Thursday, February 5, 2009

Management Span of Control & Organizational Change

Here is a photograph of a span of control illustration, from an impromptu discussion about organizational change in real estate development…

We are often asked about change—questions like ‘how can my organization change to accomplish your recommendations?’ or ‘why don’t developers do it this way or that way?’

Narrow Span of Functional and Process Control

Though the details of the reasoning can be complex, there is one high-level concept that is important and easy to understand. It is management’s span of control over organizational functions. In real estate, management’s functional span of control is in most cases narrow—in other words, many processes and decisions that determine outcomes are not in direct control of management. For example, to a greater degree than in a typical industry, these real estate industry functions are often influenced from outside the organization: entitlement, equity investment, debt investment, design, production, marketing, sales, and service are some possible examples. Larger developers often contain more functional departments in house, but many residential and commercial developers are medium and smaller organizations with considerably functional outsourcing. And even with larger organizations, key process timelines and requirements--such as entitlement, equity investment, and debt—come with significant uncertainty and rigidity that precludes change. Moreover, large developers often have challenges with change because of regionalization (responding to the 'local' nature of the development industry) as well as chain of command issues.

The photograph shows ten rocks in two pyramids. Think of the rocks as organizational functions or processes. The narrow pyramid in the center is a real estate development organization in which only a few functions and processes are directly controlled, or inside the pyramid (the three rocks). Contrast this with a typical organization, represented by the larger pyramid, in which a larger number of functions and processes are directly controlled (all ten rocks).

Because they experience substantial uncertainty and reduced control, developers both resist change, which can be seen as adding risk, and they also have relative difficulty accomplishing change because they cannot directly control it.

Disciplines Required and Systemic Change

Accomplishing change in real estate development requires familiarity with development organizations and industry processes. To these, we must apply the disciplines of process redesign and organizational change, and integrate them with a solid understanding of strategic and tactical change objectives for the organization, and knowledge of the real estate market.

Often, real estate industry change requires working with not just the development organization, but also other industry organizations with which the developer interacts--the change must occur process-wide and inter-organizationally. This span of control perspective is particularly important with urban betterment initiatives such as Smart Growth, New Urbanism, green building, and socially responsible investment--because by their nature their objectives often target systemic change.

* * * *

What change do you wish to accomplish? How many affected functions and processes do you control, internally and externally? How do you best proceed?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sea House Update 2

About half painted here.

In addition to this painting which is a name for a family home, there is a pen and ink drawing that is scanned to create a digital image. The digital image can be applied to invitations, thank you cards, and other printed matter. The digital file can also generate etched glass, such as on a door, or embroidery, such as on pillows or other fabric in and around the home. The digital drawing can probably be used for many other things too. I'll scan and post the drawing soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sea Horse Update 1 >> Becoming Sea House

I transfered the original drawing to another canvas in order to further play with the layout and a potential design for the name.  There's a lot more painting ahead. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

AB 32 Workshop

The Local Government Commission, along with the City of Encinitas, conducted a workshop to educate citizens, municipalities, and private sector service providers about AB 32. Along with SB 375, this legislation could produce a new paradigm for urban development and management, from the perspective of both the government and private sectors relative to GHG emissions.  Especially in relation to urban development, details have yet to be defined, but the State and its municipalities have defined targets for reducing emissions, and the changes required are substantial. 

Regulation is a burden, but in instances where there are excessive economic and environmental externalities available and taken, and no adequate change in sight, regulation may be the only realistic option.  If some regulation is necessary, we must be extra diligent to reject that which is not--a function of citizen engagement and true political leadership, neither of which are sufficently apparent. 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Erosion Continues

Overnight, a foot of blufftop land can collapse onto the beach, and be quickly eroded by a high tide.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Piazza Basilone, Little Italy, SD

This plaza, essentially a bulb-out, was carved from parts of Fir and India Streets in 2004. Fir Street became one way and parking parallel to the curb on Fir was replaced with 45 degree angled parking.

