June 2014 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. 


Director's Note

Last month provided to be an exceptionally busy one as we closed out the fiscal year, transitioned to the new Energy Code, and had some key staff turnovers to name some of the events of June.

Because of the code change we had an unusually busy month.  We took in 485 applications and issued 375 permits in the month of June.  This was the busiest month of the year.  We closed out the fiscal year by taking in 4,038 new applications, approved 2,024 plans, and issued 3,624 building permits. 

In any given year we issue between 3,500 and 4,500 building permits.  The total valuation of projects for the entire fiscal year came in at $336,122,844.  Last year it was just over $500 million due to some large projects that had come through.

The numbers of customers we service every day is staggering but June was one of the highest due to the code change.  We served 1,223 customers last month while we served 13,777 customers for the entire year. 

Three important press releases were issued last month using our GovDelivery Tool.  If you have not signed up to receive important new items set your preferences here.  They included announcement of our new interim Chief Building Official, George Hoyte.  Another notable hire/transfer was the replacement of Aline Eskandari, the Department Administrative Assistant with a very familiar face and welcome addition to our family, Katie Whitley.  We are pleased and relieved to have these two rock stars join our team. 

Also in June we announced the expansion of our Electric Vehicle Ordinance for Multi-Family and Non-Residential Construction.  This was a revision and enhancement to the original EVSE ordinance passed by the City Council in December.  Finally, we outlined the enforcement requirements for the new 2013 Title 24 Energy Code.  This was major change in the building code and one for which we will be having training and other educational opportunities.  Please stay tuned to Gov Delivery for details. 

The completion of the second quarter of 2014 also came with a recounting of the Department’s 2014 Action Plan.  We are pleased to announce that we are predominantly on track with all the goals we set out to complete in January.  Some of the more notable goals that are either complete or on track include the launching of our Online Citizen Access tool that allows you to search, apply, and inquire about permits as well as schedule inspections from any computer.  For more information follow this link.  The formation of our department and successful approval of our budget was also a significant accomplishment.

Thank you for your interest and enquiry. Remember that in addition to this newsletter we also offer a monthly construction update newsletter and press releases that can be requested on your Gov Delivery preferences.  Have a wonderful summer and happy New Year (fiscal anyway)

My Very Best,

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

The Project Coordination team has been busy in June with all the last minute submittals in advance of the code change effective July 1, 2014.  Some of the projects that were processed include 18 new houses, 2 new commercial buildings and a new large subdivision.  Check out our Construction Updates section for more information. 

The Development Services Department became an official City Department as of July 1st.  Much of June was spent working behind the scenes to make sure all systems were in place to ensure a smooth transition.  Thanks to all the representatives in the different Departments for all their hard work in making this a success. 

We are nearing completion in our efforts to process our backlog of Certificates of Use and Occupancy in anticipation of the new Business Registry Certificate program.  Everyone is taking on additional workload to help with this important initiative. 


Planning Department

Planning staff in Development Services continue to work on our 2014 goals.  Accomplishments to date include:

Expedited plan check review for all non-discretionary related building permits (approximately 30 permits/month) ;

Increased # of application submittals (from 10-18 apts/wk);

Trained Development Services Planning staff to:

·         Review all single family building permit applications

·         Review all sign permit applications

·         Assist with C&D and Green Building permits

·         Assist with application intakes

·         Assist with review of IR applications

 The City is continuing its search for a Green Building Consultant to support the work of the Development Center and is currently reviewing proposals received in response to an RFP. Selection of finalists is anticipated for mid-July with City Council approval of the selected firm anticipated for mid-August.  

In an effort to assist with the growing number of planning entitlements the Development Center Planning Staff is now reviewing all Sign Permit applications with the eventual goal being to reduce the overall review time for sign permits. 

For all Planning and Transportation “areas of interest” please be sure to check out the Planning and Community Environment’s new E-Newsletter.  The newsletter is available to all subscribers via email and also available online at:  http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/42950


Building Plan Check

We continue to meet with staff and consultants in efforts to complete the application for a reclassification of our ISO rating. Currently we hold a Class 2 rating and our goal is to obtain a Class 1 rating.

The first reading of the EVSE Ordinance occurred at the June 16th City Council Meeting.  The second reading is scheduled for August 4th.

We continue to work with the Green Building Advisory Group on our local amendments the California Green Building Code.

Due to release of the 2013 California Green Building Standards and Energy Code effective July 1st and the summer mouths our department is anticipating an increase in plan review submittals.  We are committed to continue to provide clarification and guidance on the new standards while providing efficient service.


Building Inspection

H/C pre-walk program is caching on and yielding positive results.

168 EVSE installations were made in the past 12 months.

Guidebook Updates for requirements of 2013 Code Cycle is almost complete.

Staff continues to participate in required Code Update Training.  In particular, Energy and Green Building requirements that take effect on July 1, 2014.

Work load is continuing to swing upward as is customary in the good weather seasons.


Public Works

Public Works Engineering Services worked closely with TruePoint to develop Accela reports for Street Work permits, Encroachment Permits, Flood Zone projects, C.3 projects, and Inspections.These reports will help track and monitor routing, workload, and budgetary issues.

Public Works Engineering Services has now integrated it’s stand-alone insurance certificate database into Accela. This will eliminate the need to open a separate software program to search for current insurance certificates for contractors thereby saving time and potentially issuing permits quicker.  Testing of the system is now underway. This integration is a step in PWE’s goal of electronic permit issuance.

Working with TruePoint, Public Works Engineering Services has made significant progress in June and is very close to testing issuing street work permits electronically.

Public Works Engineering Services began working with PW-Watershed Protection staff to develop the 2014 Storm Water Annual Report with an eye on the August 15th due date.


Fire Prevention Bureau

Fire Inspectors Shane Lopes, Scott Woodfin, and Stephen Lindsey successfully passed the California Certified Fire Inspector Exam.

We purchased “Smart Draw” software to produce quality end of month reports of Fire Prevention Bureau metrics and measures.

Fire Investigators Scott Woodfin and John Parks attended a week long forensic fire death training in San Luis Obispo.

The Mayfield project was approved. Appeals citing improper Fire Code interpretation were not successful.

Fire Inspector Nichole Single has been requested to return to her Fire Suppression assignment at the end of July due to staffing shortages.


Utilities Department - CPAU

The Utilities department has many initiatives in process:

Title 24 / Green Building Energy discussions 

Transfer of Landscape Irrigation Plan Checks from Utilities to Development Services

Consultant selection for new construction/tenant improvement metered energy consumption

Evaluation of new communication channels and marketing materials for Utilities Service Requirements