March/April 2016 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 Development Services Department.  The “Development Services Department Updates” Newsletter serves as an internal communication tool as well as a progress report to all of our stakeholders in and outside the City.  Each group within the umbrella of Development Services serves to provide a brief update of their activities related to the mission and vision of this Department.  These accomplishments stem from the 2016 Action Plan which can be found on our Development Services Webpage. 


March/April 2016

Director's Note

Happy Building Safety Month (May)! 

Development Services continues to find ways to provide predictable, efficient and transparent service to its customers, update and create the codes entrusted to them by state and local agencies, and promote collaboration among departments that fall within the umbrella of Development Services.  In addition to building permits we offer services related to Business Registry, Parking permits, hazardous materials permits, public work encroachment and street work permits, pre-inspection and plan check services for customers needing added security or confidence in the development review process, and much more. 

The regulatory landscape continues to change.  As the central point of convergence for development related activities, we act as the clearing house to educate, interpret, permit, and enforce many of the state and local codes that affect the built environment.  Many of the rules that govern construction have changed or will change in the coming months.  Some recent changes include our energy reach code that will take effect January 1, 2017.  The new Water Efficiency Landscape ordinance that affects both residential and commercial development took effect February 1, 2016.   The new Dewatering requirements that affect basement construction took effect earlier this year. To stay up to date on the City’s changing Storm Water Pollution Prevention Guidelines and Information check for updates on the Public Works Web Page.  The Building Codes are also changing as part of their 3-year cycle scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2017.

To help our customers navigate this changing landscape of rules and regulations, we offer a growing and versatile collection of helpful tools and services.  The most recent addition is our new Inspection Request App that allows customers to schedule multiple Building and Fire inspections, check permit and inspection history, and set reminders of upcoming inspections from the convenience of their smart phone.  The downloadable app is available on Google Play and the App Store.  In celebration of Building Safety Month (May) we are offering a free tutorial on this app on May 11th from 1-2 pm at the first floor of City Hall in the Flexible Meeting Space.  We understand navigating the forms and requirements around our new and evolving green building and energy codes can be difficult so we have launched new videos to help explain the process and take the mystery out of compliance. More training and instruction videos and live trainings are on their way so stay tuned and sign up for our updates if you haven’t already.  We also launched the newest edition of our inspection guideline book to help with Green Building compliance in the field.  Copies are available at the Development Center.  If you know others that wish to stay informed share the link and help spread the word.

To ensure that our fees are aligned with our services we have begun a multi-phased cost of service study.  Over the next several months we will be going to the City Council with a revised fee schedule that will reflect the results of this study. You will find that some of those fees are going up while others are going down.  We anticipate the revised Building, Fire and Public Works fees will take effect before the end of the year.  For more information on the results of that study please sign up for our news releases so we can update you as things progress.

As we enter the construction season (Summer) we expect construction activity to ramp up.  If you are planning a commercial tenant improvement or a residential remodel come visit us at the Development Center at 285 Hamilton Avenue.  Our team of Development Services Project Coordinators can answer any questions you may have or put you in touch with people stationed at the Development Center that can. If you’re just interested in tracking major construction just sign up for our monthly construction update and see past edition of the update here.   We look forward to serving you and helping make your construction project predictable, transparent, and efficient.

Thank you for following our progress and best of luck on your construction projects.

Best Wishes,

Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad


Project Coordination

The Development Services Department would like to welcome Diana Tamale and Kyle Shea as our new Development Project Coordinators.  Diana comes to us with years of experience supporting our Planning Department and has knowledge of the development process.  Kyle has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz and has experience in building maintenance.  We are excited to have them join our team. 

Business Registry renewals launched on March 1st, 2016. Upgrades to the registration site have been completed which should improve the overall customer experience.  We continue to provide ongoing customer and technical support for this busy program.

We have been working closing with our new scanning contractor to map and test the process of converting our old microfiche blueprint plans to a digital format.  Much of the old fiche has recently been sent for scanning and is in the process of being converted to the new format.  This upgrade will result in improved access to the records by the public and City staff. 


Planning Department

Selected a new Planning Technician to fill the vacant position.  Targeting the New Employee Orientation in May. (This has not happened yet but I have 2nd round interviews today and will be selecting a candidate)

Moved one step further in the process to implement Building Eye for Building.  Submitted the IT project request form.  

Coordinating with Melanie and Jessie on the Electrification Study, working on the RFP process for feasibility and cost effectiveness studies to explore the possibilities of going all electric.

