ENCINITAS — Encinitas’ planning and public works departments will undergo significant changes in coming months as the City Council approved a major reorganization plan that will impact several of the city’s key departments.
The adopted plan, crafted by City Manager Karen Brust, is aimed at streamlining the development process for people who visit City Hall for certain development-related services, namely planning and engineering.
Brust said she spoke with several of the current department leaders since her hiring in 2015 and concluded that the current city structure doesn’t lend itself to efficiency.
“It became very clear to me that we need to make some changes,” she said.
The major part of the reorganization is the creation of the “Development Services” department, a mix of the current planning and engineering divisions, to create a “one-stop shop” for these services.
The engineering and storm water divisions, which are currently part of the Public Works Department, will be transferred to the planning and building department to create the new suite of services.
Currently, Brust said, people go through the planning process without realizing they also have to go through the engineering process for their projects, which increases the processing time and is a point of frustration at times for the customer.
The city typically takes three to four weeks to process a permit, which is longer than the industry standard of one-to-two weeks, Brust said.
As a result of the creation of the new department, the city’s public works department will be streamlined, from its current six divisions to three divisions. Brust said she hopes that this will help the city recruit a permanent public works director, as the city has yet to find a candidate for the position vacated by Glenn Pruim’s departure last winter to the Vallecitos Water District.
Brust said that one of the reasons she believes the city has yet to field a qualified candidate pool for that position is the complexity and size of the department. As part of the reorganization, the new public works director will be housed at the city’s public works yard at Calle Magdalena.
The city also has to search for someone to lead the development services division, as it has been without a planning director since November when interim director Manjeet Ranu resigned.
In an effort to expedite the searches, the City Council also voted 4-1 to authorize Brust to hire a recruiting firm to fill the public works and development director positions. Councilman Mark Muir voted against the hiring of the search firm, arguing the city could do the search in house.
“You’re paying for the rolodex, and many people have a rolodex,” Muir said.
The reorganization also calls for the renaming of the Parks and Recreation Department to include “Cultural Arts” and some restructuring in the City Manager’s office. Overall, Brust said, the city will save $71,000 with the restructuring.