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DCRA Releases Series of Initiatives to Make Permitting Easier

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Today, the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) unveiled a series of changes and releases to make the process of acquiring a building permit more convenient.

The first two changes will allow people to schedule appointments online for the city’s Permit and Licensing Centers, giving them access to services from DCRA, the Office of Planning and the District Department of Transportation, among others; and to schedule preferred days for on-site permit-based inspections online.

These tools will ostensibly allow homeowners and developers the ability to avoid long wait times at permitting offices, on the phone or at work sites. “DCRA does a lot of different things from licensing to permitting to inspections. But improving the way we serve the public really comes down to making processes simpler and District residents and businesses safer,” director Melinda Bolling said in a statement.

Today, DCRA is also releasing a step-by-step guide to constructing a deck addition, making it easier for homeowners to acquire a permit for a deck as quickly as within one business day of applying. The document should enable homeowners and contractors to prepare an application that will be compliant with any construction codes and zoning stipulations. Guides for other common home improvements will also be released throughout this year.

See other articles related to: dcra, building permits

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dcra_releases_series_of_initiatives_to_make_permitting_easier/12202

1 Comment

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 3:24 pm on Wednesday February 15, 2017:

    The word “ostensibly” is well-chosen.  The one good thing about this article is that someone at the City realizes that there is a serious problem.  The problem, however, is less “convenience” than length of time. 

    Over the years, DCRA has proven utterly immune to internal process improvements.  Their cloud-based review process has almost entirely eliminated the ability to monitor progress, which naturally has lengthened review times.  They have leaders who do moronic things like declare that there will be no more building code waivers, period—as if that’s even possible in a city full of old buildings and code-defying circumstances!  At the same time, every 6 months or so, massive regulations (expanded or new) are added—Inclusionary Zoning, Green Building, expansion of historic districts, zoning rewrite of 2016, streetscape and Public Space standards and policies, and so forth.  Nothing ever goes away, of course.

    It’s reached the point at which IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW WHAT THE PROCESS IS.  Even experienced teams of developers, architects, permit expediters, and various consultants muddle their way through, constantly discovering or being told requirements which have never previously existed. 

    The city, recognizing the economic development importance of issuing permits on a timely basis, needs to take ownership. They need to hire a group of project managers who are 1-person contacts for applicants (be the applicant an individual homeowner or a huge developer).  The PM’s determine which reviews are necessary and guide the project through. The PM’s pay would be based, in part, on meeting standards of review time.  Even if that standard were a seemingly-generous 6 months, that would be less than half the time that a typical permit currently takes—and since the construction would move up 6 months, the City would start collecting the higher taxes 6 months sooner.  There is very real potential for a win-win.

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