Who will take the Woodside Planning Pledge?

February 21, 2006

If the Town was really interested in improving the building process, it could moo-ve things along by taking a pledge. This isn’t an oath, but a promise to do a few simple things.

Here are the 10 things we would propose for the Woodside Planning Pledge. We think the council should adopt this at an upcoming meeting. What do you think? Is there something we’re missing?

The Council should promise:

1) to survey the last 100 residents and their professionals who received building permits as to their experience in dealing with the staff and building process. This way we’ll understand what is working and what is broken. As more people go through the permitting process, they will be surveyed so that any changes in residents’ experiences can be tracked. The survey will be a tangible way to measure how our commitment to improve the planning department has improved the building process in Woodside.

2) that all feedback in the survey will be kept confidential and anonymous. This way, no resident ever has to fear retribution. All data will be compiled without names attached. This should be compiled by a volunteer citizen and professional group, made up of member who can join without being appointed. They can then make their report to Council in open session.

3) to make the data public by posting it at the town hall as well as on the Town’s website. This will open the discussion to all residents and help to bring forward creative and optimal solutions to the problems identified.

4) that townspeople will be treated as neighbors and given the proper respect and understanding that would be given to a friend. At all times, the objective will be to help our neighbors, not hurt them.

5) that objections to plans submitted will be focused on the rule of law and uniform building codes… not the whims of the staff or capricious council/committee/board members.

6) to recognize the costs and burden put on town residents when we require burdensome tests, the use of outside consultants and excessive building requirements. One-story structures do not need foundations that will support mid-rise office buildings. Nor does single-family construction require the same level of review as an office building.

7) to make the building process transparent and easy to understand.

8) to eliminate conflicts of interest. Council and committee members who engage in Woodside building activities (e.g. contractors, architects), will not be participate on building/construction projects.

9) to make the building and planning department a user-friendly place with courteous customer service, and friendly procedures and operating hours. Most staff reports should be for approval with staff working with applicants before the report is written to ensure this — no more “sneak attacks” and reports at or after 5:00 the Friday before a meeting.

10). to make building permit fees based on the estimated reasonable costs of providing the services for which the fees are charged, as California law requires.

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