This plaza, called Piazza Basilone, was created in part as a response to 9/11 along with a previous desire to honor veterans and servicepeople who never came home. Piazza Basilone is named after Italian war hero John Basilone. But the little plaza has many other dimensions too. First, as a place, the plaza is a remarkably pleasing environment to be in. The fountain, green foilage, and umbrellas provide comfort in the city surrounds. The plaza enlivens the adjacent building, a restaurant that itself provides sidewalk seating. The process of planning and building the plaza included political, civic, and corporate support, which is memorialized in the plaza by plaques and engravings.

This plaza is connected with servicemen and women of different eras, supported by the community, and now serves as a notable gathering place in Little Italy, San Diego.

Sea Horse

Here is an initial lay-in sketch for a painting intended to be a name for a home.  It is a sea horse but I intend to make it an identity for a beach-area home, which I'll probably suggest being called Sea House.  Why? I am compelled when various buildings, especially homes, are given personalities and individual identities. Think of English houses with names like Treetops or Mill House.  Websites like and English House Names tell a bit of the English house name history.  

To me, such naming of homes projects a certain history, connection to a neighborhood, ownership and care taking--which in turn contributes to a sense of place, and stewardship of the local community.  

If you sense this mission is trivial, please understand that I don't.  Strengthening our neighborhoods is what I consider to be one of our highest priorities. Naming a house and instilling pride in a house is nowhere near a complete solution, of course. But it is represents a fundamental accountability and stewardship, and I feel these things accrete when put in place.  Plus it is fun for me. 

Neighborhood Shrine -- Early Stages

Here is a neighborhood shrine in early stages of painting. You can see the outside two doors, which open to expose a tryptic (more detail will be posted soon). This prototype for this shrine is a sythesis of shrines from the Renaissance which I studied in Italy, and Shinto shrines that I saw in neighborhoods in Japan. 

The subject of this shrine is heritage, our ancestry, with prompting from the Mexican celebration Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This shrine series is part of Pario's exploration of the subject of community identity and belonging. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Torrey Pines Bluff Collapse

Today a visitor to San Diego was killed when Torrey Pines bluffs collapsed on him.  Warning signs are prominent, and lifeguards regularly warn people near the bluffs to stay away. It seems so implausible--until it happens. Most of the fatalities are locals. This Nevada man was the fifth fatality since 1995.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"ism" Takes Many Forms

Patagonia in Cardiff was removing their window display theme 'activism takes many forms.' I walked by when ism remained.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trying to Save a Tree

Though the California State Parks have wanted to replace rip rap that protects the San Elijo Campgrounds and bluffs, there has been no permit approval for the replacement of rip rap from the California Coastal Commission.  These bluffs and the campgrounds are a significant part of the local visitor industry.  A local land manager told me that there has been about 50 feet or more of this bluff that has eroded in the past 25 years.  In this area, I would estimate that about five feet of bluff as eroded in the past 12 months.  Bluff protection is controversial.  Protecting bluffs can reduce sediment from migrating naturally to nearby (downstream) beaches.  Similarly, urban development in San Diego County--such as paving with roads, parking lots, or building pads--areas around creeks or making runoff routes otherwise impermeable, reduces soils mirgation toward the beach.  We need to have accessible, accurate information about the whole-system implication of our development and presevation decisions. We do not have that now. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Non Natives Go Home

Non native plants are becoming the focus of new policy in Encinitas.  In a North County Times article, San Elijo Conservancy Executive Director Doug Gibson indicates that the Conservancy has spent close to $2 million in the past five years to remove invasive plants.  In California, the annual cost is estimated by the California Invasive Plant Council to be about $100 million.

The draft Encinitas policy lists 86 invasive plants that should be removed from City property and new developments, and 20 toxic plants that should be removed from City property and equestrian trails. 

Pampas grass, one of the most problematic invasive plants, clogs this storm water channel along the Coast Highway several times a year, and tractors and trucks can be seen diligently removing the thickets.

We are entering an era wherein a better full cost accounting is being conducted of the implications of our policies, regulations, and lifestyle choices.  Doing so brings new information to light, and in most cases somebody has an interest in doing things the 'old way,' and thus there is resistance to changes that may be beneficial overall. Other examples of pending changes include AB 32 and GHG emission reduction targets, and either eliminating, taxing, or otherwise incentivising a reduction in plastic bags being provided at retail stores. Plastic bag litter is expensive for municipalities to remove, causes equipment maintenance problems, and is harmful to wildlife. 

