September 2014 Development Services Department Updates

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, 2014


Director's Note

The month of September has been a month dedicated to “Working the Plan”.  As we approach the end of the calendar year two things rise on our priority list.  Closing out the year of things on our “2014 Action Plan” and preparing for mid-Fiscal Year discussions. 

As it relates to the former we have been working tirelessly on achieving the tasks listed in our “2014 Action Plan.”  To date we have now accomplished 15 of the 26 initiatives listed in that plan.  We have been working on the 7 groups we categorized our 26 initiatives into.

Some of the more notable advances we made were supporting our Economic Development Manager, Thomas Fehrenbach, as well as other departments throughout the City in drafting a new Business Registry Certification program. We are pleased to report that the council reviewed and approved the proposal in late September and on October 6th respectively.  The second reading will occur in October.  More details about the BRC shall be forthcoming.  For a link to the staff report that went to City Council click [here].

Our green building efforts to revise our Green Building Ordinance and prepare a cost effectiveness study will continue and hope to conclude in the first quarter of 2015.  Due to a glitch with contracting with our intended vendor we have had to postpone our Green Building Ordinance until the beginning of the year.  We are currently working out a new contract with the next most responsible bidder and hope to have the contract in place and work underway in the next few months.  Our new Green Building Ordinance has been well vetted with a Green Building Advisory Group made up of stakeholders and experts in the green building industry.  For more information about what will change please contact Melanie.Jacobson@CityofPaloAlto.org.

Our Fire permitting is undergoing a major transformation process as we take a once paper based system and streamline and automate the process.  Look out for a new more interactive and digital permit that includes the ability to apply for fire permits using our Accela platform.

Public works is also hard at work working on a new and improved Street Works permit that not only streamlines the process but automates it.  What used to take multiple forms and administrative hurdles has been consolidated into one easy step.  For more information about our new streamlined Street Works Permit process contact Mike.Nafziger@CityofPaloAlto.org.

The automations and innovations just keep coming thanks to our innovative and hard-working staff.  Some things to look out for are our new integration between Geographic Information Systems and our permitting software, Accela.  Other innovations in the area of Construction Debris and Demolition permitting and tracking process, online permitting, and more are soon to come. 

Continue reading to get updates from each of our divisions and departments that make up Development Services and stay tuned for more updates in the coming months. In an effort to streamline our communications we will be moving to a bi-monthly newsletter in the new year.  Look out for more details on that to come.   

As always, we value your feedback. Feel free to tell us what works and what we need to work on.

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

We are currently recruiting for a Development Project Coordinator to fill a vacant position here at the Development Center.  The job is posted now and we should be scheduling interviews soon. 

The Accela/GIS integration project is nearing completion.  We are working on the final piece which is importing all the historic permit and entitlement information for each parcel into Accela.  This is the first step towards making that information available for viewing online. 

We are collaborating with staff on the Green Building process and working to implement changes and streamline the process.  We hope to have some improvements in place soon to speed up the scheduling of the final inspection.   

Two new permits types will soon be added to our self-service online permitting system.   We’re adding gas leak repair and repipe (water piping system) 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. 

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

Planning/Green Building Updates – September 2014

The City officially hired Melanie Jacobson as the new Green Building consultant on September 15.  Melanie has worked on a range of sustainable design projects throughout northern California including her recent work with the City of Palo Alto where she assisted the City with a comprehensive audit of all of our Green Building efforts to date.

Recent Green Building updates include:

 -Green Building Technical Advisory group is continuing to develop the next iteration of the green building ordinance. We are planning for the updated ordinance to go before City Council during the first calendar quarter of 2015.

 -Green Building personnel are still working to gather and analyze the 2014 fiscal year data to prepare the annual Performance Report.  This effort aims to collect and report on all green building metrics related to building design and construction.

Working with Urban Forestry to implement comprehensive review plan for all commercial and multi-family tree removal applications.  Goal is to have DS Plan staff manage review of these applications.

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

 -Assist with review of all multi-family and commercial tree removal applications

 

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

There are new faces among us. Please welcome Martin Redmond and Madhavi Latha to our plan review team. 

Martin is joining our team from our inspection division to provide additional and backup assistance.  Martin’s background originates from being a commercial contractor in San Diego for approximately 15 years.  He holds degrees in Building Sciences and Architecture.  Martin worked for the City of Lebanon in Oregon as a combo inspector/plans examiner, which then led to a Senior Plans Examiner position in northern California for a Sierra foothills county municipality.  In addition to working in Oregon and California Martin worked for the State of New Mexico as the southeast portion plumbing and mechanical inspector for many years.  Later Martin worked for FEMA on two floods and then finally retiring to China and working in the Hong Kong area for an Architectural firm.  In July of this year Martin returned to California and joined the inspection portion of team here in Palo Alto.  It appears Martin just can’t stop working.

Madhavi joined our team in August and is primarily conducting residential plan reviews.  Madhavi has a Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering with a Master of Technology in Structural Engineering from India. Previously, she held the role of Plan Review Engineer with CSG Consultants Inc. in San Mateo providing services to many local jurisdictions including: Town of Woodside, Hillsborough, City of San Mateo, Millbrae, Brisbane, and South San Francisco to name a few between November 2005 and June 2014.

We continue to diligently working with the building inspection team and green building consultant on creating customer guidelines for the new Energy and Green Building Code.


Building Inspection

Staff is working with our Green Building Coordinator to establish inspection checklist for Non-Residential Green Building Inspections

Staff has been utilizing new technology to result inspections in the field.   Such results can be reviewed via internet access through our Accela Citizen Access Module.

Inspection response timelines continue to be a next day services despite the continues heavy workload.

Disaster Preparedness in high on our list of priorities. Inspectors are renewing their ATC 20 (Post-Disaster Assessment Training ) certifications and CPA Office of Emergency Services will be providing two ATC 20 events in November.


Public Works

After a few technical issues, the automated Accela street work permit issuing system is now being tested.  Pending successful testing, the system should be launched mid-October.

Public Works welcomes Engineering Technician Guiselle Perez back after her maternity leave.


Fire Prevention Bureau

Working on completing all State mandated annual inspections

Updating Fire Systems reporting requirement to only allow electronic reporting

Updating smoke alarm ordinance

Updating fire sprinkler ordinance

Fire is working on cash handling procedures and an electronic payment system for fire permits

Assisted in preparing for City Hall evacuation drill “The Great Shake Out” that will take place on October 16th

Working on ATC-20 certification for Fire Inspectors and Company Officers. This would certify Fire Inspectors and Company Officers to do damage assessments on city buildings after an earthquake or other disaster.