In a 208-page report released July 23, a team of consultants dissected the “historically stubborn conditions” plaguing Monterey County’s Resource Management Agency and offered 76 recommendations for reform, including the splitting of RMA into two separate departments.
Citygate Associates documented “declining levels of customer service, increasing levels of employee apathy, and eroding stakeholder trust” when it comes to the county’s planning, engineering, permitting and building services.
The failures at RMA are the result of staffing shortages, lack of training, lack of funding and poor management practices, according to the report.
The pandemic threatened to make things worse: “Citygate expects that the county’s current financial constraints are likely to worsen, at least temporarily, due to COVID-19’s economic impact,” the report says.
The county agreed to pay Citygate $200,000 for the report, approving a contract in January. The firm, which is based in the Sacramento area, researched RMA starting in February by visiting its offices and interviewing more than 100 county employees, former employees, developers and community members. The consultants also conducted a survey and reviewed thousands of pages of county documents.
The 76 recommendations deal with a wide variety of issues, including communication, policies, priorities, procedures. But, the report reads, “the recommendations most important to the longterm success of the RMA are along the themes of establishing trust, calibrating the workforce with workload, managing performance, and realigning the organization.”
In one of its first suggestions, Citygate said RMA employees should receive ethics training. “While Citygate does not suggest any breaches in planning ethics currently exist, Citygate nonetheless understands that establishing transparent, fair, and ethical decision-making processes in local land-use planning requires constant vigilance,” the consultants wrote.
The report calls out RMA for its inadequate communication with the public: "Over time, this has created confusion and caused mistrust among stakeholders." In another indictment of RMA, the consultants said the agency is top-heavy and should eliminate some management positions and replace them with more rank-and-file staff.
Several changes to RMA's organizational structure were also proposed. Based on the recommendation, the county is considering dissolving RMA and creating two new departments to replace it. A Community Development and Housing Department would include planning, building and housing functions. A Community Services Department would include RMA’s public works, parks and facilities units.
The Citygate report will be presented to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors at its upcoming meeting on July 28. The supervisors will vote on whether to implement the proposed reforms.