Development Services Department Updates April/2014

City of PaloAlto

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. 

Director's Note

The Development Services Department is on a continuous path of improvement, innovation, and accountability.  This new outreach tool is our newest effort to reach out to our stakeholders. 

We continue to expand the number of permits on our Citizen Access Module allowing more contractors the ability to pull permits online.  Our online email notification and permit tracking tool is growing in popularity.  Since the site's launch in February, there have been a total of 1,989 unique sessions on the site, coming from a total of 1,064 distinct users. 

We are making progress on our efforts to coordinate our GIS and Accela Data.  This will result in better customer service and experience.  We are currently revamping our Green building Ordinance in cooperation with a Green Building Advisory Group and in time for the 2013 Standards that will go into effect on July 1, 2014.  

The City of Palo Alto will celebrate National Building Safety Month during May with weekly themes and events throughout the month to help individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe, resilient, affordable, and energy-efficient homes and buildings. For a complete list of events please click here.

The City of Palo Alto was named the 2014 Most Electric Vehicle Ready Community at the Charged & Connected Symposium on April 24, 2014 at SAP in Palo Alto.  Our EVSE Task Force was recognized by the City Council with a proclamation that celebrates their contribution to that effort.  As always we are open and receptive to your feedback.  Tell us what you think here.

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad

Project Coordination

We are currently making a concerted effort to process our backlog of Certificates of Use and Occupancy.  There are a number of businesses that have not followed-through with the necessary inspections to obtain their Certificate, and in some cases may no longer be in business.  We will be reaching out to them to coordinate the necessary steps to obtain their Certificate. 

We have been working closing with an outside contractor to map the process and begin the conversion of our old microfiche blueprint plans to a digital format.  This will be a multi-year effort to convert all of the 125,000 fiche records to the new format.  This upgrade will result in improved access to the records by the public and City staff. 

Work is almost complete to add two new permit types to our self-service online permitting system.  Our goal is to add furnace and boiler replacement permits which will allow contractors to pull these permits anytime from their home or office.  This will further our goal to streamline and simplify the permit process for our customers.  Keep an eye out for these new permits as we will be launching them soon.   

Planning Department

Extended recruitment for two vacant Planner positions due to internal promotion of the Senior Planner positions. Recruitment is anticipated to conclude early May with June start date.

Concluded audit of City’s Green Building Program on March 31. The audit was prepared by our Green Building Consultant, Melanie Jacobson.  Officially began implementation of the Audit recommendations as of April 1.  For a copy of the audit please contact Jason Nortz at

Began work on Request for Proposal (RFP) for part-time Green Building consultant for Fiscal Year 15. RFP anticipated to be approved late June. 

Finalized new counter schedule and single family building permit plan check process. Implementation of new process will begin in May.

For all Planning and Transportation areas of interest and recently approved projects please refer to our department web page at:

Building Plan Check

Preparing application for Class 1 ISO rating

Coordinating four training sessions in May as part of Building Safety month

Updating the City’s Accessibility Transition Plan in cooperation with Public Works to review all city facilities.

Collaborating with Green Building Contractor in review update City’s Green Building Ordinance.

Preparing for Title 24 Energy Updated coming July 1

Working with Fire Prevention Bureau on Fire Code Updates

Building Inspection

Presentations for Building Safety Month were prepared by Building, Fire , Public Works and  Utilities department. It will be presented during the month of May.

Accela 360 data collection software has now replaced ” Classic “ , This will allow us to track our process improvements and validate if we are having the desired results .

All field personnel have been provided IPads for data entry and access of records from the field . This will allow us to provide better service to our customers.

All inspection staff continue to update their code knowledge by attending 2013 Code updates and updating their professional certifications.

Phone coverage at the Development Center has increased and Carol Turner is now backed up by Nancy Cox and Lisa Green. The wait time of calls to the DC has been reduced significantly.

We have started our pursuit to become and ISO #1 ranking and we hope to achieve this goal by December of 2014.

We continue to receive positive written  feedback  from our commercial and residential customers and appreciate all constructive criticism.

Public Works

The San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority (SFCJPA) and the City of Palo Alto hosted a community meeting regarding the latest changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and flood insurance rates for residents of Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park at the Palo Alto Council Chambers on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  A new law approved in 2012 and recently modified made significant changes to flood insurance rates and policies that affect residents and businesses in the FEMA-designated floodplain.  Edie Lohmann, NFIP Flood Insurance Specialist, presented information on the latest legislative changes, how they affect insurance, and answered questions about flood insurance, elevation certificates, and related topics.  The meeting was cablecast live on Government Channel 26 and webcasted live on the Media Center website.  The archived video is available online at 

Demolition Resources: If you are getting ready to demolish a building, please check the following website for resources on how to ensure worker and occupant safety, comply with regulations, avoid future liability and protect the environment:

Public Works Watershed Protection will conduct its annual evaluation of installed stormwater treatment measures (C.3) to verify proper operation and maintenance starting in May.

Public Works Watershed Protection will conduct its annual evaluation of installed stormwater treatment measures (C.3) to verify proper operation and maintenance starting in May.

Fire Prevention Bureau

Interim Fire Marshal Rich Dean and Fire Inspector Stephen Lindsey attended Accela conference in Napa

Fire Inspector/Investigator John Parks has rejoined the Fire Prevention Bureau following a 4 month assignment on Engine Company 65 as an Acting Captain

Fire Inspector/Investigator Scott Woodfin attended the National Fire Academy in Maryland for a two week course on Interviewing/Interrogation Techniques and Courtroom testimony. Scott received a letter of recognition sent to Fire Chief Eric Nickel from the Hickory North Carolina Police Criminal Investigations Unit commending Scott’s leadership and abilities calling him “an inspiration”.

The Fire Marshal’s Office is working with EMTRAC (traffic signal pre-emption company) and our City Transportation Division to obtain priority emergency vehicle traffic signal control along the El Camino Real corridor. This is accomplished by GPS and Radio Frequency technology. The goal is to expand coverage to all intersections within the City of Palo Alto.

Hazardous Materials Inspector James Henrikson and Fire Inspector Stephen Lindsey attended a two week Environmental Crimes Course in San Luis Obispo

In light of recent fires across the country as a result of welding and other “hot work” on job sites, the Fire Prevention Bureau is proactively checking major jobsites for Hot Work Permits and proper safety practices.

Utilities Department - CPAU

Internal Training

CPAU provided two training sessions to the building technicians in March, and will schedule updated training on the proper implementation of the DA letter/form.  This session will also include updated CPAU requirements for the plan review check list.

CPAU staff are creating separate comprehensive flow charts for the CPAU portion of the residential and commercial plan review processes. These charts will provide an updated “picture” of the entire CPAU plan review process from application to final inspection and acceptance. The intent is to provide a tool whereby everyone involved in the process is literally “on the same page.”

Applications and Inspections

The electric utility inspectors are continuing to use IPads to complete Accela field inspections. Water Gas Wastewater (WGW) inspectors will schedule additional training for Accela on IPads.

CPAU staff will be investigating the use of Citizen Access (ACA) to complete CPAU Service Applications online.

Energy and Water Efficiency

Selection of a vendor for the CPAU/DS commercial building benchmarking pilot program has been completed and discussions are underway for completing a modified Scope of Work.

Development of a Scope of Work for a CPAU Request for Proposals (RFP) to compile and distribute the educational tools, construction “best practices” and state of the art architectural design information that Palo Alto architects, developers and builders will need to successfully transition to the new Title 24 Standards and beyond.