December 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. 


December 2014


Director's Note

As we close out the 2014 calendar year Development Services took a look back at all the projects it set out to accomplish last year.  The result was that we completed 21 of the 26 goals (81%) for the year with the final 5 set to be complete the first quarter of 2015.  The complete list of goals can be seen here.  We are encouraged by our accomplishments yet stay committed to a continuous improvement model.  On January 26th the Development Services Department will convene to review it’s 2015 Action plan with a focus on areas that we have identified a gap.  A copy of our 2014 self-assessment, gap analysis, and 2015 goals will be available in our next monthly report. 

In 2015 w are focused on ways to improve speed, quality, assurance, emergency resilience, customer service, adopt progressive policies, engage our community, and manage a balanced budget.  Meanwhile we continue to run the day-to-day operations of the Development Center which is no small undertaking. In 2014 we issued over 4,000 building permits, recorded over 31,000 building inspections, reviewed over 2,000 plans, and serviced over 16,000 customer enquires over the counter.  A focus on customer services has resulted in our ability to approve 66% of our permit applications over the counter.  This is a marked improvement over years past when it used to be in the 30%.

We are also committed to greening our building stock from new to existing buildings.  In 2014, under the leadership of the City Council, we enhanced our electric vehicle charging policies to require new construction to install or prepare for EV chargers.  We implemented new innovative technologies (GreenHalo) that enable contractors to better track their diversion rates and help us improve our ability to keep projects on track.  Look forward to a new green building ordinance that will identify new ways to green buildings while simplifying and streamlining the process.

Technology continues to be an area we continue to excel in from Accela Citizen Access to Civic Insights and the upcoming business registry we are launching in partnership with Open Counter.  For more information about what these new features are and how they will improve your interaction with Development Services follow our link, visit the press release section of our website or ask one of our project coordinators next time you are at the Development Center (285 Hamilton Ave.) 

Here is to a ensuring you have a safe and predictable plan check, permit and inspection process on your next construction project in Palo Alto. 

With warmest regards,

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

- Hired new front counter receptionist position to enhance customer service levels.
- Re-organized clerical staff and duties to reflect additional workload due to creation of new DS Department.
- Relocated all the administrative staff to a centralized location to improve service levels.
- Transitioned the management of contracts/bill payment from Planning to DS Staff.
- Improved phone coverage – two people assigned to phones at all times.  No more long hold times on phones. 
- Restructured the Administrative Support Team to provide necessary support for all DS Managers and staff. 
- Hired new Project Coordinator position to fill vacancy.
- Completed Building Code (2013 CBC) training sessions for Project Coordinators.
- Launched ACA (Accela Citizen Access) which allows customers to obtain building permits online, schedule inspections, search old permit records and track the status of their permit submittal. 
- Expanded online permits – added 4 new permit types:
    1. Boiler Replacement
    2. Furnace Replacement
    3. Repipe Water Piping System
    4. Repair Gas Leak
- Determined Public Works fees to be split with Development Services and modified Accela accordingly. 
- Revised all Accela fees for new DS Department.
- Processed multi-year backlog of Certificates of Use and Occupancy in anticipation of BRC.
- Streamlined the process for stand-alone U&O applications by proactively scheduling inspections.
- Created new digital permit application which consolidated three old permit applications.  
- Worked with Utilities to create flowchart , streamlined routing process and new Review Deferral Form.
- Initiated process to digitize microfiche – sent batches to scanning contractor for file conversion.
- Upgraded front counter monitors to enhance use of Accela V360.
- Identified and voided/purged multi-year backlog of expired permits and plans due to code change.


