April 11, 2013
Tim Dewar, email@example.com
In response to a surge in citizen complaints about the city’s enforcement of its ordinances and codes, Ojai Mayor Paul Blatz said Thursday he intends to ask the City Council to approve a new approach to handling some cases.
“There are two things that are in the process,” Blatz explained. One is a Citizen’s Appeal Board. Staff had put that into the new building code, but it has just kind of been sitting there. I asked for that to be pulled out and looked at as a separate item.
The other idea I have put balloon up on and has gotten some traction is that with any discretionary approval, director’s exemption, or sign design for instance, an applicant and staff might disagree on the interpretation of the code,” Blatz continued. “My suggestion is that he (Community Development Director Rob Mullane) take that to (Ojai City Manager) Rob Clark and if he looks at it and says ‘I’ll grant the exemption, then it would be granted. If the city manager agrees with the community development director, then it comes to the mayor and the mayor pro-tem and we decide.”
Blatz explained that he envisions these additional steps would be administrative and would not have to be scheduled for a public meeting. He added that if a project makes it to the Council level, both the mayor and mayor pro-tem would have to agree or the applicant would then have to decide whether to start the existing appeals process.
“Like so many who work for a bureaucracy, it is easier for the community development director to say no and deal with one person being mad than it is to say yes to something that might cost him his job. He is a staff guy and he is going to say no far more often. I’m an elected official and if I can’t take the heat for making a decision, then there is something wrong with me.”
Besides helping improve community relations, Blatz thinks his plan will also help Clark and Mullane, who have worked in the city for approximately two years, understand better what the City Council and the community want.
“Sometimes we are telling the community such bull#^%* that nobody believes it,” Blatz remarked. “They can both be educated to look at things with logic and common sense.”
“Under the current process, the only person who reports to the Council is the city manager. I don’t think the community development director was taking things to the city manager,” said Blatz. “It wasn’t until these cases starting coming I really began to look specifically, and saw the absolute backward interpretation of the code that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
He said the projects that come to mind that could have been decided using this method include the Sea Fresh Seafood remodel, the Casa Ojai remodel, Bob Daddi’s wall on Quail Oaks Drive and a masonry fence appeal at 902 N. Signal St.
“We can’t open the flood gates to everything. We need to keep city looking the way it should, but don’t accomplish that by having everything be black and white either. I gotta believe that if it is successful, it will make life so much easier. There won’t be as much resentment and we will be doing the right thing.
Blatz said he would like to have the discussion scheduled for the May 7 City Council meeting.