January/February/March 2017 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 2017 Action Plan which can be found on our Development Services Webpage. 

January/February/March 2017

Director's Note

Dear Development Services Stakeholders:

The first quarter of 2017 is already behind us and it’s time for the Development Services Department to report out on progress for the period.  The intention of the Development Services Quarterly Newsletter is to inform internal and external stakeholders of the changes and accomplishments in the Development Services Department over this last three months.  In addition to the director’s message, each department/division part of the development review process will provide a brief update about progress in their section as it relates to the activities at the Development Center as well as any policy changes that might affect development review.

The single largest change this last quarter was the enforcement of the newly adopted building codes.  The triennial building code cycle offers the industry the opportunity to reflect on learnings from the trade as well as local agencies the opportunity to make local amendments.  The two most significant changes to the standard codes were in our green building and energy code, however, we did make changes to the electric, building, fire codes, and more.  We have already held multiple training sessions about what has changed and intend to hold more.  For updates on training opportunities subscribe to our newsletters.

To improve and expedite how contractors and permit holder request building and fire inspections, Palo Alto’s Development Services department has launched “Palo Alto Inspection Request” mobile application. The app is currently available for download on Apple App and Google Play Stores.  For more information follow this link.

On January 9th The American Construction Inspectors Association honored the City of Palo Alto with a leadership award for outstanding service and contribution in the area of training of inspection professionals.  The award recognizes exceptional educational outreach efforts for the construction inspection community.  This was the first time a City has been awarded this honor in 60 years.  For more information about the award click here.

Development Services has been completing part two of our comprehensive fee study.  This next step in our two step fee study is to reconsider how we calculate valuation based fees.  The new process proposes to be based on the ICC Valuation table which evaluates all work based on a standard formula and per square foot calculator.  This effort is to ensure that all permit fees are set at full cost recovery and also to ensure permit fees are more predictable.  These fees are slated to go to council in Q2 and take affect end of Q3 or Q4.  Meanwhile, phase one of this effort was passed by City Council last year also went into effect in Q1 of 2017.

This last quarter we held our annual department retreat followed by our annual Development Center Advisory Group (DCAG) Roundtable.  The first was a full day event broken up into two halves with the first focused on inspirational talks from community, civic-tech, and government leaders and the second focused on cross-department collaboration and organizational excellence.  For a copy of the 2017 Action Plan which summaries the day’s events, shares metrics from 2016, as well as past/future goals click here.  The DCAG retreat, held in March, was an opportunity to bring in external stakeholders together to review last year’s accomplishments as well as the current years goals. 

For up to date department updates, code changes, training, and other development related topics subscribe to our various newsletter here.  Keep reading for department/division specific updates. Finally, on a personal note, I just finished a minor academic milestone reflected in my title below. 


Peter signature

Dr. Peter Pirnejad

Development Services Director

Project Coordination-

All recently adopted Development Services fee changes were incorporated into our process and all systems updated accordingly. Staff received training and all forms/handouts were revised.

Work continues on Phase II of the DS Fee Study focusing on valuation-based fees and other fee enhancements.

All old and expired permit applications and plans were voided and processed out of the system due to the recent building code changes.

Worked with the Transportation Division to revise the RPP contractor parking pass to provide more information for the enforcement officers and clarify instructions for the contractor purchasing the permit.

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:


Did you know? You can also check the status of and schedule building and fire inspections using our new Smart Phone App.  For more information follow this link.

Planning Department-

PCE hired/trained a new FTE Planning Technicians to fill a vacancy.  The technician is available for customer service and over the counter planning approval at the Development Center.

PCE has established a new intake process establishing a better experience for the customer.

Development Services along with PCE recently re-launched the newest version of the existing Buildingeye web portal.  The service allows users to find both building permits under review as well as those under construction.  The same site allows users to track planning applications. For more information follow this link.

Implemented oversight and improvements to the Construction and Demolition program (added website, customer handout, higher penalty fees for non-compliance and a new deconstruction survey for single family demos (to encourage deconstruction over demolition).  For more information about the City’s C&D Program follow this link.

Green Building-

Began enforcement of the 2016 CALGreen and Energy Efficiency Code Updates and the Palo Alto Green Building and Energy Reach Ordinances on January 1, 2017.

Continued enforcement of the Model Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance. Submitted Annual Landscaping Water Use Report to Department of Water Resources and have developed updated Landscape Ordinance Submittal Guidelines reflected in the CALGreen Code regulations based on Executive Order (EO B-29-15) required by the Department of Water Resources.

Staff has completed the electrification study per work plan and presented it to the Utilities Advisory Committee (UAC) on March 1, 2017.

Conducted ongoing trainings for Green Building Special Inspectors and have provided an orientation for new inspectors per building code cycle. Have continued training and performing quality control support with the new Green Building Inspectors.

