case processing timeframes worsened, despite the fact that case filings fell by 40% between FYs 04-05 and 08-09.

Below, you will find the Controller’s cover letter. A copy of the entire audit will be available here: http://controller.lacity.org/Audits_and_Reports/index.htm

April 2, 2010

The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa
The Honorable Carmen Trutanich
Honorable Members of the City Council

With the local unemployment rate over 12%, it is critical that City government do everything possible to revive our local economy.  One area that has long kept the City from being more “business-friendly”, is that Angelenos spend months and sometimes years awaiting approval for zoning and land-use permits.  These delays stall development in the City, slowing the creation of critical construction jobs.  The Departments responsible – primarily Planning and Building & Safety, need to find ways to work more efficiently in processing these applications.  

My office recently conducted the attached follow-up audit of the Department of City Planning’s case processing activities.  While small improvements have been made in a few areas since our original October 2005 audit, the Department has been unable to take necessary steps to become more efficient.

Out of all of the audits I have done so far, this is among the most dissapointing, because it appears that the City’s Planning Department was unable to implement the previous audit’s recommendations.  The Department gave the reason that budget deficits and other reorganizations have hampered their ability to make the necessary changes.  While the Department has used some of their resources to update community plans and zoning regulations in order to increase projects that can be built by-right, which reduce case processing times, this is not acceptable four and a half years after the original audit came out.

It has now been more than two years since the “12 to 2” plan was introduced to help streamline the permitting process and yet little progress has been made to the reduce the time and number of departments Angelenos must deal with to obtain a permit.  It is symbolic of the City’s stagnant decision making process that little to no action has been taken on this proposal, which was intended to speed up the permitting process.  I urge you to implement the entire 12 to 2 proposal immediately to help cut the bureaucracy and put Angelenos back to work.

I am disturbed by the fact that the City recently implemented higher fees for land-use applications with the expectation that additional staff would be hired to reduce wait times, yet even the Department admits that Angelenos will not see an increase in service.  While the City is facing a massive budget deficit, I find it disingenuous to charge higher fees while the public receives fewer services.  

While audits shine necessary light on the work our City does, we must also ensure that proper follow-up is done and recommendations that are made within these audits are implemented.

The prior audit found that the Department was organized around specialized, isolated functions that relied on redundant use of staff to process land-use cases.  This approach is both inefficient—because multiple people must become familiar with each case—and frustrating to Angelenos applying for permits—because they have no single point of contact.  Additionally, the prior audit found that the Department had not consistently met internal case processing goals. Our follow-up audit found that many of the previous findings remain unresolved and previous recommendations remain unimplemented.

Some of the follow-up audit findings include:  The Department has not implemented the prior audit’s recommendations to streamline the case processing function

The prior audit recommended a “cradle to grave” approach whereby one planner handles a case from the beginning to the very end, which has not been done.  In 2008, two streamlined teams were created in the San Fernando Valley, however management has not yet implemented the planned reorganization Citywide.

The Department’s current case processing goals may not be realistic and it has not yet established targets, as recommended in the prior audit

Despite having approved case processing timeframe goals, they are consistently not met. Management indicates these goals were developed by previous management without any meaningful process analysis. Management should consider whether the current goals are realistic measures of performance.

Case processing timeframes have improved but fall far short of the Department’s current goals and the timeframes recommended in the prior audit

Commission and Division of Land case processing timeframes have improved since the prior audit, which is not surprising given the number of applications has fallen by 46% and 90%, respectively between FYs 04-05 and 08-09 because of the economic downturn. Zoning Administration case processing timeframes worsened, despite the fact that case filings fell by 40% between FYs 04-05 and 08-09.

Given our current economic situation, reforming the Planning Department must become a high priority.  I hope you will join me in ensuring this audit’s recommendations are swiftly implemented.  

Sincerely,

Wendy Greuel
City Controller