Mendocino County Civil Grand Jury Takes on Housing, Information Technology and Ukiah’s Orr Street Bridge • The Mendocino Voice | Mendocino County, CAThe Mendocino Voice

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MENDOCINO Co., 07/22/21 — The Mendocino County Civil Grand Jury, which conducts non-criminal investigations into local government agencies and political matters, released reports on three separate investigations on July 16 covering the urgent need more housing in Mendo, an update on the county’s efforts to update its information technology, and the 13-year closure of the Orr Street Bridge in Ukiah. Here’s a roundup of the three most recent reports.

Housing challenges

There is a “critical shortage of affordable and available housing” in Mendocino County, according to the grand jury report, and it could be addressed by expanding the scope of operations of the Department of Planning and Building Services (PBS) beyond permit approval by seeking changes. state building standards that would assist in efforts to meet local housing needs.

There have also been more than 375 housing units lost to fires since 2017, with only 196 residential building permits issued for the construction of new homes and only 125 of those permits issued. The grand jury also denounces the difficulties of working with the planning department and the regulatory burdens associated with low-income housing.

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“Real estate developers complain that Mendocino County’s requirement for 25% low-income units is 15% higher than other areas in the state,” the grand jury wrote in Meeting Mendocino County Housing Needs Requires Coordination and Planning.

Jurors found that the lack of housing in Mendocino County is driving up the prices of existing homes, making them unaffordable for working families, and the housing shortage will likely persist until the county hires “home planners.” Housing and Community Development” dedicated to expanding the housing inventory.

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The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is required by law to respond to the report by Oct. 14, 90 days after it was originally released on July 16. The grand jury also sought answers from the director of the Ukiah City Community Development Department and the deputy director of the county’s Department of Planning and Building Services.

Departmental IT

In Mendocino County Tracking Information Technology the grand jury follows up on the county’s information technology master plan, which they described as an “outdated” collection of 99 initiatives proposed by a consultant in 2018 and expected to be fully implemented by now 2023.

“As computing is changing rapidly, an upgrade made five years ago may be obsolete due to the availability of newer, cheaper, and better performing alternatives,” the jury wrote.

To compound this problem, the implementation deadline for these already outdated initiatives has been pushed back to 2025.

“Mendocino County must be committed to excellence. The effective application of informatics provides the public with improved communications, greater transparency and better service,” the jury wrote, adding that the county’s plan is “good,” but it will take the board’s commitment to oversight and effective IT leadership to accomplish this in a timely manner.

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The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors is required to respond to the grand jury report by October 14, 2021. Auditor-Comptroller Lloyd Weer is required to respond to the grand jury report within 60 days, by October 14, 2021. September 21.

The Orr Street Bridge

In terms of Orr Street Bridge — Twelve Years Late Jurors responding to a public plague complaint found that a bridge over Orrs Creek on the northeast side of Ukiah had been closed for safety reasons for more than a decade.

At one point, residents of the surrounding neighborhood of Wagenseller created a “pop-up park”, adding a bench, terraces and a number of flowers. Despite $254,000 allocated to the city budget since 2018, repairs have still not been completed and the bridge remains in poor condition.

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“Although the bridge was deemed to have structurally sound steel footings and beams, there is currently a dangerous open hole in the decking,” the jurors wrote. “The asphalt surface is littered with unevenly aging plywood and a rotting wooden safety railing.”

The ongoing closure of the bridge also presents safety concerns in the surrounding area, according to the grand jury. There is no good place to turn around for garbage trucks and the bridge cannot be used by vehicles during emergency evacuations. In 2018, police suggested the unused bridge could attract unauthorized camping and other illegal activities. Meanwhile, the costs associated with the project continue to rise, compared to what they would have been in 2010.

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The grand jury recommends that the city prevent all use of the bridge until repairs are complete. Ukiah City Council is required to respond to the grand jury by October 14, 2021. Additional responses have been sought from the City Engineer, Director of Community Development and City Manager.

Check back with Mendocino Voice as these elected officials and governing bodies respond to the findings and recommendations of the civil grand jury over the coming months. You can read our previous coverage of county grand jury reports here.

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