Thursday, June 25, 2009

Budget Cuts Incite Agency Action

(The BEFORE image)

Now that budget cuts threaten all municipal agencies, they are starting to come out of the woodwork.

As a property manager in San Francisco, I have had several occasions to deal with various agencies: Rent Arbitration Board, Building Inspection, and Fire Inspection to name a few.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from a real estate agent who is selling one of the properties I manage in The Mission District, to tell me that The City had posted a notice. I went by the property and found a notice from The Department of Public Works to abate graffiti. I examined the front of the property and found an area of about 12 x 24" where someone had spray painted a name. Now I have managed this property for over 8 years, and to my recollection this had been there for a VERY long time.

I returned in a day with materials to clean up the offending script and found yet ANOTHER notice from a second inspector taped over the top of the real estate agent's flier box!

Same complaint. Different inspector.
Three days after the first notice with the same complaint number!

After arriving at my office to call per the instructions to announce that the problem had been resolved, I found a notice from the Tax Assessors office for the same property announcing that the property had been damaged in a disaster and that I might be entitled to tax relief???? Could the disaster have been the graffiti?

I also looked up the DPW site and the only reference to graffiti were two links to a program they have for cleaning up graffiti on PUBLIC property and nothing about the regulation regarding private citations to property owners who are victims of graffiti.

Well I called The City on the graffiti issue and the woman who answered was a generic call center and she sounded rather incredulous about the graffiti notice as though she had never heard such a thing. But she gave me an abatement report number. This process took about a half hour.

I then called the Assessor's office about the "disaster damage" and was was confidently informed that the property had indeed sustained over $20,000 in fire damage on May 22 according to a report sent to them from the Fire Inspector's office.

Oh really? And exactly where was this damage?

Well after spending the next hour calling different fire department numbers, I got what I can only assume from the message was the correct office with only a voice mail option. I left a message and did not get a return call over the past week.

In the interim, I called one of the tenants to ask about this fire. It had occurred over 4 houses and 1 parking lot away from the property. There were 6 fire engines that showed up for the fire, most of which hung around and watched.

I can only surmise from this sudden visibility of City inspectors, that everyone is suddenly scrambling to try and justify their existence and their budgets. In eight years I have not seen such busy activity from inspectors I never knew existed!

This recalled another event from four years back where a building inspector signed off on a job on the same building, and approved it "pending approval from the fire inspector". The fire inspector came the next day and signed off.

Done, yes?


I found out 3 years later, that the same inspector who had signed off pending fire approval, had to come out yet again to sign off that the fire department had signed off! (According to my understanding of the English language, if something is approved contingent upon another individual's approval, once that second individual gives their "ok" the matter is over.)

Why would an inspector have to come back two days later to sign off on the same project he had already seen? Yet because of this they deemed the permit unfinished.

As a result, I had to open a NEW permit, to get the same inspector to come out 3 years after everyone else had signed off, to sign off again, to show the matter had closed.

Aside from the first inspector on the graffiti issue, which I can understand to some degree (except for their absence for many years and sudden appearance of not one but TWO inspectors within days of each other), consider the expenses:

An unnecessary report from the fire inspector, paperwork involving 2 city agencies, and the support staff and resources to handle my inquiries I speculate conservatively cost The City over $200. The additional graffiti police trip and report and subsequent paperwork, support staff, handling my calls and abatement: $140. The additional permit to close the first permit, special trip for the inspector to spend 30 seconds initially a job card, gas, paperwork, computer clerical support etc. for the re-inspection of what had just been inspected $340.

So just by cutting these redundant or unnecessary reports, inspections, filings, etc. would have saved The City at LEAST $680. Now imagine multiplying that by the many actions by these many employees during the typical day, and even if only one incident occurred per day it translates to about $17,000/year.

I can only surmise that there is a sudden flurry of activity for departments to justify their budgets, their existence and their level of staffing.

Oh Mr. Newsom! Mr. Scwartzenegger! I think I found you some money for your emergency services!

(Oh, and sometime ask me about The City and the parking lot management incident.)

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1 comment:

  1. Welcome to city bureaucracy San Francisco style! A bunch of people running around, trying to justify their jobs, budgets, and over complicating everyday life in the process. Not to mention burning tax dollars like its NYE 1999!