Fixing Tucson Planning & Development Services

The Planning & Development Services Department (PDSD) in Tucson has a mandate to regulate and guide the city’s growth. Its activities have a profound impact on residents and commercial entities alike by regulating zoning, building safety, and sustainable development. 

Planning & Development Services lost several of its employees at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to unfortunate knee-jerk decisions that are irreversible.

In the private or public sector, when talent is lost, it can be replaced by a culture of incompetence. At the top of Planning & Zoning, that is the current state of things.

A simple example is that new residential & commercial development has moved almost exclusively to unincorporated Pima County as most new businesses & prominent developers have no interest in experiencing 4-6 month permitting windows while Pima County approves comparable permits in days or weeks.

The people of Tucson have had to live with the consequences and suffer the impact of these decisions at every level.

The former Director of PDSD, Scott Clark left in early 2022. Even though that left Tucson PDSD without leadership for almost a year and a half, we believe that is a good thing.

It is time to ensure that the new PDSD Director, Kristina Swallow, is set up for success and has the authority to clean up the department by any means necessary.

This includes restructuring the department at the highest level, increasing the PDSD budget, and the adoption of third-party services & advanced technology.

As Ms. Swallow used to run the Nevada Department of Transportation and has an engineering background, we believe her level of competence may transcend most of her direct reports and others.

It is important that she is given free reign as PDSD is an integral part of Tucson’s municipal system, having jurisdiction over the city’s development and growth.

Ask Mayor Romero & every City Council member to ensure that Ms. Swallow has complete authority to fix PDSD by any means necessary.

Smarter Tucson