City May Merge Building, Plan Depts.

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With the recent retirements of both the planning director and the building director, the city is undetaking an overhaul of those two departments with an eye toward possibly merging them.

City Manager David Kiff said this week that Joel Fick, Anaheim’s former deputy city manager for development services, is being brought in with a six-month contract to serve as an interim development services director, with both departments reporting to him.

Fick will start work for the city on Monday, Kiff said.

His job, Kiff said, will be to review the departments’ operations with an eye toward greater efficiency and user-friendliness and to “break down any perceived silos.”

“If you’re a citizen, you don’t go into City Hall thinking ‘OK, first I have to see planning, then see building.’ You just want a permit to build a fence. Now you have to go back and forth, and it can be frustrating.”

Some cities have combined planning and building functions into a single development services department, Kiff said, and he and other city leaders have been actively looking at that and other options since about February.

Also on the table is privatization of some of the departments’ functions.

“Privatizing is always an option,” Kiff said, although he noted that is probably more of a middle- or long-term goal than an immediate possibility, as “it would involve a meet and confer process with the (employee) associations.”

Another area being actively explored is greater use of electronic filing technology.

“I think the days of developers bringing in huge rolls of plans to the front desk are numbered,” Kiff said.

Mayor Keith Curry stressed that the city’s goal is “more user-friendly, responsive and quick-acting building services … Quality services delivered in a cost-effective manner.”

Richard Leuhrs, CEO of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the move, saying, “There have been concerns about Building and Planning for years … in terms of delays in getting responses and other problems. It sounds like the city is taking steps and looking at it.”




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