It is unfortunate that Howard Zelefsky was forced to resign this summer under the guise that he is responsible for the slow planning process in the city of Huntington Beach.
The city’s planning department staff are simply trying to do their job, which is to interpret the convoluted and gray areas of the city’s zoning ordinance. It is the City Council politicizing the planning process that slows down the building permit process, not the planning department. The City Council votes on a general plan and a zoning ordinance, but then, when a legitimate, conforming project is proposed that may offend the sensibilities of a vocal minority, suddenly the recommendations of planning are tossed aside for a long and arduous political process that usually involves public hearings and elected officials worried about votes.
I’ve seen a simple Walgreens project, which conformed to all Huntington Beach zoning ordinance, delayed because a couple of people who make regular appearances in Council chambers used floor time to complain about something they knew very little about.
My own project took more than a year to obtain a building permit simply because neighbors didn’t like the idea that I was going to add on to my home. Planning was helpful to ensure my project conformed well within city standards, however it was members of the planning commission and City Council who decided to ensnare my permit request into a neighborhood political battle. Who knows what litigation costs have occurred to taxpayers from the city’s denial of legal, conforming projects?
Kudos to Zelefsky for doing the best he could with a messy zoning ordinance. I hope that other members of the excellent planning staff aren’t discouraged and leave over this development.