October 2014 Development Services 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. 

October 2014

Director's Note

With October comes the precursor to the 2015 holiday season.  As a reminder, the City restricts downtown construction during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years, due of the negative impact on retailers and shoppers. For more information please contact Mike.Nafziger@CityofPaloAlto.org. Typically construction slows in the winter months however there are existing projects in the pipeline that make it seem like construction has not decelerated.  Plan checks however, have seen a slight dip in activity as we head into the new year.  That being said, the year since January in general has been a busy one.  The trends that we have seen over the last few years is that construction projects become increasingly more complicated and require more rigorous plan check and inspections.  This has resulted in a greater workload for our intra-departmental team of plan reviewers and inspectors.  However, we continue to meet our plan check turnaround times over 90% of the time on average and this last year, unlike previous ones, we were able to continue to offer next day inspections during the busiest time of the year. This is a testament to the commitment and customer focus of our dedicated staff and the process improvements we have implemented over the last few years.   We continue to offer technology innovations to our customers to help them apply for permits, schedule inspections and do permit research all on-line.  Some of the tools available to make the development review process easier include our new website, regular newsletters and press releases, Civic Insights, ACA, and Buildingeye.  We encourage you to check them out and see how they might help you make your job easier.

Over the next few months and the coming year, look out for some new processes such as the Business Registry Certification, an easy way to register your new and existing business.  In addition, look out for a new and improved Green Building permit review process, more online permits, as well as other tech enhancements.

The Development Services Department wants to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and hope that your construction projects are made a little less stressful so you can focus on what matters most this time of year. 

Wishing you and your loved ones happy holidays,

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad

Project Coordination

Training has begun with the Project Coordination team on the new Green Building procedures and upcoming changes designed to streamline operations.  We hope to have some improvements in place soon to clarify a path to success and speed up the scheduling of the final inspection.   

The Accela/GIS integration project is almost complete.  Final testing is underway and user training is scheduled.  This new tool will help streamline the process at the front counter and is the first step towards making the information available for viewing online. 

Two new permits types have now been added to our self-service online permitting system.   Gas Leak Repair and Repipe (water piping system) permits have been added 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 at:  https://aca.accela.com/paloalto/

Planning Department

 Vacant Planning Technician position recruitment began.  Interviews anticipated for late November with an expected hire date of mid-December. 

 Released Building Eye mapping tool for Planning Applications. Building Eye is a new interactive online tool that allows citizens and business owners to see what new planning applications are proposed for their neighborhood, as well as view a description and map of the project.  The tool takes current and recently approved planning application records including architectural and individual reviews, and puts them into a user friendly map to make it easy for the public to see the latest planning applications in the city.  Building Eye available at https://paloalto.buildingeye.com


Green Building

Staff is working on a comprehensive update to the Green Building webpage. The new site will feature updated GB-1 checklists, forms, and tools. In addition, the new “Green Building Inspection Guideline for Non-Residential Projects” is being finalized by internal personnel. The targeted publish date is early December.

The 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.

Building Plan Check

We are working with the building inspection team and green building consultant on creating plan review and inspection commercial guidelines for the new Green Building Code.

Management continues to develop a process to improve metric capability for individual plan review and inspection assignments.

Our department continues to work with consultants to assist in the development of GIS/Accela integration.

Building Inspection

A new “ Foundation Guidelines” book has been created for our Concrete Contractors.

Green Building Inspection Checklists have been created and will be added to our Guidelines books ASAP

All inspection staff have now completed ATC 20 Certification update. This is part of our Post Disaster preparedness plan.

Inspections continue to be performed without delay. 24 hr/Next day .

Matt Doughty was hired as our new “Green Building Inspection Specialist”

Public Works

Public Works – Engineering Services staff participated in the new Accela-GIS integration effort testing process and provided valuable user feedback about the functionality of the new product.

Engineering Services is working with the Urban Forestry division to prepare educational material for the Development Center’s new public outreach video system.

Engineering Services staff participated in the Administrative Services Department’s RFP and interview process to select a qualified consultant to implement a multi-departmental document scanning and archival system.  This system will pave the way for a comprehensive cloud-based archival system and eventually a paperless permitting system.

Public Works staff attended a FEMA workshop which presented a draft of the upcoming flood zones changes and flood zone hazard map changes that are being proposed for 2015.

Fire Prevention Bureau

Sprinkler Code Adoption is on hold.

Accela Training is underway.

James Henrickson is Interim Acting Fire Marshal.

3rd Quarter FPB Activity/Progress Report was submitted to the Fire Chief.

John Parks has become certified in vehicle arson investigations.