Fellowship Openings

Strengthening Code Enforcement for Safer Housing

Project: Strengthening Code Enforcement for Safer Housing

Agency: Oakland Planning & Building Department

Location: Oakland, CA

PROJECT CONTEXT

On December 2, 2016 a fire broke out in a warehouse in Oakland, California. The warehouse, known as Ghost Ship, had been converted into an artist collective with housing units. The 10,000 square foot building had no sprinklers, automatic fire-detection systems or fire exits, and 36 people died in the fire. The tragedy was emblematic of the growing hazards and safety concerns linked to Oakland’s affordable housing crisis. Median home prices in nearby San Francisco were over $1 million in 2016, and an outflow of residents looking for cheaper housing contributed to a nearly 70% increase in Oakland rents from eight years prior. Higher rents have made housing inaccessible for low-income residents, and Oakland continues to see a proliferation of illegal living situations, like the converted Ghost Ship warehouse, that are not compliant with municipal building codes and safety standards.

In the aftermath of the fire, Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration enacted a number of policies to increase staffing and improve technology for building inspections and code enforcement. The Mayor also issued an executive order to work with building owners to bring buildings to code rather than shut down a building occupied by residents unless there was an immediate threat to life and safety. As the Planning & Building Department works to balance these priorities of safety and housing, it sees an opportunity to leverage technology to tackle the growing number of open cases and reports of code violations across the city.

The Planning & Building Department uses the data management software, Accela, which has the functionality to provide parcel-level updates on code enforcement. The City has paid $2.7 million to expand Accela to incorporate a module for the Fire department, in an effort to streamline communication between the two departments and overlay fire and building code issues. Planning & Building sees further potential uses for Accela, not only to more efficiently support work in code enforcement, but also to provide the public with parcel-level data on compliance issues and updates on work being done by the City to address those issues. This move towards more transparency will help demonstrate to residents that the City is making progress around issues of safety, and provide ongoing accountability on cases that might take several weeks or months to address.

To support this work, Oakland Planning & Building will partner with FUSE Corps to host an executive-level fellow for one year who will identify how best to leverage Accela to support code enforcement and make pertinent information available to the public.

PROJECT SUMMARY & 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 May 2019, it is proposed the FUSE Fellow will begin his or her work with an assessment of the code enforcement processes within Building & Planning and other related departments (ie. Fire and Housing). As a department, Building & Planning is open to creative solutions that improve their job functions, and a FUSE Fellow would work with department stakeholders to assess how the Accela software system could best be modified to support improved code enforcement workflows, case management and data record keeping. The Fellow will also make recommendations for an external facing platform and how the department could share parcel-level data around code enforcement.

Drawing on strong experience in organizational management, change management, or process coordination, the FUSE Fellow will be expected to contextualize and articulate the software needs of the department, and provide project management and oversight to the development of technology solutions. To be successful in this role, the FUSE Fellow must be able to adapt to potential roadblocks such as resource constraints or lack of existing protocols, and find ways to continue to move the project forward.

  • Assess & Evaluate Current Workflows and Supporting Software: Review department operations and mandates for code enforcement. Assess how Accela software system corresponds to existing workflow and supports case management. Analyze the current process related to legalizing previous construction activity that occurred without City approval for dwelling unit cases in an effort to bring them into code compliance which is dependent on planning and building permit approval. Identify areas for process improvement using technology solutions and develop corresponding scopes of work.
  • Facilitate collaboration between internal stakeholders: Engage staff in Planning & Building, as well as other departments relevant to code enforcement (ex. Fire, Housing, etc.) to evaluate how the Accela platform will best serve their identified needs. Maintain open lines of communication to ensure buy-in of staff and widespread adoption of new systems and procedures.
  • Develop standard operating procedures: Codifying standard operating procedures for use of modified Accela systems. Create and implement staff trainings on new procedures and plan for the long term sustainability of the new system with existing staff resources.
  • Create internal dashboard of active code enforcement cases: Develop an internal platform that identifies all active code violations based on Housing and Habitability, Zoning, and Blight complaints that depicts the associated status and actions taken to date.
  • Create externally facing communications platform: Develop an externally facing application or platform displaying code enforcement data, allowing the public to easily receive pertinent information on status of specific sites and buildings. Work closely with department stakeholders to designate internal data versus open data for public consumption.

KEY STAKEHOLDERS

  • William Gilchrist, Director, Oakland Planning & Building
  • Katie Dignan, Assistant Director, Oakland Planning & Building
  • Annie He, Accela Project Manager, Oakland Planning & Building

QUALIFICATIONS

  • At least 15 years of professional experience in a relevant field, particularly with a strong background in organizational and/or change management.
  • 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. (keep boilerplate language)

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 April 29, 2019 and ends April 27, 2020.

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.

 

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