For all Planning and Transportation areas of interest and recently approved projects please refer to our department web pages at:

http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/civicax/filebank/documents/40268  http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/pln/new_projects/default.asp


Green Building

Energy Reach Code

  • Completed 6 meetings with the Green Building Technical Advisory Committee to determine direction for the Energy Reach Code
  • Energy Cost-effectivess study completed
  • Energy Reach Code is finalized and will be presented to Council in early May

Landscape

  • New Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance requirements are currently in effect for new and rehabilitated projects with landscaping that submitted after 2/1
  • a new permit process is in progress for these requirements
  • a 2-part video training series in underway

New Heat Pump Water Heater Checklist currently being created to assist Utilities with their HPWH Pilot Program 

  • Special thanks to Martin for his involvement in developing the checklist


Building Plan Check/Building Inspection

Hired John Carr to fill the Building Inspector Specialist - Green Building position.

Hired Robert Gray to fill the Building Inspector Specialist – Plumbing and Mechanical position.

Completed the interview process for the Assistant Building Official and are anticipating our selected candidate to start in March.

Staff worked with ADA Today, LLC to arrange two day training and education opportunity titled “Prepare to be a CASp” in February.  We had attendance from both Public Works and Development Services - Building Division along with neighboring jurisdictional staff and local architectural professionals.

Look forward to up-coming Accessibility training opportunities presented by the California DSA Academy that will be available in Palo Alto in March.   You can find out more information regarding the courses and register at https://www.dsaacademy.dgs.ca.gov/default.asp

Staff has been working with our Green Building consultant and advisory committee to develop a new Green Building ordinance for the 2016 California Building Standards. These recommendations are being drafted into an ordinance that is anticipated to go to City Council for adoption along with the other 2016 code adoptions in the third quarter.

Staff has been working with our Green Building consultant and advisory committee to develop a new Energy Reach ordinance for the 2016 California Energy Code. These recommendations are being drafted into an ordinance that is anticipated to go to City Council for adoption along with the other 2016 code adoptions in the third quarter.

Management staff and the Green Building consultant continue to establish inspection guidelines and protocols related to the Green Building and Energy Reach Code for all Development Services staff.

The Seismic Risk Management Program consultant has been working the established advisory group on this project.  You can stay informed on current activities via the project Seismic Risk Management Advisory Group website at the following link http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/ds/srmag.asp.

Staff continues to support Public Works in the ADA Transition Plan review and update project lead by Public Works.  The Building Division has completed the ADA Tool Kit regarding to the ADA Coordinators requirements and activities.

Staff continues to develop and implement time accounting for inspectors and plan review activities to provide consistent and reliable time management.

The implementation of expired permit applications and issued permit notification to applicants/owners is currently in internal testing.

Presented and distributed the Development Center Emergency Plan to all Development Services staff.

Continued to maintain Disaster Preparedness ATC-20 (Earthquake) Rapid Evaluation Safety Assessment training and certification for all inspection and plan review staff.

Attended an initial kick off meeting with other departments and divisions to integrate the BRC and U&O processes.

Launched the Palo Alto inspection Request App created by CityGovApp in conjunction with Palo Alto Development Services – Building Division and Palo Alto Fire Prevention.  Permit holders will be able to schedule both Building and Fire Inspections on this inactive App.  This App is available on Google Play and will be available on Apple’s App Store within the next few weeks.

 


Public Works

Public Works finalized new dewatering requirements in alignment with City Council’s direction.  The new requirements can be found on the Public Works webpage under the ‘Forms and Permits’ tab.  The dewatering season began on April 1st and will last until October 31st and features new, enhanced and expanded use of water filling stations.  Once up and running the water stations will be mapped and a link provided on the City’s website.

PWE is pleased to announce the hiring of a new Engineering Technician – Aman Grewal.  Aman fills the vacant positions of Jarrett Mullen and is a welcome addition to our PWE team.  Training has begun in earnest, and while it will take some time to get him up to speed, we’re confident that he will be valuable team member. If you haven’t met him yet, stop by and say hello.

PWE is in the process of recruiting for an Engineering Technician to fill the vacancy left by Angine Marouty.  Angine left the City of Palo Alto to pursue a junior position in a private company.  We hope to advertise for this vacancy as soon as possible.


Fire Prevention Bureau

The Fire Prevention Bureau developed and hosted an Inspection/Investigation Class for the Fire Department.

Fire Bureau completed Fee Study Review.


Utilities Department - CPAU

Complete review of all residential and small commercial Over the Counter (OTC) projects within 30 days of submittal to the Development Center (DC). (Utilities Engineering)

Continue training CPA staff on Utilities data requirements in both Electric and WGW to increase the numbers of fully complete applications, successful OTC reviews, and met deadlines. (Utilities Engineering)

Utilities and Development Services will implement, then annually review and update, the Utilities “Deferral Form,”  (Utilities Engineering, Operations)

Review, update and improve internal procedures to interconnect photovoltaic (PV) systems with the electric distribution grid.

Development Services created a new ACCELA report allowing CPAU staff to track the status of solar photovoltaic (PV) permits and the progress towards meeting the City’s Net Energy metering cap of 9.5 MW. 

Distributed new User Guides for Accela 8.0 to Engineering and Operations staff.