The Plant Man: A Culture Change in Construction

By Steve Kawaratani.
By Steve Kawaratani.

Have you ever wondered why Laguna has an abundance of homes and businesses that are art forms in themselves?  From beach cottages to contemporary commercial venues, many say well designed structures are due to architects and builders inspired by magnificent views of the Pacific and rolling topography of the native coastal sage scrub.  There may be some truth to this, but I believe it begins with the property owner’s dream.  Once design is approved, the sometimes arduous and lengthy process of implementing construction commences.

Local urban legend has long held that it is difficult to open a business or construct a project in our town. There are myths and misinformation promulgated that City Hall was not a friendly place to visit, and in fact, more likely to investigate your property for violations rather than encourage reasonable development.

City Manager John Pietig had heard these complaints and challenged his staff to provide exceptional customer service to dispel any notion that the city was not business friendly.  As a regular client representing many diverse interests, I find that City Hall is a great place to conduct business, with a community development counter staffed by dedicated professionals.

Patterned after the successful “Open for Business” workshops sponsored by the city’s Planning Commission, planning department, and Chamber of Commerce, Dennis Bogle, the city building official, was introduced at the first “Open for Construction” meeting last week at Mozambique restaurant. The purpose was to discuss improvements to the city’s building department, which was well-attended by 40 interested parties including architects and builders as well as Mayor Kelly Boyd and Planning Commissioner Rob Zur Schmiede.

Bogle is originally from the private sector, an owner in a general contracting business, and was the chief building inspector in Newport Beach for three years, prior to his hiring in Laguna 18 months ago. Before that, he spent 15 years in Mission Viejo as the building official.

Asked if he was given a mandate when he was hired, Bogle stated, “The city manager requested that I enhance customer service and to make things easier for development.”  Working closely with Community Development Director John Montgomery, under Bogle’s direction the building department has worked diligently to make the permit and inspection process more efficient, the plan check review faster, and additional services available online for the busy contractor.

As one attendee commented, “Dennis supports builders and homeowners, has made his department more efficient, and made a positive difference on how we now view the building process.” Pretty nice compliment for a truly dedicated city official.  See you next time.

Land use consultant Steve Kawaratani is a 62 year resident, who formerly served on the city’s Design Review Board. He may reached at [email protected].

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