Portland Development Services Bureau director leaves

Paul Scarlett has been in charge since 2005

Paul Scarlett, the director of Development Services as seen on their website, April 10, 2017
Paul Scarlett, the director of Development Services as seen on their website, April 10, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Portland Bureau of Development Services Director Paul Scarlett announced he is leaving his post in an email to employees Monday morning.

Scarlett said Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who is overseeing BDS, has decided to take it “in a different direction and will be seeking new leadership.”

“I leave knowing we have made great strides in the work we do and I am confident the bureau and its employees will continue to play an important, relevant and necessary role in the development of this beautiful city,” Scarlett said. BDS issues building permits and enforces construction codes, among other things.

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In a separate statement, Eudaly said she was appointing Rebecca Esau as interim director of BDS and plans to launch a search for a permanent director. Esau has 16 years of management experience with the city, inlcuding 14 years as the manager of the Land Use Services Division of BDS.

Eudaly also said Scarlett accomplished a lot during his 12 years as BDS director, including helping design and implement a plan to co-locate agencies involved in the permit review process at the Permit Center.

“Nevertheless, since I took office in January, it has become clear to me that the bureau will benefit from new leadership,” Eudaly continued.

Scarlett’s departure follows the resignation of another director of a bureau overseen by Eudaly. Amalia Alarcon de Morris left the Office of Neighborhood Involvement last month. She left after a city audit faulted the management of ONI, and Wheeler transfered the bureau from Commissioner Amanda Fritz to Eudaly. A permanent replacement has yet to be named.

The most recent change comes as Mayor Ted Wheeler is preparing to take control of all city bureaus on April 27, the day he will release his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. He will reassign them after the budget is approved and will give them back to their previous commissioners if he is satisfied with their management of them.

Wheeler has been pressing BDS and other city agencies to increase the supply of available housing as much and as fast as possible to reduce housing costs. This is a goal he repeatedly stressed when he successfully ran for mayor last year.

A recent memo issued by the City Budget Office details a number of recommendations to make development-related bureaus more efficient, especially to accelerate affordable housing development, but notes that staff morale is low at BDS due to heavy workload and pressure to expedite reviews.

The recommendations are included in an April 7 memo to the City Council from City Budget Office Director Andrew Scott and Office of Management and Finance CEO Tom Rinehart. The recommendations grew out of a Government Accountability, Transparency and Results (GATR) session conducted by the Wheeler administration that assessed the current state of housing development in Portland and identified areas and potential strategies for improvement.

“Portland is in the midst of a housing crisis, and increasing the supply of housing is one way to close the gap of available units. Recognizing that the city plays a critical role in facilitating local housing development through our policies and practices around land use review, permitting, and inspection,” the memo says of the session.

The GATR session happened on Jan. 19. It was attended by members of the mayor’s office and Eudaly’s office, in addition to staff from BDS, the Portland Housing Bureau, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, the Portland Bureau of Transportation, the Portland Water Bureau, Portland Fire and Rescue, and Portland Parks and Recreation.

Among other things, the memo says improving bureau responsiveness to enhance customer service is key to increasing the willingness of developers to build in Portland.

It points out that although development bureaus have made improvements in cross-bureau coordination in recent years, there is a “clear need for coordination and leadership accountability for the entire development review process.”

It adds that further enhancing cross-bureau coordination will increase the city’s ability to meet development guidelines.

The memo does not recommend reducing development review fees and charges, saying such reductions would have a negligible effect on new developments but would significantly reduce city services.

Another GATR session is scheduled for April 13.