The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (“DBI”) is working hard to improve on permit review and processing times. They launched a program called “Enhanced In-House Review Permit Application Process” on July 1, 2022, which should streamline the review and issuance of small and medium sized projects, and there are many new faces at the over-the-counter shifts which inevitably gives more seasoned staff time to work through their backlog.
The Enhanced In-House Review program incorporates suggestions from stakeholders and internal staff and creates new plan check categories. Until recently, DBI had only two options for plan review—Over-the-Counter and In-House review. For a project to qualify for Over-the-Counter review, the plan review needed to be an hour or less at each plan review station. Under their new Pre-Plan Check system launched on July 1, they added two new plan check categories for small to medium-sized projects that don’t qualify for Over-the-Counter review, but could be reviewed in one day after their assignment to a reviewer. Projects are now pre-screened per the criteria below:
|Plan Check Category||OTC Level 1||In-House Level 2||In-House Level 3||In-House Level 4|
|Time for plan review||<1 hour||1-4 hours||4-8 hours||>8 hours|
New Central Queue
The new system also changes the way DBI assigns projects to plan reviewers. Previously, they assigned projects to plan reviewers as they came in—so if a plan reviewer had a large workload or went on vacation, customers waited longer for plan review. Under the new system, projects now go into a central queue and will be assigned to plan reviewers on a weekly basis. For customers, it means that once your project is assigned to a plan reviewer, you can expect DBI to begin review on your project in the next few business days. Over the past three weeks, the new process has effectively increased the quality of plan submissions and is helping DBI manage its workload better.
DBI’s next step is to remove projects from individual plan checker’s queues and to move all the existing in-house review project submissions into one queue and then begin assigning them to plan reviewers on a weekly basis.
The program has been in action for about two months, and according to the August update, DBI is pleased with the progress on the transition to the new process. About 68% of new applications have been accepted as complete and all of the older priority projects, such as affordable housing and Accessible Dwelling Units, have been assigned to a plan reviewer.
The new system also establishes a minimum 20 business days and maximum 40 business days target for DBI to respond to the application with comments for the applicant to clarify or address. Other agencies will attempt to match these turnaround thresholds but may have exceptions.
To ensure clear communication and to keep projects moving, DBI staff comments that cannot be or are not addressed with two resubmittals (ie: resubmitting revised plans), will be automatically escalated to a DBI plan check supervisor. Should a project have unresolved comments after four resubmittals, the project will automatically be escalated to the Deputy Director of Permit Services.
DBI plans to start posting updates to their website in September to let you know the date range of projects being assigned to DBI staff every week and appreciates your support as they move from the old system to a new system that will serve you better. Learn more here.
Authored by Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP Manager, Post Entitlement Division Gillian Allen.
The issues discussed in this update are not intended to be legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established with the recipient. Readers should consult with legal counsel before relying on any of the information contained herein. Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP is a full service real estate law firm. We specialize in land use, development and entitlement law. We also provide a wide range of transactional services, including leasing, acquisitions and sales, formation of limited liability companies and other entities, lending/workout assistance, subdivision and condominium work.