Building Plan Check/Inspection

- Assisted in efforts to provide full phone coverage.
- Improved customer service at the counter.
- Improved plan review response times.
- Processed approximately 98% of our building plan reviews in house.
- Processed approximately 80% of building plan reviews over the counter.
- Reestablished communication between the plan review and inspection teams.
- Transitioned staff from Accela Classic to Accela V360.
- Worked with consultant to introduced Accela Inspector App, trained staff and deployed the technology in the field.
- Participated in Accela and AGIS interface project.
- Improved the accuracy of Accela metrics reporting.
- Redeveloped the PV and EVSE plan review and inspection platform.
- Completed and submitted the Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule Questionnaire to Insurance Services Office (ISO).
- Participated in active advisory groups and task force meetings.
   o DCAG
   o Green Building
   o EVSE
- Worked with consultant to create non-residential green building submittal and inspection checklists.
- Updated the Green Building Ordinance to establish new EVSE requirements for new residential and commercial projects.
- Developed and launched new Accessibility Pre-Walk program.
- Updated and enhanced Building Inspection Guidebooks to incorporate newly adopted 2013 codes and ordinances.
- Created two (2) new Guidebooks:
   o OSHPD 3
   o Foundation Only
- Assisted in efforts to eliminate backlog of U&O permit applications and issued associated Certificate of Occupancy certificates.
- Filed two (2) Specialist Inspector positions:
   o Green Building/Energy – Matt Doughty
   o Accessibility – Robert Dunbar
- Performed next day inspection activities all year.


Planning Department

- Filled 2 Planning Tech Vacancies
- Trained Planning Technicians
- Collaborating with Green Building Coordinator
- Identified opportunities to expedite planning/building applications
- Continue to improve overall plan check times
- Developed planning budget for FY15
- Train Planning Technicians for application intake
- Assist GB Coordinator with audit and preparation of final report
- Review GB audit and determine if full time GB position is needed moving forward
- Train DS Planning Staff for all minor planning application
- reviews (signs, façades, TUPs, CUPs, etc..)
- Green Building RFP and recruitment process.
- Hired Green Building consultant in September.
- Develop Building Eye application for Planning Applications
- Green Halo website upgrades and efficiency improvements


Public Works

- Established a third party surveyor review process for maps and legal documents.
- Integrated the Urban Forestry division more fully with Accela by creating a set of reports for permit tracking, workload distribution, and budgeting purposes.
- June 2014 marked one year of Accela tree permit data for the Urban Forestry division; analysis of this data has been used in aspects of the upcoming Urban Forestry Master Plan.
- Completed development of the first automated permit issuance system in Accela for Public Works street work permits.  Some setup work for potential future electronic permit submittals was also completed during this project.
- Significant progress achieved towards a multi-departmental cloud-based electronic document storage and archival system; RFP’s and interviews have been completed, a short list of consultants created, and products are under evaluation.
- Consolidated and created a master ‘living-document’ set of Public Works comments for Planning applications and Building permits.


Fire Prevention Bureau

- Created Metrics for Fire Inspectors and Plan Checkers
- Training Fire Inspectors for OTC plan checks
- Improve quantity of field status updates
- Purchase Inspection Software annual maintenance inspection program   
- Participate on Bldg. Safety Month       
- Summer safety outreach 
- Attend National Fire Academy
- Fix U&O Permitting program – Essentially completed. Back log has been eliminated and new procedure at time of final will help avoid back logs
- Accela Investigator app went live
- Hazmat successfully entered all CME data into CERS database  and continues to move forward on County Portal Project


Utilities Department - CPAU

- Enter into contract with GreenTraks to establish a commercial energy dashboard that will lead to the - City’s first commercial new construction and retrofit energy baselines
- Use of iPads by Utilities inspectors for Accela input
- Transfer of Landscape Plan Review Program (and funding) from Utilities to DS
- Initiation of new, PV permitting process after Utilities elimination of residential solar rebates
- Selected a contractor for the pilot “Green Building Energy and Water Consumption Performance Measurement Program” to measure modeled energy performance against real-world performance in selected commercial construction
- Began legal work on Utilities deferral form
- Completed technology training of CPAU and DS staff
- Modified Inspection technology to view drawings in the field with all tablet technologies
- Tracked time CPAU Customer Service establishes customer accounts on time