September 2015 Development Services Department Update

Department Updates

The purpose of this update is to give the reader a progress report of the efforts being pursued at the newly formed Development Services Department.  We seek continuous improvement, innovation and accountability.  The following newsletter is an account of our efforts over the last month.  These accomplishments are a progress report of our Quarterly Goals that relate to our Annual Work Plan. 


September 2015

Director's Note

Goodbye summer and hello holidays.  This was a busy summer with lots of construction projects.  As projects come on line we track them during the plan check and construction phase and notify people through our monthly Newsletter (subscribe today).  Thanks to the leadership of our Project Coordination Team and with the help of some simple technology solutions we are making the process of getting a permit even easier.  Most recently we initiated an automatic email to applicants as soon as their permit is ready to be picked up.  In some cases this can save an applicant a week. 

In November 2014, the Council adopted Ordinance #5279 creating a business registry certificate (BRC) requirement. The ordinance requires all businesses operating in a fixed place of business in the City to obtain a BRC. The Business Registry Certification is well underway and as of the end of August approximately 2,173 businesses have registered.  It is estimated that there are slightly more than 3,000 business in Palo Alto.  As we continue to track down these businesses that have not yet registered we gain a clearer picture of the number of employers and employees City wide.  This information will help planning officials make clearer decisions related to their parking and transportation policies. 

You may notice a lot of debris from construction projects, but did you know that on average Palo Alto contractors recycle 92% of all the construction debris that comes from project sites thanks to our Construction and Demolition Debris (C&D) Program.  The program requires recycling and encourages reuse of materials.  In fact over the last three years we have recorded over 579 tons of materials reused.  We track and report these metrics on PaloAlto.Wastetracking.com, check it out. 

You may already know that Development Services in Palo Alto has been a leader in green building since 2007 when we implemented our C&D Program but did you know that today we proudly lead the state in the most responsible energy code thanks to the amendments we recently made.  Effective September 10 we started enforcing an energy code that is 15% more energy efficient then the states minimum code.  This means new residential and commercial buildings are using less energy than their counterparts in other cities.  The state has already set a goal that every house will consume as much energy as they produce by 2020 with the help of onsite renewables like roof-top solar.  Development Services hopes to achieve that reality by 2017, three years early.  But we can’t do it alone.  That is one of the reasons we are conducting a full day green building retreat on October 30 and invited city partners and industry leaders to explore ways we can achieve this goal while being cost effective for the consumer.

Development Services has selected a consultant to prepare a seismic risk management plan.  The plan hopes to reduce our risk of loss from buildings most venerable to earthquakes.  This work includes our partners in Emergency Services and Planning but we need help from community stakeholders (see below for more details). 

Our inspection guidelines are one of the reasons that we received an ISO Class 1 rating in 2014.  Recently we decided to review those guidelines to be sure that we clearly distinguish between minimum code requirements and best management practices.  That work is in partnership with community stakeholders that understand design and construction.  Stay tuned for more information on that front.

We are proud to celebrate the success of our Public Works Department on their recent American Public Works Association (APWA) Accreditation.  This honorable award recognizes their work and practices as meeting and or exceeding industry standards.  Please help us congratulate them as being the first in the Silicon Valley to carry this honor. 

Our Utility Department partners that are represented in the Development Center are critical to the success of our plan review and permitting process.  Thanks to their presence at the Development Center applicants have been able to enjoy quicker permit review times and more over the counter approvals.  Our Utility representative is going back to the main Utility campus on Elwell Court to get even more training and education to help offer a greater array of services for our customers.  Stay tuned for more information on the improved service offerings. 

 Thank you for following our progress, stay tuned for more updates and enjoy the upcoming holidays.

Peter signature

                                                                 Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

Staffing update: One of our Project Coordinators, Jamie Campbell has left her position with the City of Palo Alto.  Jamie had been with the City since March, 2013 and brought valuable skills and experience which made her a key part of our team. We are sorry to see her go and will be recruiting for her replacement in the coming months.

We recently implemented a new process to notify applicants via email when the last reviewing City Department has approved the project.  This provides immediate notification so there is no time delay in issuing the permit.