So, non natives go home -- we are 'accounting' on you!  

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Acupuncture or Voodoo?

Are these acupuncture needles or voodoo pins?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Solar Trash Compactor

At Swami's beach park the City of Encinitas has intalled a solar trash compactor that is supposed to "save time, fuel and trucking costs needed totake trash to landfills and reduce the total volume of trash." There is a recycle content receptical to the left side of the device.

I find interesting the ways that technology can enhance sustainable performance, and the cost-benefit circumstances of each. Seems that a big part of sustainable performance of this trash system rests on the treatment of trash once picked up from these solar bins. In this instance, the bin has a recycling receptical. In another two installations nearby, there are no recycling recepticals, which raises the question of whether or not the trash is sorted once picked up. If not, and if recyclable content is sent to landfills, there may be some environmental loss to offset the gain from less frequent emptying of these trash bins.

Back in the Day...

...There was another street and one more block of land in town plots west of 5th Street in Encinitas, according to W.H. Berger in his book Walk Along the Ocean*. According to an 1883 tax assessor's map, there were also three streets in the area that is now Moonlight Beach. The two blocks of blufftop land that has since eroded into the ocean was, as far as I can tell, only undeveloped land that was legally platted for development. The 1889 winter storms, which Berger suggests were around the same time as the 1883 Krakatoa volcanic eruption, upset the inland Cottonwood Creek reservoir and flooded the coastal area with destructive water forces.  In his book Sea Cliffs, Beaches, and Coastal Valleys in San Diego: Some Amazing Histories and Some Horrifying Implications, Gerald Kuhn suggests that the cliffs around Encinitas and Moonlight Beach retreated more than 600 feet between 1883 and 1891.

Imagine what a rise in sea level from another large volcano or global warming might do, or a commensurate rainfall today in light of the urban stormwater runoff complications added since the 1889 storms.

*Walk Along the Ocean is also available in a free electronic version from UCSD's SSH library, including a PDF version for easy printing.  The UCSD SSH library also has an electronic version of a more detailed study of local geology--Gerald Kuhn's Sea Cliffs, Beaches, and Coastal Valleys in San Diego: Some Amazing Histories and Some Horrifying Implications.  Click on the eScholarship version of this book (free) for a printable copy.  I want to thank Mark Wisniewski of the Encinitas Environmental Committee for telling me about these publications. 

Unique Foreground Buildings are Becoming Rare

Quality foreground buildings of this character are rarely proposed these days, and it seems like people often find reason to object to them in the project approval process.

The Self Realization Fellowship was first established in Encinitas in 1937, and rebuilt after bluff collapses destroyed original facilities in 1942. This large campus and its iconic design have provided a unique introduction to Encinitas as people arrive in downtown from the south. In addition, the SRF programming has become part of a local spiritual and holistic health community.

In 2008, SRF opened a store with a variety of items, shown in the lower photograph. The store offerings and the building itself add another layer of personality to the spiritual community and the spirit of the town.

A wave every 10 seconds or so

In his book Walk Along the Ocean, W.H. Berger says that cliffs erode about a foot per one hundred years on average, but they can often go much more quickly for a short time.

Cliff Erosion

Last night's high tide assaulted the bluffs on the south side of San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff. In January the State applied for permits to move the rip rap that was protecting the bluff. The rip rap gets periodically washed away from bluff wall by tides and waves (I just learned tides are considered waves). The California Coastal Commission has not processed or approved the permit. The State may seek an emergency permit.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Children & Seven Generations Commitment

Joseph Chilton Pearce says that if we raise children in a nourishing, loving, and skill building manner, most of society's problems can be cured in two generations of remediation.

Our modern lives make this quite a challenge, with our need to work an extraordinary amount in order to earn a living and, in many households, have to additionally endure long and timely commutes. On top of that, the fragmentation of families to far flung cities eliminates the traditional extended family relationships that can be so powerful in raising children. In only one generation of this fragmentation, we can lose the wonders of the generation-to-generation transfer of parenting skills refined over the ages.

