Accela cloud-based solutions keep infrastructure and staffing costs low while reducing wait time in agency officesLocated 35 miles south of San Francisco and 14 miles north of San Jose, the City of Palo Alto is a community of approximately 61,200 residents and encompasses an area of approximately 26 square miles, of which one-third is open space. While the tree-lined streets and historic buildings reflect its California heritage, Palo Alto is recognized worldwide as a leader in cutting-edge technological development, and the mix of tradition and innovation makes it an extraordinary place to own and operate a business.
The Palo Alto Development Services Department manages regulatory compliance for all construction-related activity in the city. Construction activity has to gain approval from five different intercity departments for both the plan check and construction stages of a project. This accounts for plan review, permitting and inspection of every new and improved structure that attains a building permit — approximately 5,000 permits and 24,000 inspections per year. But with a community eager to build and grow, Peter Pirnejad and the team in Development Services realized that the development review process had languished. Citizens were forced to wait in long lines at the Development Services office to fill out the paperwork needed for permits and inspections. Average wait times topped two hours, causing citizens to get parking tickets or avoid filing the necessary paperwork altogether. “We did surveys and found that people were looking to engage with Development Services and local government agencies online. In fact, 50 percent wanted to engage via an online portal. So, we were looking for a way to respond to that, create more services in a self-service format so that citizens can get the data they need, get the permits they want, pay online, schedule their inspections — all the things they would do in our office from their home.”