George Buell, the city of Santa Barbara’s community development director, has announced his resignation.
Mr. Buell, who was appointed to his position in April 2014, penned his resignation letter to City Administrator Paul Casey on Thursday. His last day in the office will be July 16, said Nicole Grisanti, administrative office supervisor for the city.
In the letter, Mr. Buell noted several construction projects that have occurred during his time with the city, including the construction of nearly 1,300 new residential dwelling units and a number of “significant public and commercial projects.” Namely, the letter mentions the Hotel Californian, a multi-site campus for Sonos, the conversion from retail to office for Amazon, as well as renovations to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum.
Mr. Buell also helped establish the city’s Accelerate Program and appointed a business liaison to help fill vacant storefronts in the downtown area. He was also a part of the city amending the Average Unit-Size Density Incentive Program and changing the city’s Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan and Inland Zoning Ordinance.
“In terms of human services, my leadership helped forge a partnership of multiple agencies to address homelessness and secure $2 million in grant funding,” Mr. Buell wrote. “Partners in this effort include City Net, Cottage Health, Santa Barbara Alliance for Community Transformation, People Assisting the Homeless, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, and The Santa Barbara Foundation. And finally, the City’s CDBG and Rental Housing Mediation programs that provide funding to improve neighborhoods and preserve housing for lower income residents have been run well as they have helped thousands of the most vulnerable people among us.
“I am proud of this work and even prouder of Community Development staff who have performed their jobs with excellence along with me,” Mr. Buell wrote, adding that he intends on working with a local real estate development firm in the future.
During his time with the city, Mr. Buell oversaw a $12 million general fund budget and a staff of 77 people in four divisions: Administration, Building and Safety, Housing and Human Services, and Planning.
“I thank George for his service to the Santa Barbara community and wish him well in his next endeavor,” City Administrator Paul Casey said in a statement.
Mr. Buell’s resignation comes following a Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report released June 2, finding the department was “poorly run with unhelpful staff.”
The report found that staff did not process permit applications in a timely manner and there were “few repercussions” for employees who did not achieve performance goals. In addition, the report cited that the department lacked strong leadership, which created “a culture of slow growth, inconsistent customer service and a fee structure and permitting process which appear to be a deterrent to building and development” within the city.
The city will conduct a nationwide recruitment for a permanent replacement. No decision has been made for an interim appointment after Mr. Buell departs, city officials said.