This Week – Planning Department Initiates New Mandatory Pre-Application Process

The Planning Department has just announced a new pre-application process that would result in a three phase development review process for moderate- to large-sized projects. Starting February 1, all projects that propose the creation of 6 or more dwelling units or the construction of a new building or addition of 10,000 square feet or more of non-residential space must file a “Preliminary Project Assessment” application with the Planning Department and receive a response from the Department before an environmental evaluation or other development application is filed. The purpose of the PPA response letter is to provide project sponsors with up-front information on what approvals must be sought and feedback on design and other issues.

The PPA application requires much of the same information provided in an environmental evaluation application, including building plans. The PPA application and a $4,427 fee must be submitted at the Planning Information Counter at 1660 Mission Street. The fee is credited toward the fee for the first project application filed. The Planning Department will issue a PPA letter to the project sponsor within 60 days of filing the application. Only then can a project sponsor file an environmental evaluation, entitlement or building permit application. The Planning Department states that the letter is “valid for a period of 18 months.” It is unclear what has to happen within this time: a project application is filed, environmental review is complete, or an entitlement is granted.

The Planning Department’s guidance on the new three-phase development review process also states that a project description must be finalized during the environmental review phase. Further “[o]nce the project description is finalized, the applicant must file an entitlement application so that entitlement review can be coordinated with the environmental review.” The guidance goes on to say that an entitlement application must be filed prior to completion of the environmental review process.

Again, the Planning Department states its purpose in reconfiguring the development review process is to provide project sponsors with important information up-front while allowing planning staff to coordinate early in the process. One possible outcome, however, is that the new PPA application is just going to add up to 60 days to the front end of the entitlement process. Our hope is that this new PPA application in fact does make the rest of the process more efficient.

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, 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.

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