By: Diane Bathgate, AICP

As the economy continues to recover, cities and counties across California are seeing more development applications and planning activity. And as perceived activity increases, decision-makers’ expectations grow for planning staff to be more responsive and make progress on planning initiatives, better capturing the economic upswing. Back burner projects are now becoming front burner projects. However, rising expectations do not necessarily match still-downsized staff resources. Is this an understatement? Well, we can help!

On-call planning services have come a long way from a “dial-a-planner” or “one-size-fits-all” approaches. Flexibility and efficiency are key. The ability to obtain just a little or a lot of help on short notice, with access to a variety of services under a single roof, can successfully get a project across the finish line.  While in some instances a single contract planner at city hall may cover some bases, tapping into the services of a multi-disciplined firm broadens the range and depth of resources at your fingertips: all efficiently delivered under one, on-call contract. Selective access to policy planning, development review, urban design, document production and graphics, architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and survey services can be what you need to problem solve and be responsive to the widely-varying demands of your community, decision-makers, and day-to-day challenges.

For instance, sometimes there are short-term projects that may not warrant the time and effort to go through an individual RFP process, but could help with staff’s workload and improve end products:

  • Design review services
  • Document formatting and graphics
  • GIS/map preparation
  • Public meeting facilitation
  • Policy document (i.e., design guidelines, specific/general plans, zoning) updates
  • Development process recommendations (e.g., Pasadena)
  • Photo simulation and 3-D animation
  • Site analysis

Design review provided by a firm with a range of professionals (of planners, architects, landscape architects, engineers) yields consistent and timely recommendations by licensed peers.

It also may be time to refocus and update long-range and strategic planning projects. With the demise of redevelopment, planners are often charged with leading economic development (but with more limited resources). To further strengthen economic development, enlisting a firm with both public and private expertise will foster public/private partnerships, optimize development requirements, and capture market-driven approaches. Uniting public and private sector horsepower and providing flexible on-call resources are essential strategies for helping communities flourish in this transitioning economy.

Now is the time to pave the way for investment in your community with on-call support:

  • Develop or update strategic/master plans
  • Take advantage of CEQA reform (e.g., for transit-oriented development areas)
  • Find funding sources and grants for healthy communities, transit areas, and sustainability
  • Provide staff support for fast-track, economic-priority projects

We feel your pain and realize that staff resources have been depleted to an almost skeleton crew, yet the day-to-day grind can be a bit overwhelming. We are here to help by providing tailored and creative means to get the job done and jump in as a colleague in the trenches.