San Diego City Hall. Photo credit: Alexander Nguyen

The mayor’s office is working on a revamp of the organization of the city of San Diego’s advisory boards, many of which are hampered by vacancies that affect their quorums, an official said Monday.

Francis Barraza, director of appointments and special projects for the city, said a reorganization of areas dealing with the environment and human rights is scheduled to come before the City Council later this month.

Her remarks came as the council unanimously endorsed a performance audit of the way its 40 or so advisory boards are managed. Among other things, auditors found that around half of the 334 positions on such boards are vacant or filled by volunteers working after their terms expired.

Council members David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf both said they had worked on issues recently that were delayed because advisory boards working on the items hadn’t been able to meet.

Around 30 appointments to fill vacancies could go to the council for approval by early August, Barraza said. She added that staff was working to evaluate the validity of the boards — in which residents provide the city with their expertise — with an eye toward shutting some down by the end of the year.

As a result of the audit, the mayor’s office plans to evaluate the organization of the boards every two years. Staff accepted all 14 recommendations from the audit.

Barraza said the reorganization was meant to strengthen the boards.

“We have several boards and commissions that deal with environmental issues and we would like to do a reorganization around that to help empower those boards, and especially those volunteers, and make sure they’re working together and not working in silos, since all of these issues (fit together),” Barraza said.

She said she also hopes to bring more representatives of under- represented communities to the city’s Human Relations Commission.

Among other things, the audit also found that board members receive little training in the state’s open meeting law, that not all the boards have websites where they can post public documents like meeting agendas and the city needs a communications strategy to publicize openings.

Katie Keach, who leads the city’s Communications Department, told the council members that her staff is working on a social media program focusing on LinkedIn and Nextdoor, depending on the level of professionalism needed by a board.

Separately, the council also accepted a performance audit that recommended improvements on how the city handles it’s San Diego Gas & Electric Bills. According to the audit, the city budgeted $51 million in the recently completed fiscal year to pay around 3,500 separate SDG&E accounts that involve 30 types of rates.

The auditors said the city needs a comprehensive process to make sure the city is always paying the lowest utility rate, and to ensure the bills are accurate. They said they sampled 48 accounts and found that 13 needed improvements that would have saved taxpayers a total of $17,000.

–City News Service