July/August/September 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. 

July/August/September 2016

Director's Note

Happy Fall,

Interested in Construction and Development in Palo Alto?  This newsletter if for you.  Every few months we push out a newsletter from the Development Services Department to keep our stakeholders, customers, and interested bystanders up-to-date on all the new and exciting things happening in construction around Palo Alto.  The Development Services Department is a one-stop-shop that brings together all the disciplines from different City departments together to expedite the review and approval of construction projects.  We have representatives on hand from our Fire Prevention Bureau, Public Works, Building, Planning, and Utilities departments working together to deliver prompt and predictable review, permitting and inspections of your construction related projects.  We are committed to a predictable, efficient and transparent process that helps applicants navigate and comply with state, regional and local codes that regulate buildings and construction activity in the City of Palo Alto.  We are one of only four cities in California that hold an ISO Class One Certification which is the most favorable classification of commitment to the adoption and enforcement of building codes. 

Did you know that the building codes are about to change?  That’s right, effective January 1st all of the building codes will be updated to reflect statewide changes and local amendments.  Interested how that might affect you and your construction project, sign up for our news alerts to hear about useful trainings, videos, publications and other options we offer to help you and your team get up to speed.  Did you hear about our Energy Reach Code?  Affective January 1st your construction project will need to comply with the Palo Alto energy reach code that requires our new buildings be more energy efficient than ever before, helping residents and tenants live and work in more efficient and comfortable space. Our building codes are a reflection of Palo Alto’s commitment to the environment.  Sustainable construction means energy efficiency, construction debris recycling and reuse, outdoor water conservation, and more.  Follow the hyperlinks to view instructional video and training materials to learn more or read about what we are doing to help lead the way to a more sustainable future through our built environment.

Construction is a fast pace and stressful experience.  We are here to help listen, learn, and adapt in the way we provide cross-departmental plan check, permitting, and inspection services  that meets the hectic demands of your construction projects.  Our new Inspection Request App 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. Download it today and save time scheduling inspections and checking inspection history.

Waiting to hear back about a plan check?  Did you know you can track your plan check as it gets routed and reviewed by every department it has been assigned to.  Think of it the same as watching your Amazon package make its way to your front door.  Follow your project or any other one by putting it on your ‘watchlist’ and sit back as email updates get sent to you in real time.

We strive to enforce the codes in a way that is predictable, efficient, and transparent.  Sometimes our work gets some attention.  On August 23rd, Palo Alto’s Director of the Development Services Department was recognized by Accela as a “Civic Superhero”, for his positive contribution to civic innovation and better governance. The contribution came in the form of an analytic dashboard that leveraged building permit data to measure service counts and speed of delivery and timeliness.  The dashboard has both improved productivity as well as increased transparency into the development review process.

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 projects just sign up for our monthly construction update and see past editions of the updates here.   

For more information about what is happening in all the partner departments in Development Services keep reading.

Thank you for staying connected and we wish you a safe and productive construction project.


Peter signature

Peter Pirnejad

Project Coordination-

The Development Services Department would like to welcome Ryan Oyama as our new Development Project Coordinator.  Ryan comes to us with a strong customer service background and has experience working in other Cities as well as with contractors and construction materials.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree from San Jose State and was born and raised in Monterey, CA.  We are excited to welcome him to the team. 

Work is complete on inputting and testing all new and updated Public Works fees in Accela.  These fees were adopted and became effective August 15, 2016. 

Work continues with our new scanning contractor to convert our old microfiche blueprint plans to a digital format.  We are currently trouble-shooting errors and other anomalies as we try to digitally file these old plans.  This upgrade will result in improved access to the records by the public and City staff. 

Did you know? You can schedule inspections, research permit records, pay fees, and track the status of your project online with no special login required. Check it out at: https://aca.accela.com/paloalto/

In a joint effort with Development Services and the Transportation Division, new contractor parking passes were created and launched for the Downtown Residential Parking Permit District. These parking passes are sold at the Development Center to contractors with on-going construction projects in the Downtown RPP District. 

