The main goal of the Staff Hearing Officer (SHO) program, which was created in 2006, is to improve and simplify the discretionary planning process for projects that are generally non-controversial and do not involve major land use policy considerations. The benefits include freeing up Planning Commission time to spend on projects with broader community and policy issues. It also enables staff to put their resources into the larger projects, while streamlining the smaller, less complex ones.
The Staff Hearing Officer reviews projects which involve Modifications, Performance Standard Permits, Development Plan approvals (1,000-3,000 sq. ft.), lot line adjustments, select Coastal Development Permits, minor amendments to conditions of approval, and adoption of Negative Declarations for SHO eligible projects. The SHO’s purview also includes time extensions for tentative subdivision maps, commercial condominiums, new commercial condominiums (<3,000 sq. ft.), select minor subdivisions, and residential condominium conversion (4 units or less).
In order to better serve the public and reduce timelines associated with the processing of Modification applications, an appointment with the staff person to the Staff Hearing Officer is required prior to submitting an application for projects which consist solely of Modifications. This meeting serves to provide a cursory review of the project, a pre-application consultation of the Modification’s supportability by City Staff (based on the required findings as outlined in SBMC §28.92.110), and the next steps in the process.
The pre-application consultation is intended to help identify the relevant issues and for application completeness and is not a guarantee of approval or denial of the Modification(s).
The final decision of the Staff Hearing Officer will be made at a public hearing after thorough review of the application, site visit, public input, and consideration of all other relevant information. All decisions by the Staff Hearing Officer are appealable to the Planning Commission or thereafter the City Council.
The Staff Hearing Officer meetings are held on alternate Wednesdays from 9:00 – 11:30 a.m., in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room, 630 Garden Street.
Planning Division, Community Development Department