A proposal to combine the planning and development services departments could give San Diego's planning director the power to plan for the long-term -- or perhaps lead to more political scandal.
"William R. Anderson has had a lot to do since the middle of last year when he became San Diego's 10th planning director. At the top of the list is completing a new general plan to guide the city's development for the next generation.
But as of last month, he's wearing an unexpected second and bigger hat, temporarily at least, as the city's new land-use czar.
As part of Mayor Jerry Sanders' inner circle, Anderson now has the power to referee disputes between big-thinking planners and short-term-oriented building-permit processors, between doing the right thing or the most expedient thing.
It's a job he inherited from his former boss, Jim Waring, who lured him out of the private sector in June 2006.
Ironically, Waring's departure catapulted Anderson into a position city planners have been pining for since the 1950s – a bureaucratic power base to put vision into place through regulations and action.
"In some respects, planning has been elevated to its highest level in my memory," Anderson said. "I think from the mayor's perspective, it illustrates the importance he places on planning.""
"In this never-ending story, the recommendation under consideration is to merge the Planning and Community Investment Department, which oversees planning, redevelopment and economic development, with the city's Development Services Department, which handles building permits, to achieve consistency and clear communication.
Anderson oversees those departments, as well as real estate assets, redevelopment, economic development and housing. The current city budget says the entire group of departments includes 764 positions and a combined budget of $130.5 million.
Close up, it appears to be a boring debate over an organizational chart. But from afar, the idea poses the ultimate question for San Diego: Who's in charge and whose priorities are paramount?"