In a joint-effort with the Planning Department, we have launched the GreenHalo/Accela integration project which makes it much easier for contractors to sign-up and track their recycling activities and has streamlined the process for City staff as well.

We have created an additional workstation at the front counter of the Development Center which has helped to decrease customer wait times and create better customer flow at the counter.

Did you know? You can schedule inspections, research permit records, and track the status of your project online with no special login required. Check it out at: https://aca.accela.com/paloalto/


Planning Department

Assist Green Building consultant on web page updates completed.

Assist Green Building consultant with staff development trainings completed.

Work with PCE admin staff to review and improve procedures for collecting and monitoring impact fees to ensure the City is consistently getting the fees its entitled to has been completed.

Green Halo/Accela Integration has been completed and went live.

For the current Planning and Transportation Issues of Interest and information on development projects, please refer to our department web pages at:

Issues of Interest: http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/47225

Development Projects: http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/planningprojects

Projects near you, see map: https://paloalto.buildingeye.com/


Green Building

The Energy Reach Code Ordinance is now effective for permit applications that submitted on or after September 10th, 2015. View the Press Release for additional details.

A Green Building & Energy Reach Code Ordinance training series of 11 on-demand videos have been launched. These videos review the content of the ordinances and submittal requirements. View the Press Release or view the Green Building Compliance Page to watch the video series.

The Residential Green Building Special Inspector retreat was held on August 6th at Mitchell Park Library. A supplemental training was held for the Residential Green Building Special Inspectors on October 8th.  There are now 22 Residential Green Building Special Inspectors

Green Building Boot Camp - Trainings for plan checkers/inspectors on the new Green Building regulations have been completed. Staff will continue to receive on-going training to support the enforcement procedures.

 Upcoming Green Building Training Opportunity!

Overview of Green Building and Energy Reach Code Requirements in Palo Alto – November 12th

Come learn about Palo Alto’s new green building and energy reach code ordinances! This session will provide an overview of the local amendments to Title 24, Chapter 11 Green Building and Title 24, Chapter 6 Energy for both residential and non-residential projects. The session will review the compliance requirements for projects during planning, permit, inspection, and post-occupancy.

When: Thursday, November 12, 2015 from 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM (PST) -

Where: Palo Alto City Hall – 1st Floor – City Council Chambers - 250 Hamilton Ave. Palo Alto. , CA 94301 - View Map

Register: Eventbrite


Building Plan Check

Staff continues to train on enforcing the new Green Code and Energy Reach Code ordinances.  Green Building binders were distributed to all plan reviewers for easy access to all Green Code and Energy Reach Code requirements.

The approved list of special inspection agencies has been fully updated, and all renewals have been processed.

Seismic Risk Management Program Status Update.  The contract for services have been awarded and signed.

The Staff Report regarding SB 2188 (State Legislation to Expedite PV and Solar Water Heating Permit Applications and Inspections) has been drafted, and submitted to City Council for approval.

The development process to allow for Residential PV and Solar Hot Water Systems to be submitted online via Accela Citizen Access is underway.

The Assistant Building Official recruitment process has begun.

This week, the City of Palo Alto launched a new effort to improve our understanding of earthquake vulnerabilities in the existing building stock and to engage a wide range of stakeholders in crafting viable policy options for how to address them.  After careful consideration of responses to a March 20th Request for Proposals, the City chose Rutherford+Chekene as the lead firm to create a comprehensive updated list of buildings in Palo Alto that may have an increased risk of damage during a seismic event, estimate associated losses during earthquake scenarios, and develop mitigation options and strategies.

The aim is to gather essential information and input to help Palo Alto better prepare for, respond, and rebound after a major earthquake.  The ultimate goals include increased public awareness and safer, more resilient buildings, ranging from multi-family housing to commercial properties to public facilities.

 Here is what you can do right now to help:

Project Team lead and Palo Alto Chief Building Official George Hoyt is currently looking for contractors, developers, engineers, architects, business owners, home owners, and other interested persons to join a volunteer advisory group that will help in the development of a state-of-the-art seismic risk management program. To join, nominate an individual, or find out more, please contact Ghebilet Paulos at (650) 617-3159. Responses are requested by October 31, 2015.