Finalized the SEA and Earth Day Reports with the Office of Sustainability.

Initiated a monthly Green Building New Employee Orientation for development services and PCE staff and have successfully trained 10 participants. Established the staff task force roundtable for the purposes of green building compliance and collaboration.

The Green Building Division Developed a new Energy Reach Code to the 2016 California Energy Efficiency Standards.  We updated all related handouts, submittal and inspection guidelines on the website. We are updated all training videos on the website.

Building Plan Check/Building Inspection-

The Expired Permit Notification development process has been completed and was launched April 1st for implementation.

The California Building Standards Commission approved the local ordinance amendments to the 2016 California Building Codes. January 1, 2017 was the effective date for 2016 California Building Codes with local amendments.

The following onsite training courses were facilitated for staff and neighboring jurisdictions, Menlo Park, Woodside were invited to attend:

  • 2016 Title 24 Energy code Update through BayREN
  • Title 24 Energy Training: Residential Envelope
  • Title 24 Energy Training Non-Residential Tenant Improvements
  • Utilities Coordination Training for Development Services
  • Common-Errors-in-the-Design-and-Construction-of-Fire-Resistive-Assemblies
  • Future scheduled training includes:
  • Title 24 Energy Training on Electrical Desegregation The Seismic Risk Management Risk Assessment Study has been completed and will be presented to Council as an informational item on April 17th.  A separate advisory group analysis was prepared by the consultant and staff and is available on the City’s website. The following Plan Check Personnel Changes have occurred; David Chung is now the Lead Plan Check Engineer and Emmanuel Mendoza has been rotated from Inspector to Plan Checker. Plan Review deadlines are on-time and Field Inspections are available next day.Staff continues to refine our Damage Assessment Plan and Emergency Response Plan in conjunction with EOC staff. The Building Division received the American Construction Inspectors Association, ACIA Award for "Industry Leader of the Year" and was presented to the Building Division on Feb 13th at City Council.  Chief Building Official George Hoyt, Building Inspection Supervisor Bud Starmer and Building Inspection Specialist Robert Dunbar were all presented awards for their leadership. Staff continues its efforts on developing Temporary Tent Structure submittal and inspection guideline handouts with Fire and the Special Events team. Staff continues to update all the plan submittal and inspection guidelines for the 2016 Building Codes and reformatting all the handouts for accessibility. The annual Green Building Special Inspector training for new inspectors and Quarterly Meeting for all Green Building Special Inspectors was held on March 13, 2017.

Staff continues to work on collecting data and reviewing the valuation and non-valuation based fees for the Development Services Fee Study. 

Public Works

Public Works has filled two of the three vacant staff positions; the third position is pending HR approval which should happen within a week.

Despite vacant positions and active recruitment, full-time counter customer service hours have been maintained with the exception of a 2 week training period.

Training new staff is an ongoing priority task.

Current plan check due dates have been met while reducing overdue plan checks; overdue plan checks will be eliminated in one week.

Working with community activists, Public Works drafted new dewatering regulations, including a new dewatering ordinance, which have been adopted by City Council.  Public Works staff is creating new documentation for internal use and public outreach.

Please be advised that all building permits issued after May 4th will be subject to the enhanced dewatering requirements from Public Works.  For more information call 650-329-2295 or visit our Public Works staff at the Development Center.

Fire Prevention Bureau-

The triennial CFC & Ordinance revision process is complete and the new codes take effect 1/1/17.

Fire prevention fee study is complete and updated fees have been approved by finance committee.

Fire inspection checklists have been developed and added to Accela.

Steve Lindsey & Thom Cook have completed their fire investigation training and joined the Santa Clara County Arson Task Force.

Annual County Hazmat (CUPA) report has been completed.

Utilities Department - CPAU

WGW Eng: Completed the 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 completed applications, successful OTC reviews, and meet deadlines. Utilities Staff conducted a presentation to staff at the DC of our utility business needs/processes/procedures with the purpose to improve our customer service to our applicants. Utilities prepared new guidelines for the installation of gas meters and a copy is attached to the permit sets. In planning for future Utilities Connection Fees Study.

Electric Eng: For the first quarter, 2 of 14 reviews exceeded the 30-day goal for entering data into Accela. Tom had both Kelly and Rachel listen into customer phone calls so they know how to respond to certain customer calls. DS and UTL jointly presented Electrification Study results and HPWH pilot project progress to the UAC. Jointly worked with DS on developing SIP for energy efficiency and electrification. We are working on finalizing the reasons for maintaining the 10kW limit for PV project submittal to Utilities.

Utilities Operations: Coordinated and completed most of the installation of new services within 2 weeks from start of the 1st installation and installed meters within 10-days from receipt of the meter release. Reviewed and updated information, forms and web pages during the First Quarter.