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Mayor Emanuel announced today he is planning to streamline the Department of Building’s permitting process.  Hoooray!  He says the changes announced would reduce the permit wait time from submittal to issuance down to 35 days.

(He also mentioned setting up a website for homeowners to track the status of the permit.  He’s new to this, so I don’t expect him to know the capability already exists, assuming you know your application number.)

To do this he is initiating an E-Plan submittal, which would allow architects to submit plans online, eliminating the need for paper drawings (and tree killing) to be shepherded to City Hall.  Applause!!!  Back in 2000 (yes, Chicago is getting to this 11 years later) my firm at the time worked with the City of San Diego to implement a similar program.  Technology was different back then making the process a bit cumbersome, but we got it worked out.  Unfortunately, the Building Commissioner left in the middle of the project for a plum job up the coast and the project died.  It has not been resurrected.  Today, though, it is much easier to transmit drawings with reduced file sizes via .pdf.  What is missing from the announcement, though, is whether the Department of Zoning will also implement the program.  If not, paper drawings will still have to schlepped to the zoning counter for their tedious review process.  And will the Department of Public Health also be signing on?  The Health Department has to review every restaurant, grocery store, or commercial kitchen project.

Lastly, the City will now require that half the estimated permit fee be paid up front to prevent already reviewed plans from being abandoned at City Hall.  Chicago, again, is slow to conform.  Most other cities have a separate plan check fee due up front, and a permit fee when the project is ready for issuance.

Everyone likes to complain about the Building Department (me included), however, they aren’t always to blame.  Just most of the time.  Here is what I think would help the department curb wait times. Read the rest of this entry »

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