Responsible Buildings Chief Andrew Espinosa vows to fix permit mess

In Dallas, there is a new chief builder who admits there is a clean-up mess and says he’s the right man for the job.

After nearly two years without a manager and thousands of building permits backlog, Andrew Espinosa was selected in May to become Director of Development Services and officially began work in the new position on June 1.

“It looks like there’s been a perfect storm,” Espinosa said, referring to what’s happening with Dallas building permits, a process that began steadily unraveling in 2020. program prematurely. I think COVID prompted us to move forward quickly [with the new software] Because we were trying to keep everyone safe. Stakeholders, employees and other work groups were not comfortable with the product and did not know how to use it.”

Espinosa said it’s not uncommon to have IT problems three or four times a week.

“IT has done a great job working with the vendor, but that’s still the biggest issue we’re dealing with,” Espinosa said.

The costly blunder has attracted scrutiny from the building’s community and the public and is one of many reasons cited as Mayor Eric Johnson and others calling for the termination of City Manager TC Broadnax. The City Manager’s performance is scheduled to be reviewed during a special council meeting on Thursday, June 23.

‘We made poor communications’

Espinosa, 50, began his career with the city about three years ago, as he began complying with the rules. He received his MBA from Texas A&M University-San Antonio, and led the San Antonio Department of Development Services for 17 years. The new head of development services said the first step in getting the train back on track is setting the department’s goal.

“One of the challenges that development services are going through is that we don’t know why we exist,” he said. “They don’t really have an organizational chart. When I was interviewing, I asked for a mission statement. Nobody knew what it was. Since we fall short of being able to communicate why we are to our team and what our goal is. We need to know who we are and where we’re going.”

Espinosa says he is committed to openness and transparency.

“My goal is to serve the community and serve the team,” he said. “My vocation is to add value to others and influence with good and effective leadership. Your vocation has a spiritual touch. As public servants, we can influence many lives more if we set our calling and purpose more than if we come to collect a check.”

Espinosa said development services has about 290 jobs, but it is working at 20 percent of vacancies. As a department head, his annual salary is about $190,000, according to city records.

Espinosa explained that the efficiency of the permitting process depends on several variables, including the type of permit required.

“We did a poor job of communicating,” he said. “We need to do a better job of communicating how quickly we can put you on the right track and get your clearance and what we need from you. We need to rebuild trust with our customers. We need to hold ourselves accountable and set performance targets.”

Positive thinking

Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, said builders and contractors have had difficulty obtaining permits since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Texas in 2020 — and the situation has not improved in the subsequent two years, despite the restrictions. Business has been scaled up and businesses are back in business with pre-COVID capacity. Kron publicly supported Espinosa’s rental and was optimistic about improvements.

The permit situation has not improved in more than two years since it turned into a crisis. The only major positive steps taken came at the insistence of the affected industry and board members who created third-party plan auditors and pushed to fill the official construction position after it was left vacant for 18 months,” Kron told earlier this month. “I am optimistic that the newly appointed construction official can bring a new culture to the department.”

Councilwoman Paula Blackmun and government advisor Maisie Davis co-chair the Mayor’s Permits Working Group to provide guidance on the issue.

“For months, the working group has sought solutions and solicited feedback from the private sector on their legitimate and real concerns,” Davis and Blackmun said in a letter to stakeholders. “Make no mistake – long wait times are losing real dollars and real development in Dallas – this is not a facelift created by negative PR. It affects the city’s ability to respond to a growing housing crunch, attracting business and hurting small business owners who cannot float months of revenue Missing to delay carbon dioxide. A true leader sees a crisis and addresses it head on. They bring people to the table, ask for help, and open books. While this problem is purely practical – it remains one of the biggest problems facing our city and requires all hands on deck. It will not be solved. Arrogance and unwillingness to answer questions about these “operational” issues this problem.

The working group made the following suggestions:

  • Develop transparent and publicly available performance metrics
  • Prepare additional external references
  • Submitting a plan to the city council regarding the provision of $42 million in the Development Services Corporation fund
  • Conduct meaningful stakeholder engagement with industry partners such as roundtables, hearings and responses to their feedback
  • Implement necessary IT improvements with Project Dox and Posse
  • – Recruitment to vacancies, compensate employees fairly, and share the results of the compensation study with the public and the city council

make progress

In less than a month on the job, Espinosa admitted he had a long way to go in solving the department’s problems. He says permits are moving a little faster, but more importantly, performance targets and accountability standards are being put into practice.

“We really looked at what our performance goals should be for all permits, then we can start tracking and measuring them,” Espinosa said. By July, we will be sharing these in stakeholder meetings and on our website. At community meetings, I want to bring a report card to the audience. As a leader, you are always trying to take advantage of your team. We have some wonderful employees. Overall, I can say the staff are really trying to do a good job but there are some hurdles that we need to remove or reduce.”

Upcoming Development Services projects include the $1.5 billion renovation of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

“Dallas is very diverse, energetic, and fast-paced,” Espinosa said. “There is a greater volume [than in San Antonio]. Expectations from society are very high and they should be. We want to connect the community with city employees. We want to identify issues that really hurt our operations. We want to implement good business policies, procedures and practices. My role every day is to try to influence others, work on relationships, take time to talk to people, connect and sell the vision of where we want to be and where we want to go.”

Espinosa said he is happy to lead the department out of its previous turmoil and into a new era of positivity and transparency.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “I’m really enjoying myself. Our division is in the spotlight and receives a lot of criticism. I feel pressured to perform and execute, but I don’t feel nervous because I love what I do. Where I am now is where I belong. In the near future you will notice a gradual improvement. We will make this The best department in the country. We caught that.

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