Columns
December 14, 2018
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City of Cotati

Damien O'Bid
Demystifying local government
December 7, 2018

What is community development?

In Cotati, the Community Development Department is a combination of: Planning, building, housing, environmental review and code enforcement. Now, you may think, “Those are all of my favorite things – All in one place.!” Yes, it is true, we regularly have visitors who drop by homemade treats and say Hi. This is because one of the best things about being a small town is the personal service we can offer to help you navigate processes that could otherwise be pretty confusing.

Planning

California has always been a national leader in coordinated community planning. In the 1970’s, we were one of the few states to decide that our communities should have a long range plan for build out; a plan for land uses that would provide future fiscal, housing, and open space needs, and would align infrastructure spending with its priorities. General Plans provide the policy structure which helps create and maintain a community’s vision for its future. Planning develops and maintains this “General Plan” as well as the zoning code that implements it. As citizens and developers submit development projects for review, it is Planning’s role to evaluate these proposals against General Plan policies and zoning code standards. New development plan reviews typically involve multiple city departments and outside agencies. Planning manages the process and is the primary contact for development projects.

Planning staff also assists residents with property questions and assists businesses that are looking to locate or expand in Cotati. Combine these activities with an ever changing landscape of regional mandates and state laws regarding housing, land use and environmental protections and planners must keep abreast of very complex regulations. Our staff has years of training and experience to assist you.

Building

Building is the review of new building or remodel plans for compliance with local, state and federal codes and inspection of the work to ensure it has been built according to those codes. The primary goal of building is to ensure that all buildings are safe for their intended use. When you don’t have building codes, or they are not enforced, you have widespread damage during natural disasters that leads to much unnecessary injuries or deaths.

Code Enforcement

Code Enforcement sounds a little ominous, but its function is to respond to complaints about violations of the city’s zoning or building codes. In practice, this means working with property owners to remedy issues which are not permissible. This could be building without permits, too many vehicles parked on properties or intermittent rocket launches from your backyard. A rule of thumb is that if you want to alter your home, it probably needs a permit. A second rule of thumb is that if you are doing something that routinely angers your neighbors, it might be a zoning code violation.

What we’re doing now

Community Development continues to promote everything we love about being a small town, including providing personalized service. At this year’s City Hall-oween event, Community Development rocked a Scooby Doo theme. They handed out Scooby snacks to over 200 children … and a few lucky contractors. We look forward to helping you with your next project, so please come by the Community Development Department for more information. You’ll find all of our staff friendly and willing to help.