Town Square

Post a New Topic

Menlo Park wants to hire 9 full-time planners

Original post made on Feb 11, 2013

With an estimated 35 projects in the pipeline, Menlo Park wants to nearly double the size of its planning department. The nine additional full-time staff members would be spread among the planning, building and public works divisions if the City Council approves the new positions at its Feb. 12 meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 11, 2013, 3:53 PM

Comments (26)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

While I appreciate the concept that sometimes you need to spend money to make money, I have a hard time grasping that big a jump -- 9 new planners and the sizable price tag.

I tend to agree with Ms. Duboc in using contact employees initially. The city can always add the staff down the road if there is long term need, but it's difficult to cut staff if the need for these projected employees flattens out or declines. Does the city manager really believe that there will be the same amount of work for all 9 five years from now?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Make your own bed
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

After blowing $1.5mm on Perkin Will for a suboptimal ECR Downtown Specific Plan, at best a glorified survey taking amateur exercise, maybe we should hire away some of their staff, all qualified planners, with their 3 years head start on Menlo's issues


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 12, 2013 at 7:09 am

Make your own bed:

why would we want to hire someone that has already shown they do "suboptimal" work?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by old timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 7:58 am

What you have here is the no doubt what a new City Manager wants to do; that is build up his bureaucracy. The request is simply completely outrageous.

Is this the policy of this new Council? How many of them ran on the platform of building Menlo Park bigger and bigger.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by consultants
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 12, 2013 at 11:03 am

contact employees = "consultants"

Ya get what ya pay for. Sometimes. But hardly ever with a "consultant"


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Hiring more staff on a permanent basis is insanity.

The council should resist the efforts of the permanent, unionized bureaucracy to expand itself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by obvious
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Um, isn't the solution to hire contractors on a project-by-project basis for each large project and bill the direct cost of the contractor to the applicant together with a small (10% to 15%) markup?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by consultants
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Planners in the planning dept are unionized?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 12, 2013 at 12:56 pm

If we need these people at all, which I doubt, then their compensation should be set at market level.

That means, start the job offer at minimum wage and no benefits. If you can hire qualified applicants, then you are done. If not, increase the offer in steps until you can hire. After this process, the taxpayer is actually getting good value for money spent (I know that may be a heretical notion to some.)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wilco Tango Foxtrot
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

IF YOU LET THEM BUILD IT THEY WILL COME.

NOW WE KNOW WHY THE CITY IS PUSHING ALL THESE PROJECTS - THEY WANT MORE CITY EMPLOYEES. MORE DEVELOPMENT MORE EMPLOYEES, MORE PROJECT MORE EMPLOYEES, MORE EMPLOYEES WANT MORE DEVELOPMENT.

IT'S JOB SECURITY.

UNLESS YOU'RE THE CITY MANAGER OUSTED FROM LAKE OSWAGO FOR JUST THE SAME THING.... THEN YOU WANT TO TRY DO WHAT YOU COULDN'T DO THERE BECAUSE THE PEOPLE DIDN'T WANT IT.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Allied Arter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Oh, dear God, we will never stop this outrageous development.

The planners we have are the tail wagging the dog. Fire them all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

The tail is wagging the dog. I like Joe Davis' approach.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The hiring proposal presumes that Menlo Park will be in a constant state of development forever - that is crazy.


Do as Obvious and Lee Duboc suggest - hire contractors on a project-by-project basis for each large project and bill the direct cost of the contractor to the applicant together with a small (10% to 15%) markup?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by consultants
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I TOTALLY would love to have Joe Davis's company competing in my sector!

Oh, my. We would have the best employees and he would have a rep for the worst of the worst!

My HR people would be in heaven, choosing from the best, while the lightweights apply at Joe's company!

What industry are you in, Mr. Davis?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by moneyball
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Davis has the right idea. There are plenty of smart people out there looking for work. And my own observation is that the correlation between remuneration and effort/intelligence is tenuous. $150k/person (I understand those are fully loaded costs) seems excessive. And why do they need $250k in furnishings? Unless you're ridiculously extravagant, you can get a state-of-the-art setup for about $5k/person. Or get the budget setup -- which is not a bad idea when you're spending other people's money -- for under $1,000.

Having managed a lot of super-talented and arguably underpaid people, I'll pit my crew against consultants' high-on-the-hog hirelings any day. And I have no doubt that we will do a better job and save the taxpayers money too!

