Fabio Marchi stood in front of Oceanside’s city hall building during an April 7 demonstration. He held a neon-green sign that read: “No Clear Master Plan.”
Surrounding him were 12 other protesters, some dressed in button-down shirts and wrinkle-free slacks, while others wore faded, paint-stained jeans with globs of dried plaster. They held brightly colored signs. Something different was written on each sign. Some examples: “City Vs. Applicant,” “Incredible Waste of Time and Money, “No Consistency in City Policies.”
The protesters were there to voice their displeasure with the City of Oceanside’s Development Services Department. They accuse city employees of favoring large developers, of departmental disorganization, and of lackluster communication among city employees.
Marchi says the inefficiency inside the Development Services Department has cost him over $60,000 and four years as he’s tried to get plans for turning his home into a four-unit condominium.
“I’m not a rich man,” said Marchi in a thick Latin accent. “I wear boots and dirty clothes. I invested hard money into my project, trying to make a living, and now my permits are up and all that money is gone.”
The accusations of governmental deficiencies aren’t unfounded.
In a February 9 “Productivity Study of the Development Services Department” conducted by the Matrix Consulting Group, lack of “leadership” along with poor “coordination and communication” resulted in a “below average” score when compared to development service departments throughout the county.
“As long as the City maintains a discriminatory attitude in favor of long time developers and against first time customers,” wrote Marchi in a April 6 press release, “there will be a lot of builders hindered or otherwise unable to complete their improvements, creating more and more distressed housing areas in Oceanside.”
After the hourlong protest, Marchi and his supporters attended a meeting of the Economic Development Commission. At the meeting, the director of Development Services, George Buell, presented the commission with the report.
“Some of the changes in the study, we already had,” said Buell. “We didn’t need anybody telling us how to improve, but as the study got under way it became pretty self-evident that we have a lot of room for improvement.”
A few commissioners urged Buell not to shelve the study and reminded him that the Development Services Department was a “people business.”
“These folks need to be trained that the applicants are customers that pay their salaries,” said one commissioner.
Both the report and the remarks from Marchi and city commissioners from the Economic Development Commission will be passed on to the city council for full consideration.