Development Services Departments Updates - May/2014

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. 


Director's Note

The Development Services Department is on a continuous path of improvement, innovation, and accountability. May was the culmination of a month of reflection, outreach, education and collaboration.

Being Building Safety Month, May was ripe with opportunity to train, educate and share lessons learned from leaders in the building trades.  We continue to seek ways to reach our customers, stakeholders, and residents that have interest or need for our materials.  Please use this as an opportunity to tell us how you would like to hear from us about training, outreach and engagement efforts. I can be reached directly at Peter.pirnejad@cityofpaloalto.org

In May we were invited to the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro to speak and hear about the latest trends in Zero Net Energy policy and design efforts from leaders.  We heard from Assembly member Nancy Skinner on her efforts at Berkeley and now at the State level on energy efficiency policies.  CPUC Commissioner Michael Picker spoke regarding the role and leadership that the CPUC offers in our efforts to achieve higher performing buildings. The good news is that advances in green building design and construction are prevalent and there is no "shortage of energy" to innovate. 

The Development Center Advisory Committee (DCAG) convened in May and had a chance to identify some areas of interest and commitment in improving the Development Review process.  We heard from Roshan Mehdizadeh, Real Estate Development Project Integrator at Google who spoke of a green building compliance tool she created while working on her Ph.D. at Stanford.  For information on the tool let me know and I will put you in touch with Ms. Mehdizadeh.  For more information about the DCAG follow this link.  To become a member contact me directly. 

Twice in May we met with the Green Building Advisory Group (GBAG) to discuss the challenges we face with continuing to enforce our Palo Alto Green Building Ordinance after July 1st when the new Title 24 Energy Code standards take effect.  In short, because the energy compliance requirements are becoming more rigorous we cannot enforce our local (more restrictive) amendments without  completing a Cost Effectiveness Study.  Furthermore, until the CEC commissioned software tools are working we cannot complete said study.  Therefore, we are in a holding pattern until after July 1st and once the dust has settled we will be proposing new requirements that will retain our position as a City that seeks higher performing buildings.  To learn more about the GBAG, including agendas, follow this link.  To be added to the working group contact me directly.

Finally, in May we presented our Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Ordinance to the Policy Services Committee.  The Committee was in favor of our proposed ordinance to require all new commercial, multi-family, and hotel projects to install Electric Vehicle friendly equipment and devices.  We will be taking the final ordinance and recommendations to the City Council on July 16.  Once the City Council packet is complete it will be posted online at the following link.  We welcome your attendance and participation. 

We value our customers and look to you for ways we can improve. 

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

We have added two new permit types to our self-service online permitting system.   We’ve added furnace replacement 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 more permits to be added in the coming months. 

We are continuing our efforts to process our backlog of Certificates of Use and Occupancy in anticipation of the new Business Registry Certificate program.  The Building Inspectors are doing a great job in taking on the additional workload and making the required inspections for the tenants to obtain their Certificates. 

The number of inspections being scheduled online continues to increase.  We are trying to get the word out to owners and contractors that there are alternatives to calling in on the phone to schedule inspections.  This should eventually reduce the number of phone calls being received here at the Development Center. 


Planning Department

Completed recruitment for two vacant Planner positions.  New hires expected to start on June 17 and July 16 respectively. 

Released Green Building Request For Proposal (RFP) on May 28.  Part-time Green Building consultant(s) expected to begin in August.  

Implemented new building plan check process. Process improvements include:

     -21 day internal plan check deadline

     -All non-discretionary building permits (sf additions/remodels, ti’s) – review by Development Services Planning Staff

     -All building permits associated with planning applications (ARB, IR, HIE, CUP, etc..) – reviewed by project planner assigned to planning application.

Increased planning application intake submittal appointments from 10/wk to 17/wk with goal being to limit wait time to less than 2-3 days (wait times previously as long as 2 weeks). 

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

http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/40268  http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/pln/new_projects/default.asp


Building Plan Check

Building Safety Month was held last month

We continue to meet with and complete the application for a reclassification of the ISO Rating System. Our hope that we will be able to achieve a Class 1 rated Building Agency. 

The second Disaster Assessment Planning Meeting was held at the Police Department in an effort to improve our disaster preparedness. 

The Policy and Services committee unanimously recommended the EVSE Ordinance be forwarded to the council with minor clarifications to be heard on the June 16th City Council Meeting. 

We continue to work with the Green Building Advisory Group on our local amendments the California Green Building Code. More information to come after July 1st. 

Accessibility Exemption form is updated and posted on the website.


Building Inspection

Guidebooks updates are in progress to reflect 2013 Code requirements.

A new guidebook has been created for OSHPOD 3 Clinic’s

Inspection Staff continue to attend Code Update training for continued Certification

We are preparing for ISO re-evaluation and are setting our goal of achieving ISO 1 ranking.

H/C prewalk program continues to get positive feedback from customers.

Green Building enforcement is shifting to Building Inspection Staff for Commercial Project’s

EVSE installations are on the upswing.

Our workload is increasing as permits for major projects are being issued.


Public Works

Public Works has hired an On-Call Surveyor to review document submittals and to facilitate the review process.

Working closely with Public Works Administration and ASD, PWE-DC successfully updated the PW portion of the 2014-2015 Municipal Fee Schedule for adoption in this year’s budget.


Fire Prevention Bureau

The Fire Prevention Bureau provided a safety presentation as part of National Building Safety month outreach

Special Event inspections are ramping up with as we move into the summer season

Investigated a 3 alarm fire on Bryant Street

Commenced annual Wild Fire safety outreach and inspection program for foothill residents

Continuing participation with creation of Accela GIS


Utilities Department - CPAU

Negotiating Scope of Work for consultant to pilot the consumption benchmarking of commercial customers

Working with Development Services to flowchart the Utilities/DS process

Working with consultant to use Accela to help customers complete UTL forms

Scheduling additional IPad/Accela training for inspectors due to staffing changes

Shifted Landscape Irrigation Plan Check process from Utilities to Development Services (should be transparent to the applicant)