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City of Roseville ‘blowing up silos’

Establishes new development services department
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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A city doesn’t run quite like a typical business, because it’s not one.

But, maybe a municipality wouldn’t fare badly to mimic this type of enterprise. That’s the thinking of Roseville officials: Operating like a business could help improve a city’s revenue streams, which feed the general fund that pay for services that impacts residents’ quality of life.

When a city provides a high quality of life for citizens, it has an easier time attracting more business and industry, which puts more money into the local economy and generates more sales tax and improves the city’s budget. The cycle repeats itself.

Roseville has been attempting to become more like a business under the helm of City Manager Ray Kerridge. However, a hurdle has stood in the way: Unlike a for-profit company that may have two or three “business lines,” the city of Roseville has 15, Kerridge said.

 Kerridge often uses the example of Coca Cola, a company that primarily produces drinks, while Roseville handles such diverse responsibilities as picking up garbage, resurfacing roadways, extinguishing fires and solving murders.

“To customers, it needs to be seamless operations,” Kerridge said.

Typically, these different responsibilities exist in separate silos. But the city is trying to blow up all those silos and create a more coordinated approach. Roseville took a large step in this direction with the creation of the development services department in June, which acts as a one-stop shop to better serve new and existing businesses.

This is one more way the city is strengthening its brand as business-friendly.

“We want to be viewed as a partner with (businesses) and not be viewed as a regulator,” Assistant City Manager John Sprague said.

‘One-stop’ approach

The new department is being led by Director Kevin Payne, who joined the city’s planning department in 1990 and then left briefly to work for Del Webb, before returning to his government job in the community development department. He spent 10 years as an assistant planner and two years as revitalization manager. In his new role, Payne’s salary is $146,737.

This new department will work hand-in-hand with the economic development department, which will conduct initial outreach to solicit new businesses and industry. Then, development services will be tasked with delivering what’s needed to get the businesses going.

“This is a hand-in-glove approach to economic and development services, so moving forward there are no gaps,” said Economic Development Director Chris Robles.

Robles, who joined the city in 1990 and previously acted as the community development director, is also the new CEO of the Roseville Community Development Corporation, a private nonprofit established by the city to attract businesses and revitalize downtown. Robles earns a salary of $146,737.

Payne said the city’s structural changes reflect an outgrowth of internal evaluations to gain efficiencies and consolidate in the area of building permitting, engineering and code enforcement. The goal is to get a project to market faster, which benefits both the customer and the city.

“We become more efficient and that means we’re able to turn the product around faster for the customer,” Payne said.

The city implemented a computer program called Accela Automation in July to make development permitting, plan review and inspection processes more efficient. The system makes it possible for customers to check the status of their projects 24/7.

Accela Automation uses a centralized database that allows staff to access information across department lines. The software automates tasks associated with planning entitlements, building permits, improvement plans, fire permits and code enforcement. The software also allows for two-way dialogue with citizens.

“It’s a one-stop, complete response approach,” Robles said.

Plans in the works

Roseville is uniquely situated to offer this kind of coordinated response to customers, largely because it owns its electric utility and is a full-service city housed under one roof.

“There are very few cities in Northern California that can even do this if they chose to,” Robles said.

Being able to respond quickly and efficiently to projects is critical, as most timelines are dictated by the business itself, such as when the construction season begins or a lease is up. The city aims to help get the doors to a new business open when the customer needs them open.

These improvements are also meant to assist with businesses already in Roseville that might want to expand, which is often a complicated process, as work must be done while the doors are kept open. The classic example is how the Westfield Galleria at Roseville rebuilt after the 2010 arson that destroyed parts of the mall.

Payne and Robles agree that now is the time for Roseville to become even more business friendly, as several big projects are in the works. Those include a 20,000-square-foot FedEx distribution facility on Foothills Boulevard and a 120,000-square-foot workout complex for Life Time Fitness, Inc., on East Roseville Parkway.

Robles said five commercial buildings that stalled when the economy sank and owners or developers walked away are now back in the works. That includes a medical office on Eureka Road.That project is expected to be completed this year.

Interest expressed by the U.S. General Services Administration in an 11.8-acre site off Eureka Road in Roseville for a new FBI headquarters has been rescinded.

The office vacancy rate in Roseville has been declining and is now at about 24 percent. That number was 32 percent in 2011. The retail vacancy rate is showing a decrease and is now slightly below 10 percent.

Meanwhile, revitalization efforts continue in downtown, where the city’s new town square will officially open Aug. 24 with a celebration and evening concert. The space’s purpose is to bring in more pedestrian traffic and outdoor events and create a public gathering space.

The Roseville Community Development Corporation continues to focus on downtown redevelopment and is close to finalizing a contract with a tenant for 240 Vernon St., which the corporation purchased for $603,000 in August 2011.