The city of San Diego’s Code Enforcement Division is slow in responding to high-priority complaints and unable to effectively track its performance, according to a report released Thursday by the City Auditor’s Office.
It takes the division nearly 12 days on average to respond to Priority 1 and 2 calls, even though the goals are two and five business days, respectively, auditors found. The standard is met in 29 percent of the Priority 1 cases and 59 percent of the time for Priority 2.
Priority 1 calls include imminent health and safety hazards — such as uninhabitable living conditions — unstable structures and signs, or leaking sewage. Priority 2 complaints involve issues such as abandoned properties, disabled access problems and building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical violations.
The report stated that the slow responses are due not to a lack of resources, but “a lack of appropriate prioritization.”
“CED’s average response times for high-priority and low-priority cases are nearly identical, which indicates that investigators are not responding to high-priority violations with any greater urgency that lower-priority violations,” the auditors wrote. “Furthermore, delays in the intake process slow the response to many complaints, regardless of priority.”
The auditor said an improved tracking system, and additional guidance, training and oversight are required to correct the situation.
The report included a dozen recommendations, including assigning a priority of each case and assigning an inspection date based on the priority, reminding investigators of inspection time frames, revising case intake procedures, updating the division’s performance metrics and making sure division leaders are involved in configuring a new project tracking system purchased by the city.
In addition, the auditors suggested that many cases could be resolved more efficiently if warning notices were mailed to alleged offenders.
City management has agreed to all of the recommendations, and the case intake system is already being revised, according to the auditor’s office.
The Code Enforcement Division used to be a city department, but was folded into the Development Services Department eight years ago. When the city was hit by the recession, the staff was reduced from 77 employees to 53 — though some of the positions have since been restored.
Besides the types of cases listed above, code enforcement staff are also involved in regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and enforcing the city’s rooming house ordinance, which limits the number of people who can live in a residence near a university.
—City News Service
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