The first renewal cycle of the Business Registry Certificate program launched on March 1st 2016. Development Center staff continues to provide ongoing customer service and technical support for this program.

Planning Department-

Currently working with a new summer intern, Jenifer Davis, to assist Green Building staff. 

We have finalized the Building Eye for Building Permit module.  This will go live very soon. 

Roland and I have been working with Deb to establish an online sign application process. This work is ongoing.

Ongoing effort to reduce the occurrence of late plan check comments and reduction in the number of comment rounds.

The recruitment for a third Tech position has recently closed and applications are currently under review.  The work table next to the planning tech area was moved on Wednesday 8/10 to make room for a new workstation.  Next we will have Pivot come out to create a new workspace.  Coordinating acquisition of new computer and other materials.

Have begun to review the C&D program.  Have recently worked with code enforcement to begin tracking administrative citations for failure to comply with the C&D requirements to better understand the compliance issues. Still working on new handouts and website to provide more program information at the front end of the process with the intent to reduce the occurrence of non- compliance. Looking into the ability to increase the penalties for non-compliance. Also looking to amend the building code to require a deconstruction survey to be submitted prior to demolition with the intent to encourage deconstruction over demolition.

Green Building-

An updated Energy Reach Code Ordinance was adopted unanimously by the City Council on May 2nd. The ordinance will impact projects submitting for a building permit on or after January 1, 2017, pending approval from the California Energy Commission. The requirements will impact new single family, multifamily and nonresidential projects in Palo Alto. Staff is currently updating the local Green Building Ordinance that will be presented to the City Council in fall of 2016.  The efforts of the 2016 Green Building and Energy Ordinances have been developed in coordination with the Green Building Advisory Group. Click here to watch a video on the Development Services Vision for a Zero Net Energy future. You may also download a copy of the Zero Net Energy Roadmap here

A new Outdoor Water Efficiency webpage that explains MWELO compliance requirements is currently being finalized on the Development Services Green Building website. All water efficient landscape documents will be found on this webpage.

Development Services staff is currently participating in a cross-departmental study based on the Electrification Work Plan. As a result, the Electrification Task Force (ETF) was recently formed to provide input on the execution of the work plan.  To learn more about these efforts, visit the ETF webpage

Building Plan Check/Building Inspection-

Welcome new Contract Building Plans Examiners David Darrow and Keith Long to our plan review team.

     -David is a California Registered Civil Engineer with over 20 years of experience in design and code compliance.

     -Keith  is a California Registered Architect with over 40 years of experience in design and code compliance.

Staff has drafted our new Building, Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Fire and Green Building ordinances that will adopt and amend the 2016 Title 24 California Building Standards.  These ordnances are on track to be presented to Council in October. Development Services portions of the Electrification Study efforts have begun with a Kick-off Meeting that was conducted on Tuesday, July 26th.

Our Green Building/Energy Inspector Specialist conducted a very informative Green Building Special Inspector Education and Question and Answering Session on August 4th. 

The final Seismic Risk Management Advisory Group meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 15th from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM at Rinconada Library (Embarcadero Room).  Please check out the Advisory Group website for the latest information http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/ds/srmag.asp.

The Peninsula, East Bay & Monterey ICC Chapters and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto will be offering 2016 California Code Training at Mitchell Park Community Center, located at 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303.  Below is the schedule of the upcoming classes:

     -Significant Changes to the 2016 California Plumbing and Mechanical Code - Half day morning or Half day afternoon class - Thursday, September 8, 2016 

     -Significant Changes to the 2016 California Energy Code - Half day morning or Half day afternoon class - Thursday, November 17, 2016

     -Significant Changes to the 2016 California Electrical Code - Full day class (Jurisdictional participants will receive a free CEC book) - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

     -Significant Changes to the 2016 California Building Code - Full day class - Wednesday, December 14, 2015

     - Significant Changes to 2016 California Building Code, Chapter 11B, Accessibility - Full day class - Thursday, December 15, 2016

