News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


Subject :

City Announces Plan to Improve Building and Development Permitting Processes
Contact : James Keene, City Manager, Office of the City Manager    650-329-2563

Palo Alto, CA – In a press conference today, City Manager James Keene outlined a major City initiative titled Blueprint for a New Development Center, which identifies planned changes to the City's building and development permitting processes that are intended to improve customer satisfaction and expedite service delivery.

Speaking to reporters at the City’s Development Center at 285 Hamilton Avenue, Keene outlined a series of changes that the City is initiating and that will be complete by July 2011. A major component of the plan will be to create a culture of service and standards that can adapt in response to changing economic climates and community needs.

"Some work has already begun," said Keene, citing improvements that are already in place. These include: the ability to obtain certain permits online, a permit “kiosk” at the Development Center to allow self-help access to various records and other services and initial changes in communication between departments. Keene concluded that “these changes are just the beginning.”

“We have all heard stories about trying experiences for small business owners, homeowners, developers and neighbors,” Keene said. “The building and development permitting process in a city will always be demanding, but we owe our customers predictability, clear standards, use of metrics, accountability and a culture of service.”

“Our goal is to have a Development Center that will support the future economic interests of our City as well as the current needs of our residents,” said Keene. “Our current processes and Development Center don’t work for our customers or for our employees. We intend to change all that for the better.”

Changes will have a comprehensive scope and involve several departments within the City. Input will be sought from both staff and the public and a team approach will be used to solve problems that are identified. Specifically, the plan will include the formulation of staff teams to focus on improving customer service at the front counter, streamlining the review process, increased use of technology, implementing an appointment based process for permit submittals and restructured hours of operation. In addition, several of these teams will work with various groups representing the different types of users who frequent the Development Center, including architects and engineers, contractors, builders, business owners and residents to ensure that changes address customer concerns. A key priority, according to Keene, is that processes are coordinated and information is shared among departments to minimize the numbers of steps necessary for customers. “We will ensure that City departments coordinate their activities better around our customers so that the Development Center becomes a true one-stop shop for accessing all building and development needs.”

“These changes are critical in addressing concerns expressed with the City’s permit processes and in re-tooling the Development Center to be able to provide excellent service in a new and changing business and community environment,” said Planning and Community Environment Director Curtis Williams. The plan will explore all issues as they relate to process improvements, use of technology, coordination and communication between City departments and a revised management structure, including authority and oversight of the Development Center.

Larry Perlin, the City’s Chief Building Official who oversees the Building Division staff that operate at the Development Center, stated “the Blueprint process allows us to step back and evaluate how services are being delivered at the Development Center, organize service delivery around our customers and then hold ourselves accountable for what we do.  The eventual changes in how we do business will allow us to use resources more efficiently, save time and money and make the overall experience much more satisfying for the customer.” The plan will also include metrics to evaluate the success of the changes.

Status reports on the Blueprint Initiative will be given to the City Council over the course of the year.