Reconsidering how our cities are planned and built can help bring back the needed resources of time and near-by family back to our lives. Indeed, good urban form can organize our lives productively in numerous ways, which we are only now realizing because of the paralyzing cost and emotional discontent of our having done it ineffectively for some time now. We are soaking in it.


In addition to local inefficiencies, a new layer of our problem is now being recognized, though this layer has been building for decades. Global climate change and economic dislocations based upon petroleum market conditions are becoming the tail that wags our dog.

Tails are not supposed to wag dogs.

If the current equation of environmental, social, economic, and humanitarian conditions are not immediately and widely recognized as our call for self-preserving behavior, we will have--in a deterministic view--"cooked our goose," and it wasn't necessary at all.

With all of the new and elevated talk about sustainability, the reality is that our systemic equations for our use of water, petroleum, and other natural resources are essentially unchanged. This means that our systemic risk is essentially unchanged.These circumstances were not fated. In fact, the intellectual and physical resources necessary for us to live Utopian lives have been available with abundance. It is the personal, communal, and governance decisions that we have made that has become our tragic downfall.

I'm not sure how to explain that to my Godson, when it becomes time to tell him. I do know it is an indefensible condition that my generation presents to him, as his inherited future.

If you do not see a tragedy and call for change in the current circumstance, this blog probably contradicts your worldview.

The lives that we live and the places in which we live them are interdependent. Our cities and neighborhoods are robbing us of the wisdom, the wealth, and the daily enjoyment that we once had, that we deserve, and that we should have the presence of mind to fight to restore.

We have more things, more statistical wealth than ever. But in terms of our emotions, our state of mind, our daily happiness, and the reality of our children's future--we are impoverished. We have so much opportunity and manage it irresponsibly.


Pario is committed to urban betterment. We understand, and cannot overestimate, the systemic challenges to changing the way we build and live in our human settlements, our cities and regions. Changes must be fully understood in their complexity and risk to organizations and individuals. Failures in the betterment process create yet more obstacles to desired change.

It is human nature and willfulness that has led us astray, and human nature and willfulness that resists favorable change--often based in disproportionate self interest and preservation.

Yet it is the same human nature and willfulness that enables change.


At Pario. we are unabashed proponents of change and urban betterment. Equally, we insist on the success of every effort, which includes success for the agents of change as well as all members of the community. This requires a mature balance and interdependent relationship between Pario's advocacy and Pario's research and consulting objectivity.

Understanding what is possible, and then understanding obstacles is the first step to change. Pario can determine what should be done, the obstacles to doing it, and then we can create a successful plan for implementing the desired change. 

At Pario, because we have been doing this for many years longer than our competitors, and often over a decade longer, we understand how to accomplish the current success that is imperative in order to continue betterment initiatives. In implementing sustainability, we have over the years found that the biggest challenge is not identifying what to do, but it is finding the best way to accomplish sustainable goals. The costs and benefits change constantly for organizations. Newcomers in the mainstream development industry do not have the experience or fundamental commitment to urban betterment. They do it as a trend. At Pario, urban betterment has been the essential mission for over 15 years.

* * * *

Native North American Indians are generally credited with the idea of seven generations thinking, or conducting ourselves today in a manner that does not compromise the lives and circumstances of future generations. This is not our invention, but like many we are compelled by it. At Pario, we have since 1995 applied a seven generations commitment to our urban development work.

* * * *

Not only should we think about our children for their benefit, we should also do it for our own. Children are also consumers, managers, and citizens. Youth do a lot to energize, support, and shape our own future. We need to not only nurture them but also to listen to them.


Welcome to PARIO - FROM THE FIELD..., our blog about on-the-street observations and field work done for our research and consulting clients. In a quite different mode, our blog PARIO RESEARCH represents our back-in-the-office mode of collaboration, analytics, and presentation.

Get both can easily switch back and forth between the two with the links under 'More Pario.' We are glad that you visited and hope that you are compelled to add your opinions and ideas.

Also visit the website for background on Pario Research.