Staedler: San Jose permitting moving in the right direction
A single-family home along Schiele Avenue is pictured in this file photo.

San Jose has been working on a more robust online permit system over the last several years. It’s called the Rapid Online Service Intake (ROSI) and had a full launch on Jan. 24.

Per the city presentation at the Smart Cities and Service Improvements Committee meeting on March 3, ROSI allows customers to submit their plans using a timepoint reservation system that will get their intakes processed within two weeks. The system is limited to plan review intake only, but the number of available reservations can scale based on staff availability.

Officials believe that without structured meetings they can scale based on staff availability and that they are ahead of schedule processing applications compared to the previous system. Their next step is to focus on expanding a second line for plan review, roll out to other service types and continue customer support.

San Jose began virtual intake meetings during COVID-19 for things such as accessory dwelling unit (ADU) submittals, plan review services and simple projects. Simple projects include appliance installations, electrical and plumbing projects, reroofing or similar projects with no structural changes. This allowed for projects like ADUs to be built, which has been hailed as one of the ways to address the housing crisis.

Since launch, ROSI has had 86 successful intakes, 39 canceled appointments and an estimated efficiency of 20% more application intake per employee. Officials believe with permits available online, they can save over 3,000 hours a year entering information from PDFs for customers into the city’s permitting database.

San Jose should be striving to have nearly all permits be made available through online submission. Before COVID-19 shut down City Hall, I once waited four hours in the permit center before I was able to submit a basic permit application for a client. The city needs to keep improving its processes and have its interactions with residents be as streamlined as possible. I recall a time not too many years ago where the only way you could pay your business tax was to go to City Hall and wait in line.

Let’s praise San Jose for this step, but we all need to keep the expectations high for a city that calls itself the capital of Silicon Valley.

San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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