Palo Alto's aggressive effort to reform its famously frustrating permitting operation hit another landmark this week when the city hired its first-ever Development Services Director.
Peter Pirnejad, who has spent the past four years as assistant director of economic and community development in Daly City, was hired to oversee Palo Alto's Development Center, the nexus of the city's permit application and a frequent source of customer frustrations. The hiring of Pirnejad, which City Manager James Keene announced Wednesday afternoon, is the latest component in Keene's effort to improve customer service and efficiency at the Development Center -- an effort that also included adding new project managers, hiring a day-to-day manager for the center and leasing space above the Development Center.
Pirnejad will be charged with taming what has become known derisively as the "Palo Alto Process" and coordinating the efforts of the various city departments involved in the process, including Planning, Fire, Public Works and Utilities.
According to a statement from Keene, Pirnejad was selected after an extensive search that yielded 64 applications. Eight candidates were ultimately selected for interviews with three panels, which included department stakeholders, community representatives and Bay Area public sector leaders. He will begin his duties on Oct. 16 and will receive a salary of $161,249.
Keene said Pirnejad "brings a skill set to Palo Alto that will help us complete the organizational transformation outlined in our blueprint." He has 14 years of experience in community development and, while in Daly City, has oversight of a department with four divisions and a $5.5 million annual budget. He also had oversight in creation of a new Virtual Permit Center, which relied on high-tech software that allowed express permit issuance and real-time corrections for building inspections through mobile laptops.
"Peter's management style is focused on team building and his experience encompasses streamlining the development review process to the mutual benefit of customers and staff through workflow redesign, interdepartmental teams, greater procedural transparency and technology improvements," said Keene.
In a statement, Pirnejad said he was "excited to be part of the Palo Alto Development Services Team."
"I look forward to continuing the improvements to Development Services in the spirit of innovation and transparency that has set the City of Palo Alto apart," Pirnejad said.