Jeff Smith 4 p.m., Sept. 23
State Auditor gives City's development services department poor grade on protection of historical resources and public notification
State auditor recommended more be done to protect historical resources.
The City of San Diego's Development Services Department received a few bad scores in an audit from the California State Auditor.
The review found that the department doesn't do a good enough job protecting historical resources and notifying the public of its decisions and actions.
The April 25 audit showed that the department often takes property owner's words rather than checking the County records on projects with potential impacts to historical resources. To make it even worse, the auditor found that on several occasions the applicant didn't even bother to fill out the year that the structure was built on the application. And at the same time, city employees often failed to perform historical resource reviews when project changes were announced.
"Because property owners and applicants are not required to support the statements they make in their general applications, Development Services risks not identifying project sites with potential historical resources—such as structures 45 or more years old," reads the newly released audit.
In addition, the state auditor discovered instances where development services employees failed to include construction changes to projects as well as other instance when employees allowed applicants to move forward with new buildings without building permits.
And then there were the issues over public notice.
Although Development Services generally complied with public notice requirements for projects exempt from CEQA, it did not always comply with other public notice requirements. For projects subject to CEQA, Development Services did not properly notify the public about its environmental determinations—it either did not file the Notice of Determination or did not file it timely for four of the six projects we reviewed.
Development Services has not ensured that employees required by its conflict-of-interest code to disclose their economic interests, submit the required forms timely. In fact, four of the 15 designated employees we selected to review submitted their forms between one month and more than 12 months late.
According to the key findings, the auditor gave recommendations on ways to improve notifying the public and safeguarding historical resources.
"Although Development Services generally followed San Diego's permit review processes, it cannot be certain that all project sites that require historical resource reviews are receiving those evaluations. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior establishes standards for rehabilitation of historical resources, and Development Services reviews permit applications for projects that involve designated and potential historical resources to ensure that the projects comply with those standards. The municipal code requires Development Services to review all projects that include modification to structures that are 45 or more years old for potential designation as a historical resource. Development Services relies on the applicants seeking permits to provide information about the historical resources at the project sites, but it does not require applicants to supply documentation that supports the information on the applications. In fact, of the 19 applications for projects in San Diego that we examined, five had incomplete information on historical resources, and in 10 the information provided conflicted with the records of the County of San Diego's assessor/recorder/county clerk. Consequently, Development Services risks not identifying project sites with potential historical resources."
Click on this link to read the full report:
Despite the hits on historical resources and proper public notification, the auditor found that department officials often followed the City's municipal code.
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