July 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

The month of July represents a time of new beginnings.  From a Fiscal Year perspective we kicked off the new year as a newly formed department which offered the opportunity to look back at the previous Fiscal Year and track our budgetary activity.  From a code perspective we launched into the new Title 24 energy requirements that took effect on July 1.   July also represents the middle of the calendar year which presents an opportunity to revisit our 2014 work plan and offer some course corrections to our year-end goals.  Finally, what better way to kick off a new year than with a day-long retreat which we also did on July 31st.

With the completion of the Fiscal Year, the Development Services Department is in a sound and responsible position for the new year.  Having developed sophisticated budget tracking tools and contract management dashboards we are better equipped than ever to manage the financials of our department.  Development Services runs a delicate balance of tracking expenditures against costs to ensure our fees are commensurate with the expenses of delivering the service.  This complex modeling requires constant oversight and monitoring to ensure we can continue to provide exceptional customer service and responsiveness without over-extending our budget.  Our goal is to continue to monitor our activity throughout this Fiscal Year with the hope we can form our own Enterprise Fund by start of the next Fiscal Year.

With the start of the new Fiscal Year we also launched into a the new green building requirements.  As stated in our last newsletter, until further notice Palo Alto is requiring compliance with our current green building ordinance with the exception of the energy portion.  For questions about our green building requirements or what it means to your project please contact our Green Building Coordinator, Melanie Jacobson at  Melanie.Jacobson@CityofPaloAlto.org.

The Development Services Department has started a tradition of forming an action plan for the year in January.  That goal setting document sets the course for the year as well as provides a roadmap to check progress against.  Now that we have reached the mid-point of the calendar year, we have revisited that work plan and provided some needed course correction in response to changing priorities, new initiatives, and response to current work-loads. Our efforts are refocused on launching the most time sensitive new initiatives, landing mission-critical initiatives in flight, and standardizing those that have already landed.

Finally, our most notable accomplishment of the month was the much awaited Green Building Retreat.  This much anticipated event was an opportunity for green building professionals, architects and engineers to come together to discuss the future vision of the City’s Green Building Ordinance with the goal of providing guidance and direction.  That direction was provided in the area of energy, indoor air quality, water efficiency, site planning / LEED-ND, materials, and waste divergence.  The outcome provided the technical advisory committee the direction it needed to start creating the revised ordinance it hopes to take to council before the end of the year.

Read more about the advances we have made in our various divisions and stay tuned for more progress in the months to come.

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

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

We have put the finishing touches and launched our new permit application.  This new application consolidates the building permit, demolition permit and re-roof permit applications into one streamlined, easy to use document.  We have also created a more convenient editable form for our website which you’ll find at http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/6443

 The number of inspections being scheduled online is steadily increasing.  We are trying to get the word out to owners and contractors that there are alternatives to calling on the phone to schedule inspections.  Check out our online permit services at https://aca.accela.com/paloalto/

We are also working with our technology partner Civic Insights to enhance their website which provides permit status updates and City contact information.  They also offer automatic email updates of the progress of your permit.  To sign-up just go to http://paloalto.civicinsight.com and click on the “watchlist” button to get email alerts. 


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 early August with City Council approval of the selected firm anticipated for early September.   

 Working with Green Building consultant to develop comprehensive inspection checklist to be added to Accela database.

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

In efforts to continue our goal of improving Green Building and Energy Compliance, the Green Building Advisory Group held a retreat on July 31.  The purpose of this retreat was to establish a direction in which staff could further pursue the creation of a Green Building Ordinance.  Some of the topics discuss were: Energy and Emissions, Indoor Air Quality, Water Efficiency.

Due to an increase in plan review applications prior to July 1st, in anticipation of the adoption of 2013 Energy and Green Building codes, our division is encountering a small backlog.  Please be patient and rest assure that staff is working diligently to accomplish our set goals.


Building Inspection

George Hoyt was appointed Acting Interim Building Official on July 7, 2014

A high level of staff turnover has challenged our ability to provide timely service.

Construction Activity continues to trend upward.

We are currently recruiting for a full time building inspector.

Training continues to be a top priority and staff have recently attended  ATC20 disaster training.


Public Works

The grading permit for the Ronald McDonald House expansion was issued.

Public Works resolved a public safety hazard which involved multiple contractors near Gunn High School.

We began a cost recovery fee study of selected Public Works fees.

We began recruitment of hourly staff to assist the Urban Forestry group.


Fire Prevention Bureau

Fire Image

Mitchell Park Library Building A has received Temporary Conditional Occupancy approval from the fire department.

A construction related fire occurred at 537 Hamilton on July 17th.  The fire originated in large cardboard box containing discarded silicone caulking tubes and paper towels. Approximate $30,000 damage. Official cause determination is accidental and undetermined. See attached photo.

Fire Inspector/Paramedic Nichole Single assignment in the Fire Prevention Bureau has been extended.

Fire Inspector/Paramedic Nichole Single has been assigned to a County task force committee for Fire Safety Inspections of Residential Care Facilities.

Palo Alto Medical Foundation is replacing its entire fire alarm system, approximately 1,410 devices. Due to patient considerations, Fire Department inspections and testing will be required to start after 10pm and will take several months to complete.


Utilities Department - CPAU

Investigated using Accela Citizen Access for completing online Utilities applications. Put on hold until further development and deployment of department-wide electronic submission capability.

Participated in the Green Building Advisory Committee design charette finalizing recommendations for Palo Alto Green Building Code changes to the current and future building code cycles.

Completed contract for the pilot program e-Dashboard to visually track the monitored energy consumption in selected non-residential new construction and major remodel projects.

Identifying and evaluating best practices, data-sources and training tools for Zero Net Energy construction.