Planning, Public Works loads to ease

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Four new staff positions are added to the two city departments, which might speed up the permitting process.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

The City Council voted last week to bring in extra help for the Planning Division and Public Works Department at a cost of $124,500 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

At the quarterly meeting on Jan. 26, the council voted to create three new Planning Division positions and a Public Works Department position to lessen the burden on the current staff members. Also, the salary range for city planners was increased. Administrative Services Director Julia James said the new jobs would also combat the Planning Division’s longtime problem of high employee turnover rate.

The created positions for the Planning Division are a new senior planner, a clerk and a part-time intern. According to city staff, this will cost the city an additional $39,203 for the remainder of the fiscal year. Prior to the council meeting, there were seven city planners, not including the planning manager. Of those, six positions were filled. According to a city report prepared by James, this equated to an average of 70 cases per planner. Although the ratio was reduced to about 50 cases per planner when contract staff was hired, James wrote this still was higher than nearby cities, where the average is from 10 to 35 cases per planner. James said the added positions would reduce the workload to about 30 to 35 cases per planner. She said this could help to solve some of the Planning Division’s problems.

“This workload has contributed to a number of detrimental impacts upon the Planning Division, including an inability to historically prevent frequent staff turnover and inconsistent performance in terms of timeliness of work,” James wrote.

Since the city’s creation in 1991, Malibu has been plagued by a high city staff turnover rate. The problem has been most visible in the Planning Division, which has been through eight managers/directors. Most of the planning staff has worked for Malibu for less than one year. Senior Planner Stacey Rice is the only person working in the division who has been onboard for more than two years. According to James’ report, the turnover rate for the division from July 2001 to July 2004 was 57 percent, compared with 17 percent in all other departments for the same period.

The council approved additional measures to make employment at Malibu attractive to more applicants. It voted to increase the salary ranges by 10 percent for the planner positions. James said this would place the positions in the upper end of the range for those jobs. Also, the unfilled slot of the planning positions that existed prior to the council vote was upgraded from an associate planner to a senior planner.

As for the Public Works Department, the council voted to hire an additional associate civil engineer position at a cost of $21,821 for the remainder of the fiscal year to help with the Public Works Department workload, which has increased now that the city is beginning to issue coastal development permits.

Additionally, the council voted to hire a financial advisor and bond counsel to assess financing options for land acquisition, construction and maintenance of a wastewater treatment facility in the Civic Center. The $50,000 for that project will come from the city’s Clean Water Program.

Signal Success

Public Works Director Yugal Lall announced that a traffic signal at the intersection of Corral Canyon Road and Pacific Coast Highway could soon be a reality. For several years, residents have tried to get a signal at the intersection, but the required approval from the California Department of Transportation has never come to be. There have been numerous pedestrian accidents there.

Lall said Caltrans has now found the intersection meets the standards necessary for a traffic signal. The construction will cost about $200,000 with $120,000 coming from Caltrans and $80,000 coming from federal transportation grant money. Later this month the council will vote on the project.

Bye, bye Julia

Additionally at the meeting, Carol Jacobs was introduced as the replacement for James, who left the city Feb. 1 to work for the city of South Gate. Jacobs works for a consulting firm, and will remain as James’ replacement until a permanent one is found.