Happy Anniversary SEPPS!

March 2016

By Suzanne Elledge, President & Principal Planner

As we launch our new website on the eve of our 22nd anniversary, I want to take the opportunity to reflect back on the past two decades that we have served as local land use planners in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. When I started my business as a sole proprietor in 1994, I truly had no idea what promise the future held. Within a few years, Suzanne Elledge Planning & Permitting Services (SEPPS) added staff, incorporated, and established a reputation for successfully representing local projects with integrity and a community-minded spirit which led to new opportunities and steady growth.

From humble ‘moms and pops’ to high profile celebrities, over the years we have helped hundreds of families realize their dreams of renovating and expanding their home, or building a new one. We have served small businesses, large commercial and corporate enterprises as well as a significant number of our community’s most prestigious institutions; local organizations that provide Santa Barbara with world class medical, social, cultural, and educational services. Check out our Clients and Projects pages to get an idea of just how fortunate we have been to represent this diverse and impressive group of clients. Every project is different which makes what we do quite interesting. We typically have about 100 active projects at any given time with wide ranging land uses. A peek at our current project list reveals that we are representing several estate and single family properties, a senior housing & care facility, a summer youth camp, three museums, several historic hotels, a large student housing project, a worldwide disaster relief organization, a utility-scale solar power energy plant, four private schools and a college, two hospitals, and scores of other projects. It is stimulating and satisfying to be involved with so many exciting and worthwhile projects. We love what we do, we take it seriously, and we strive to make a positive contribution to our community as we guide our clients through the local planning process and volunteer our time in local organizations.

If you go to the Our Team page of our website, you will be introduced to the talented staff who make up the SEPPS family. We owe our success, growth, and longevity to the integrity and commitment of this group of professionals, fondly referred to around our office as SEPPSTERS! Success in our business requires analytical thought, creativity, discretion, and perseverance. I am deeply grateful for the talents of our planning staff who gain new experience with every project and meet regularly to share information or to “huddle” to discuss and resolve a particularly difficult or unusual situation. We also have an energetic and skillful support team who make it possible for us to do what we do in an organized and productive environment and without whom our business could not thrive as happily as it does. Several years ago we calculated that we had represented hundreds of projects and well over a thousand permits. As this number continues to climb, our knowledge and experience expands and is further developed adding value to the advice we offer and the services we provide.

From the beginning we have seen our role in the planning process as that of a facilitator and this is symbolized by the bridge that is our company logo. Just as we endeavor to enlighten our clients to the purpose and meaning of the myriad of regulations and policies to which their projects are subject, so too are we responsible for clearly articulating to the public, review agencies, and decision makers the vision and objectives of our clients’ proposed projects and how they comply with applicable regulations and policies. Many projects are of a size and scope that public outreach is necessary and this too is an opportunity to facilitate understanding of a project proposal, to address questions, comments and concerns. Nothing has been more satisfying to me over the years than to engage stakeholders, make appropriate revisions to a project, and then for everyone to be satisfied with the process and the final proposal.

I was not yet forty, and my three daughters were in junior high and high school when I started my business. Now as I write, the youngest is due with her first child, our fourth grandchild. As I think back over these last two decades I recognize that the spirit and energy that I brought to my new company was accompanied by healthy doses of idealism when it came to the public review process. While my respect for the process, and belief that projects are improved by it, continue to serve as a foundational principles guiding what we do at SEPPS, I have to acknowledge that the ability to maintain this conviction is not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. I still have energy and optimism, but as I approach my sixtieth year, my eyes tend to observe life “unvarnished” and my voice favors outspoken candor (even if feathers get ruffled) over expediency.

Look for a future post when I will share my thoughts about the vulnerability I find in our local process sometimes falling prey to that which happens on the national stage where polarizing positions and rancorous voices play out and highjack what could otherwise be a respectful and productive dialogue. For this current post, I want to simply express my gratitude that locally, for the most part, thoughtful design, honesty, and perseverance ultimately prevail in the wild world of development review.

Finally, heartfelt thanks to the hundreds of clients who entrusted us with their projects, had confidence in our capability, and were instrumental in the gradual success of what was once a fledging planning company. Happy Anniversary SEPPS!