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Livermore’s Advance Team Expedites Planning

The City of Livermore won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Internal Administration category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

When it comes to development, the developer-government interface can make or break a deal. A good interaction can secure development that revitalizes a community and provides much needed services or amenities and high-wage jobs. Early and regular exchange of information is critical in determining a project’s feasibility and seeing it to completion. But in 2004, the City of Livermore’s process was often fraught with difficulty.

Navigating Obstacles

Without consistent access to needed information, developers were sometimes forced to make guesses about permit processes, timelines, submittal requirements and associated costs. In turn, Community Development Department staff received incomplete project information and submittals that were extremely difficult to process, slowing progress even more.

Frustration levels were running high, and both developers and staff wanted to improve communication during the very early stages of project development. In response, the City of Livermore created the Advance Team Meeting program, which brings together staff and developers to facilitate the planning process.

Each city team is tailored to the specific needs of the project. Typically, participants include a planner, civil engineer, traffic engineer, building plan reviewer, fire marshal and water/source control supervisor. Teams can also include an inspector, housing and human services coordinator, economic development specialist and city attorney, depending on the project needs.

This coordinated approach enables developers to interact with the city and exchange comprehensive information more efficiently. It also sets the stage for better communication and follow-up on the proposed project.

Overhauling the Planning Process

This new process didn’t happen overnight, but progress unfolded rapidly. In about two months, the city redesigned and implemented the planning. In September 2004, the Community Development Department took a hard look at the format of pre-application meetings, which were intended to reach out to the development community and begin the process of sharing information. The analysis revealed that much of the information obtained in the pre-application process was unreliable and unusable. As a result, the department made improvements to its meeting preparation, facilitation, recording, communication and follow-up processes.

Staff developed a document that outlines several key elements of the pre-application meeting format, including:

  • A concise meeting name that clearly reflects the focus of the meeting.
  • A statement of purpose;
  • Information on how to access the
    meeting;
  • Protocols for how the meeting is to
    be conducted;
  • Facilitator deliverables;
  • Expected outcomes; and
  • Post-meeting deliverables.

This "Advance Team Forming Document" also describes what tools will be available at the meeting, defines positive outcomes and explains how the meeting can be used as a mentoring and training tool. This document provides the basis for all other Advance Team Meeting documentation, which is designed to improve staff preparedness; ensure accurate, consistent exchange of information; and establish clear communication links and follow-up.

The meeting documents include a fact sheet, agenda, sign-in roster and follow-up letter. These electronic documents are easily transmitted to all Advance Team Meet ing participants, and their digital format facilitates retrieval and future transmittal.

Livermore launched the Advance Team Meeting program Nov. 3, 2004, with a briefing for managers on the new format. Shortly thereafter, the city conducted several staff trainings and mock Advance Team Meetings to prepare staff and pro mote a shared understanding of the program’s benefits.

Moving Forward

Since the program’s inception, the City of Livermore has conducted 51 Advance Team Meetings. These meetings fostered developer-government collaboration and successful development projects. The development community has embraced the Advance Team Meeting format as a key service enhancement that provides specific and useful information early in the process -- before developers make substantial investments in money and time. And as an added benefit, the program is easily replicable.

Contact: David J. Rashé, permit center manager, Community Development Department, City of Livermore; phone: (925) 960-4413; e-mail: djrashe@ci.livermore.ca.us.