“Turbulent changes do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.”
The City of Ventura is proud of the changes it has made in code enforcement since 2012. Here is a complete account of the changes city officials consider the most important.
Changes Within Code Enforcement Since 2012
The city touts several changes since the Ventura County Grand Jury ruling:
- The department has a new name, Permit Services.
- In addition to the name change, there is an entirely new set of managers. Jonathan Wood is the Permits and Enforcement manager, overseeing both permit issuance and code enforcement. Mr. Wood reports to Peter Gilli, the Community Development Director, who, in turn, reports to Akbar Alikhan, the Assistant City Manager.
- Code Enforcement no longer allows anonymous complaints from citizens. Complainers must identify themselves before the department will act.
- The department is issuing financial hardship waivers for violations during the COVID-19 shutdown, when applicable.
Although their impact on Code Enforcement remains to be seen, two other changes will impact the entire department.
- The department moved away from over-the-counter, paper-based plan submission to digital submission using Energov software.
- The Permit Services department is acting to put in place the changes prescribed in the Matrix Report. The Council commissioned Matrix Consulting to prepare a report of changes needed to modernize planning, permitting and code enforcement. The report contains 57 different changes. In January 2021, the department had implemented 32% of the recommendations. By July, they hope to increase that to 50%.
2021 Improvements For The Department
Permit Services is planning for further changes this year. The top goals are:
- To improve the technology used to process submitted plans. They want to move to a more web-based, digital workflow.
- To improve processes and procedures. They say Code Enforcement is focused on doing things right and improving customer service interactions.
- To improve customer service. They want to communicate expectations to property owners clearly.
- To gain the resources (mostly financial) to correct issues within the department.
Code Enforcement’s Management Focus
Since the Ventura County Grand Jury ruling, one continuing goal of Ventura’s Code Enforcement department is to be more objective in interpreting the city’s building code. Many residents felt they were too subjective in the past. Mr. Wood says they [code enforcement officers] are to be fair and consistent with enforcing the codes. He believes they are making incremental progress towards that goal.
One tool Code Enforcement uses to be more objective is a new training manual. The manual is used in conjunction with a training program guided by the Training Officer. The department encourages all newly trained inspectors to retain the training manual as a resource to review processes.
The training manual allows the code enforcement inspector to use common sense and judgment whenever a violation isn’t life-threatening or potentially life-threatening.
If pressed to explain how Code Enforcement will measure the move to objectivity in the processes, the answer is vague. Initially, the measure was fewer complaints. Since Mr. Wood had taken over the department two and a half years ago, the complaints have dropped from five to ten complaints per month to one. That mission is accomplished, yet no further measurements for success are articulated.
Insist Your City Councilmember Scrutinize The Code Enforcement Changes
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