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San Diego County Decreases Processing Time for Solar Permitting by 75 Percent

Moving to an online process makes it faster and easier for anyone to get a permit

Located in the southwestern corner of California, San Diego County is the second-most populous county in the State, and the fifth-most populous in the United States. Encompassing gentle foothills, agricultural farmland and mile-high mountains, San Diego County is more commonly known for its idyllic climate, 70 miles of pristine beaches, alluring family attractions and year-round outdoor recreation. 

Solar Permitting
See how the County and Solar Industry worked together to revolutionize solar permitting
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Exponential growth creates challenges and delays

As the department that issues all building permits in the County, the Department of Planning & Development Services (PDS) for San Diego County has seen a 300 percent increase in solar permitting in the past five years and wanted to get ahead of the trend to best serve its customers.

While the department offered same-day permit processing for walk-in customers, the increasing volume of solar permits would eventually prove more than staff could handle. What’s more, the current process conflicted with the County’s internal goal of becoming a best-in-class IT organization in government with a clear focus on customer service.

How Accela empowers San Diego County

PDS was already using Accela Land Management on the Civic Platform, so expanding its use to cover solar permitting was a logical next step. The department decided to offer online permitting in addition to in-person services. Likewise, PDS evaluated its internal processes, identifying opportunities to increase efficiencies with online plan submission and a dedicated solar review team.

PDS can now also create templates for common permit types and frequent customers that prepopulate several fields, which greatly reduces processing time. It also uses the solution to manage online payments. “The use of Accela technology allows us to automate much of the work, decreasing our staff time,” shares Building Chief Vince Nicoletti.

The bottom line

Since bringing solar permitting online, PDS has experienced a 75 percent decrease in processing time for solar permits. Given that the department will process close to 6,000 solar permits this year, that is a considerable savings to staff and customers. In addition to solar, the Department now offers several other online permits and is processing more than 50 percent of all building permits online, which it considers to be an enormous success.

“The solar industry is so appreciative that the County has stepped up to be a leader in solar permitting,” says Tara Kelly, who sits on the board of the San Diego California Solar Energy Industries Association and works for a local solar company. “It makes all of our lives so much easier. Companies are able to save time, money and resources and we’re able to install solar more quickly. Our customers are happy — everyone is happy with this process.”

Interested in learning more?
To learn more about the Accela Civic Platform and what it can do for your agency, please call us at (888) 722-2352 or fill out our simple online form.

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Customer
San Diego County, California

Population
3,263,431

Challenge
Update a time-consuming permitting process to accommodate soaring increases in solar permits and offer a better customer experience 

Solutions
Accela Land Management, Accela GIS, Accela Mobile Office, Citizen Access, CivicData, e-PlanCheck

Results
Introduced end-to-end processing capabilities for solar permitting

Reduced processing time for solar permits by 75 percent

Optimized agency resources to keep up with a continuously rising workload

Saved customers time by enabling them to complete the process online, on their own time

Decreased paperwork by enabling customers to upload project plans electronically instead of requiring multiple sets of hard copies

Increased transparency by providing online access and updates during the process

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