Fellowship Openings

Promoting Development through Improved Building Services

Project: Promoting Development through Improved Building Services

Agency: Oakland Planning and Building Department

Location: Oakland, CA

Project Context

Oakland is a thriving, rapidly growing city, and that growth can best be seen in its unprecedented construction boom of the past few years. There are currently more than three-thousand new housing units being built in the city, along with twenty high-profile tower projects. In order to handle the new project reviews, approve building permits, and enforce building codes, the Oakland Planning and Building Department is also expanding and adapting. The 142-person department has a new director and is looking to fill twenty new building and code enforcement jobs.

Not surprisingly, the Department is experiencing growing pains as it works to keep up with the increased demand for review and approval of all types of projects, large and small. Furthermore, the Department is responsible for the overall safety of these buildings, while also having to address issues of housing insecurity and displacement among lower-income residents, and helping to ensure the overall character of the city’s communities and culture is maintained.

As the Department tackles these various responsibilities, all of which have a significant impact on the city and its residents, one of its chief concerns is providing more reliable, seamless and timely services to those seeking to build within the city. As a way to facilitate an improved, streamlined review and permitting process, the Department will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year. The fellow’s role will be to assess current processes, identify gaps in service and ways to improve, recommend solutions, and assist in their initial implementation. The fellow will have the unique opportunity to help one of the nation’s most vibrant cities embrace its full potential while also working to ensure that traditionally underserved residents don’t get left behind.

Project Summary & Potential deliverables

The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables that follow will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship, after which a revised scope of work will be developed and agreed upon by the FUSE Fellow and the host agency.

Starting in September 2018, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will begin by conducting an assessment of the Department’s processes and procedures in order to understand its core functions, diagnose problems and challenges, and ultimately provide recommendations on how to improve operations to address those problems. In addition to reviewing relevant documents and interviewing stakeholders, the fellow should conduct a use-case analysis of the permitting process to gain firsthand user experience. This phase will require deep knowledge of and experience with operations management.

After performing a thorough assessment, the fellow will begin to formulate clear recommendations for process optimization, with a focus on improving the reliability and efficiency of customer service. The fellow will work to ensure requests are reviewed in a timely manner and staff members are consistent when responding to customer requests.

The fellow will rely heavily on data, both to formulate recommendations and support them. The fellow will work to improve data management, including making data more accessible to staff and defining reporting mechanisms to make it easier to digest. This will require the fellow to have data analysis and management experience, as well as superior communication skills in order to present the data and recommendations clearly and effectively.

The fellow will develop clear lines of communication with both internal and external stakeholders in order to provide regular updates and encourage collaboration. By the end of the fellowship year, the fellow will provide a comprehensive review of their recommendations, including whether those recommendations were implemented and how successful they were at improving the permit process.

  • Conduct a thorough assessment of the current landscape – Review documents, conduct research, and interview stakeholders and staff members to understand how the Department operates. Perform a walk-through of the permit process to get firsthand user experience and better understand challenges. 
  • Formulate recommendations and an action plan to implement them – Present a list of recommendations for improvements based on research, observation, stakeholder interviews, and data. Define reasonable benchmarks of successful processes and procedures. Prioritize recommendations and identify “low-hanging fruit” as a way to accomplish easy wins. Begin implementation of recommendations when possible.
  • Utilize data to support recommendations – Gather and analyze data in order to make the case for recommendations. Find ways to make data more accessible to managers and easier to disseminate to stakeholders and the public. Set up a system to create regular reports and updates.
  • Build internal and external lines of communication – Work to ensure communications within the Department and with external stakeholders are clear and effective. Develop strong working relationships with partners such as the Chamber of Commerce, Jobs and Housing Coalition, and Oakland Builders Alliance. Also engage with community groups, NGOs and nonprofits to make processes more transparent and accessible and to encourage greater equity in the building and development sector.

Key Stakeholders

  • William Gilchrist, Planning and Building Director, Oakland Planning and Building Department
  • Tim Low, Acting Building Official, Oakland Planning and Building Department
  • Ed Manasse, Acting Deputy of the Bureau of Planning, Oakland Planning and Building Department


  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in operations management, systems management and process improvement. Experience with construction scheduling and critical path analysis would be preferred.
  • Superior critical thinking and analytical skills.
  • Ability to synthesize complex information into clear and concise recommendations.
  • Ability to relate to a wide variety of diverse audiences with strong emotional intelligence and empathy.
  • Excellent stakeholder engagement skills and the ability to use facilitative leadership techniques to coordinate stakeholder activities.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, entrepreneurial leader who can also be an independent worker.
  • Persistent in obtaining information and creatively resourceful in identifying solutions to complex problems.
  • Ability to create direction and movement within potentially ambiguous
  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills with an ease in public presentations.
  • Understands the need for solutions to support all people in a community regardless of race, religion, gender, immigration status, or ethnicity.

To Apply

Click the link below to upload a resume and complete the online application questions in lieu of a cover letter. The application process will allow you to indicate interest in more than one fellowship opportunity. You only need to submit one application. Interested candidates are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as selections will be made on a rolling basis and specific opportunities may close quickly.

A FUSE Fellowship is a 12-month engagement requiring fellows be primarily committed to their partnership with the government agency throughout the year to ensure the success of their project. Fellows are retained as independent contractors of FUSE Corps and are paid an annual stipend of $90,000 through monthly installments. This commitment begins on September 24, 2018 and ends September 20th, 2019.

The FUSE Fellowship is an equal opportunity program with a core value of incorporating diverse perspectives. We strongly encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.