Registration is required at www.iccpeninsula.org or email Christy Manzeck at: cmanzeck@4leafinc.com

DSA Academy -  and co-sponsored by the City of Palo Alto will be offering Accessibility Training at Mitchell Park Community Center, located at 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94303.  Below is the schedule of the upcoming classes:

     -Accessible Public Housing Regulations, Standards and Guidelines - Full day class - Monday, September 26, 2016

     -Transient Lodging, Housing at a Place of Education, and Social Service Center Establishments - Full day class - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Space is limited, so we strongly recommend that you use our online registration system, which allows you to pay for your class fee with a credit card. Registrations sent via regular mail will be processed in the order received by our office. To register, please follow these instructions:

If you have not yet done so, please create a DSA Academy profile. Once logged on, you may register using our online registration system: https://www.dsaacademy.dgs.ca.gov/registration/login.asp

If you prefer to submit a check for the class fee, please create a DSA Academy account profile by following the link above. Once your account is established, please submit a check with the registration form: http://www.dsaacademy.dgs.ca.gov/docs/DSA_500.pdf

Registration closes two weeks prior to the class date or when the class reaches the maximum capacity seating, whichever occurs first.

Public Works

Public Works Engineering (PWE) Services has hired a new Engineering Technician III: Ajay Kumar.  Ajay has joined our team having worked previously with the City of San Francisco (SF) Public Utilities Commission and SF Public Works.  Starting in September, Ajay is quickly coming up to speed with the City’s policies and processes; we’re looking forward to his contributions to our team.

Public Works (PW) is actively recruiting for another Engineering Technician III position and we hope to have interviews in the next few weeks.

Basement construction dewatering is continuing to keep PW staff busy.  With new regulations to monitor and the upcoming deadlines of the wet season, staff are being kept busy monitoring the progress of each construction site.

PW is experiencing an unprecedented surge in telecommunication, or fiber optic, permit applications.  Staff are currently processing 13 separate permits for 5 different companies covering over 30 city blocks.  Minimizing the right-of-way impacts including traffic control and logistics are key areas staff have been focusing upon. 

PW staff have been taking the lead on interfacing with Caltrain regarding their Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP).  Extending the length of Palo Alto, the PCEP is expected to impact rail crossings and other areas around the Caltrain right-of-way.  PW and other City have been working to reduce these impacts; construction of the PCEP is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2017 with revenue train service in 2020.   

Summer has gone by so quickly that we’re now thinking about the holiday season!  We’d like to use this space to remind everyone of the Holiday construction moratorium.  Anyone who might be thinking of starting a non-essential project that may impact the right-of-way in the downtown commercial areas (primarily University Ave. and California Ave. areas), should consider finishing their project by Thanksgiving or postpone it until after New Year’s.  They City’s moratorium for impactful new construction is Thanksgiving through New Year’s; existing construction extending into this period is generally exempt.

Fire Prevention Bureau-

2016 California Fire Code  Amendments Drafted, awaiting Council approval.

Staff has completed Accela 8.0 Training

Inspection Types & Checklists Developed and ready to “go live” on Accela

Steve Lindsey & Thom Cook are applying for the Santa Clara County Arson Task Force Training

Fee Study Moving Towards Implementation

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).

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

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 permits and the progress towards meeting the City’s Net Energy metering cap of 9.5 MW. 

Council approved proposed changes to Utilities Rules & Regulations.

WGW Engineering, Operations Inspection, and Building Inspection meet monthly to discuss projects and issues to facilitate process improvements.  Electric Engineering meets with the Underground Inspectors regularly to discuss projects and issues, and meets as needed with Building Inspectors.  WGW Engineering is reviewing and writing new procedures for the installation of water and gas meters. Developed a new guideline gas meter installation checklist to be distributed to inspectors and contractors. Developing a training program for Inspectors to use the existing mobile inspection module and establishing a sign-off procedure for Utilities Inspectors.

Communications worked with UPS & DS to transition information on the City's Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (WELO) requirements.

Development Services now has a new webpage with instructions for applicants to contact DS for details on submittal and approval process.