New Community Development Director Puts Service First

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Seimone Jurjis (right) talks to an attendee at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Meeting on Thursday
— Photo by Victoria Kertz ©

Seimone Jurjis, the new Community Development Director for the city, is described as a problem-solver who puts service first.

“He’s a person who can help you solve a problem,” offered former mayor and Civic Affairs Council President Rush Hill. “That’s his attitude, he’s there to help.”

Jurjis worked under Kimberly Brandt for six years and was appointed to replace her after she retired in August.

He has a slew of responsibilities in his new position, Jurjis explained at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs meeting Thursday. He oversees 60 staff members with an annual budget of $12 million.

His work includes management of the Planning, Building, Code Enforcement, Life Safety Services, and Real Property divisions. He is also key contact for city council, the Planning Commission, the Building and Fire Board of Appeals, and many subcommittees.

Hired six years ago as chief building official for the city of Newport Beach, the 48-year old Orange County native spent part of his earlier professional career in the private sector.

Working in real estate and construction opened his eyes to the challenges that businesses face when trying to build something in the city. The experience compelled him to provide better customer service for those who do business with the city.

“It’s very, very, very difficult to get anything done,” he said. “You feel like everything is working against you. You go to these government agencies and you have a sense that no one cares.”

After visits to Nordstrom, Fletcher Jones, and other places known for exemplary customer service, he wondered if his staff could do the same.

“My goal has always been that we can do better,” Jurjis said. “We can provide a better level of service than anybody else.”

He encourages his staff to do their “very best.”

“We’re going to be as empathetic as we can, and we can provide the very best level of customer service,” he added.

And it’s a big job. His staff is managing 2,600 current construction projects on private property. He’s in charge of regulating construction, entitlements, land use, and more for all work done on non-public land. The department of Public Words handles everything else.

“I am the government bureaucrat that has to help people move through that process,” Jurjis remarked.  

Two of his biggest projects on the immediate horizon are the General Plan review and update and the new Koll Residences.

He and his staff will present the General Plan review and suggested updates to city council on Nov. 14.

The Koll Residences project, whose draft Environmental Impact Report has been extended to Nov. 3, is currently available online and in hard copy form at each of the city’s libraries. Developer Shopoff Realty Investments will present the project in a public meeting on Oct. 30.

While these projects are looming large in the near term, Jurjis said that the future holds even more.

“There’s a lot more happening in the city of Newport Beach, it is an exciting community,” Jurjis said.

His former position of chief building official is still open and in process of being filled with the help of a recruitment firm. The firm is also looking for a new deputy community development director, formerly held by Brenda Wisneski. She accepted the role of development services director for the city of Encinitas earlier this month.

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