Building Inspection

The new CPA ordinances inspection guidelines book has been published.

Green Building Staff and community training are underway.  A training opportunity was held by the city for Green Special Inspectors to introduce them to program and review the requirements.

Please welcome our new Contract Building Inspectors Todd Sylla and Ditson Hendricks

The Building Inspector Specialist - Plumbing/Mechanical recruitment process as begun. 

We continue to offer next day inspections during a very busy construction period.


Public Works

After a 3 year process, the Public Works Department finished the American Public Works Association (APWA) accreditation process.  While a formal announcement is pending, all indications is that Public Works passed with flying colors.  Less than one percent of all cities in the country are accredited by the APWA; if successful, Palo Alto will be the first in Silicon Valley!  Stay tuned for more information – coming soon!

PW new Engineering Technician III to be started work on October 12th.  Gabriel Aczon came from the private sector and replaced Larry Jackson who retired in June.  He is very excited to work for the City of Palo Alto and attended the new employee orientation program on the 12th and 14th.  Be sure to give him a warm welcome!

The Urban Forest Master Plan was officially adopted by City Council on May 11th.  After four years of starts and stops, Staff changes, and policy development the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) went into effect in June.  The plan is truly an impressive document and a credit to Walter Passmore and his staff; it’s policies and programs are mapped out for the next 10 years and will change the look of Palo Alto.  The UFMP will affect various departments and divisions so everyone is encouraged to look through it when they can. It can be found on the City’s website under:  Public Works/Urban Forest/Management Plans/Urban Forest Master Plan

As PW’s water filling station program is coming to a close on October 31st, we can look back and claim success in implementing the first full season of requiring water filling stations to be installed with each dewatering project.  The first water station was successfully piloted in 2014, in 2015 we had 14!  City vehicles, residents, private companies, and even people from other cities are using the water stations.  Although dewatering water is still discharged to the storm drain, Palo Alto is the first city known to make it available for public use.


Fire Prevention Bureau

"Go Live": Santa Clara County CUPA Portal (online Hazmat reporting)- City has gone as far as we can go,  waiting for the County to do their part.

Completed Successful Capture of Accela Metrics

Completed Fee Study: Achieve Cost Recovery For 2015 FPB (Budget)

Completed Hazmat: Successful Collection of Inspection Metrics Data/CUPA Report

Completed Santa Clara County Portal Build Out: Hazmat Field Inspection Module

Completed Weed Abatement Enforcement

Shane Lopes welcomed a new baby girl to his family - Dylan Maisy Lopes. Congrats!!

Fire Ceremony

Fire Promotional Ceremony - Steve Lindsey, Ed Aguilar & Shane Lopes have been promoted to rank of Fire Inspector. Scott Woodfin has been promoted to Hazmat Inspector and James Henrikson has been promoted to Fire Marshal. Pictured Left to Right:  Scott Woodfin, Ed Aguilar, Steve Lindsey, James Henrikson. Not Pictured: Shane Lopes


Utilities Department - CPAU

In the process of developing a more customer friendly interface that will help educate applicants on what needs to be submitted at the Development Center for Utilities to complete their review. Fine-tuning the standard procedures for water and gas meter installation process.  Corrected errors in the “How to Apply for Utility service” Utilities webpage.

Initiated an enhanced training program for the Utilities Representative at the Development Center for over-the-counter review of Electric and WGW applications. Developing a training program for Utilities engineering staff to provide coverage during the absence of Utilities Representative at the Development Center.

Purchased and installed Bluebeam Revu software for WGW Engineering staff’s electronic review process.  This software allows users to create/edit/markup/compare different versions of PDF files, and collaborate with project partners in real time.

Two City Facilities now logged into the GreenTraks/Portfolio Manager websites to benchmark the resource consumption of their building/facility through this pilot program. Four commercial customer sites now logged with participant training in the next few weeks. Five commercial customers nearing completion with training within the month. Working to add final commercial customers to remaining program slots.

Building Carbon Zero Palo Alto – Passive House California's 2015 Conference will be held at Lucie Stern on Friday, November 13, 2015 from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM. Click here for details.

 For details on our Commercial New Construction rebate program, click here.