This is the first time, EVER, that I recall MP openings being announced in a public forum. I've long wondered how those jobs were advertised. Maybe this means they will actually consider hiring residents?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Do your homework first-read the staff report. Then, look up the qualifications and job description for a municipal planner(not only do they have to be smart, they have to have specific analytical skills that can only be learned). ALmanac, this applies to you too--the proposal is NOT nine Planners, it is 3 new ones, making 2 temps permanent, the other 4 are 3 engineers and a building inspector. All of which I believe, from personal direct experience with these departments, are badly needed


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MBA
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm

So where is the money going to be generated to pay for these new staff and their short and long term benefits? ALL of that should be bundled into fees that are charged out, but it's unlikely each will be totally billable, so the fees won't entirely pay for all the costs.

The City Manager and Council need a financial plan to demonstrate how this is going to work. Remember that the Specific Plan's Financial Impact Analysis concluded that the only way the Plan would provide financial benefits was if a hotel is built. Well, Stanford isn't interested. So the city is out the $1.5 million for the consultants and will be out even more every year for the product of their work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:16 pm

@consultant, I am a businessman in the tech industry. I believe you may have overlooked the part of my comment where I said "qualified applicants."

If you believe in paying more money than the market price, then you will not be in business very long, because your customers will go elsewhere to someone who doesn't. Unless, of course, you work for a low-accountability sector like government, which freely spends other peoples' money with barely a care in the world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Are they crazy? NINE full time additional planners? (More than doubling staff?) This makes absolutely no sense. Nobody I know in the private sector would make that move except an empire builder.

Hire contractors. To an earlier point, not 'consultants' but term contracted staff. They work for the City just not forever. Temp-to-perm can be an option for some as well


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Streamline
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Big part of the problem is the ridiculously cumbersome bureaucracy of the approval process. Focus on streamlining procedures, get back to basics. Consider staff needed vs. contractors vs. consultants on a project basis. Keep permanent staff to minimum.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

No! Just no! Insane expenditure to increase the bureaucracy. Menlo can't afford this& if it takes longer to get planning approvals, maybe that will slow some of the ill-advised projects from moving forward.

I agree with Joseph E Davis.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by consultants
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

"If you believe in paying more money than the market price, then you will not be in business very long, "

Ask Google, Joe. And I don't me do a search, silly. Look at their business plan.

There are times when I overpay "paying more money than the market price" because having a superior group allows my company to kick your company's butt. Smarter, more talented, more experienced, faster and better equipped will beat your cheaper "qualified applicant" team often enough for me to pay and profit plenty from the choice.

My backers agree. Otherwise they wouldn't have shoveled money at me.

This isn't a overseas widget company. This is the valley.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"There are times when I overpay "paying more money than the market price" because having a superior group allows my company to kick your company's butt. "

Great strategy IF they are 'At Will' employees and you are not offerring those employees lifetime jobs and IF you have to make a profit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by consultants
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 13, 2013 at 11:09 am

Peter: of course they are. I'm just mocking Joesephs comparing this to a strategy for the private sector. A rather silly strategy for the private sector.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by business- woman
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 14, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Remember they are taking the silly valley method: Ask for 10 when you really need 5. Makes it easier to negotiate down.

9 is quite the expansion, why not 4-5 hires and 4-5 outsourced?

Almost $2m to hire and buy furniture and reconfigure, when expected revenue is less than half of that? Anyone else the the math problem here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

I pointed this out in an earlier post, but I'll say it again. The proposal was not to add 9 planners to the Planning Department. It added 3 new positions and converted 2 currently filled temporary positions to permanent. The other 4 are in Building and Public Works. I personally don't feel qualified to offer an opinion on the debate as to whether permanent employees in these fields are better than contract employees-tho I certainly recognize the validity of the position that if the workload is expected to be temporary, then a hiring strategy to match would make sense. However, at the root of this issue is the reality that given the current and projected workload, these three departments are grossly understaffed. Over-worked people tend to have a higher percentage of human errors, bad for the City, and process cycle times are exacerbated, bad for the applicant (time is money). I'm glad the CC at least directed the City Manager to develop a scaled back ($300K) plan and didn't reject the need for more help out of hand.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Steins, sausage and spaetzle: Mountain View hosts second Oktoberfest
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,105 views

Men Are Good For Three Things
By Laura Stec | 37 comments | 2,941 views

Storytime is Full
By Cheryl Bac | 7 comments | 1,086 views

Helping Local Veterans
By Erin Glanville | 1 comment | 367 views

Phone Sex
By Paul Bendix | 0 comments | 323 views