Planning and Building:
Current Planning (3843P)

Program Outcome Statement

Enhance quality of life and the environment through enforcement of land use, development, and environmental regulations.
Program Services
  • Process planning permits for development projects in unincorporated areas
  • Provide information to the public on the County General Plan, Zoning, and Environmental Regulations
  • Provide staff support to various land use and environmental Boards, Commissions, and Committees

Overview

The Current Planning Program protects and improves the community and the environment by processing permits for land use and development projects in the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County, ensuring compliance with the County General Plan, Local Coastal Program, Zoning and Subdivision Regulations, and State and County environmental statutes. At the Development Review Center, staff receive and review plans and permit applications and provide the public with information about zoning, land use, environmental regulations and best management practices, to improve the quality of future development and protect neighborhood character and property values. Current Planning also provides project coordination; research and analysis; and reports and recommendations for compliance with land use regulations to 11 Boards, Commissions, and Committees (including the Board of Supervisors) that provide a forum for resolving land use conflicts and make land use recommendations and decisions.
Initiatives to be undertaken to improve performance in the next two years include: (1) remodeling/updating of the Development Review Center to provide a more efficient queuing system and additional access to electronic information; (2) continuing to improve the Department website to enhance user experience and access to information; (3) updating review processes and permitting for commercial development to improve land use compatibility; (4) continuing efforts to maximize functionality of the Accela permit tracking system to increase accuracy and efficiency; (5) augmenting staff review procedures and training to increase consistency and accuracy of information provided; and (6) continuing the involvement of current planning staff with Long Range Planning initiatives to update zoning regulations and policies.

Percent of Customers Assisted within 20 Minutes Remains Stable

Percent Hearing-Level Permits Processed within Four Months Increasing

Average Number of Days to Decision for Staff-Level Design Review Permits Decreasing

FY 2016-17 Year-End Story Behind Performance

Percent of Customers Assisted within 20 Minutes

Building and current planning staff have maintained a high level of service to callers and visitors to the Development Review Center, consistently serving customers within 20 minutes and returning calls and e-mails on the same day received. While the annual average for customers serviced within 20 minutes for FY 2016-17 was 74 percent, in the last few months since April, when new staff was hired and trained, the average was 81 percent, exceeding the 80 percent target. This was accomplished even though the number of customers visiting the Center dropped only slightly (2 percent) from the all-time high number recorded in FY 2015-16. With upcoming initiatives planned to upgrade/modernize the customer experience in the lobby, and to improve access to and quality of electronic information offered, it is expected that staff will be able to continue providing a high level of service at the Development Review Center, even as customer volume remains high.

Percent Hearing-Level Permits Processed within 4 Months

For FY 2016-17, the percent of hearing-level permits processed within four months of when the applications were deemed complete was 81 percent, exceeding the 80 percent target. This improvement in processing times can be attributed to the increased efficiency achieved by a stable and experienced professional planning staff, aided by recent initiatives to streamline internal report preparation and review procedures. The challenge in further increasing the percentage of projects reaching hearing within four months of being deemed complete continues to be the high level of complexity and controversy related to an increasing number of current projects. This stems from the fact that much of the easily-developable land in urban areas has been developed, leaving only those sites that have significant environmental constraints. The high level of citizen participation, and often opposition, to projects at hearings also presents an ongoing challenge.

Average Number of Days to Decision for Staff-Level Design Review Permits

The current planning section continues to be successful in reducing the turn-around times on staff-level permits, with an average processing time of 22 days for FY 2016-17, where 25 days was the target. Our benchmark for this performance measure is Marin County, whose turnaround target on staff-level design review permits that are exempt from environmental review is 40 days.

Future Priorities

  • Provide a more efficient queuing system and additional public access to electronic information at the Development Review Center to better assist customers
  • Continue improvements to Department website to enhance user experience and access to information
  • Continue efficient processing of planning permits
  • Continue process for Design Review permits specifically, in comparison with other similar jurisdictions
Author: Lisa Aozasa, Deputy Director     Contact Email: laozasa@smcgov.org     Date Updated: 09-11-2017