The Sonoma County Administrator’s Office (CAO) periodically conducts department reviews to evaluate County departmental programs, operational, and organizational effectiveness. Permit Sonoma was selected for review. The consultant, Berry Dunn McNeil & Parker LLC (BerryDunn) delivered the results from their management review of Permit Sonoma to the Board of Supervisors on January 31, 2023. Permit Sonoma is actively working to implement changes identified in the review, make our permitting more efficient, and improve our customer service.
Core Areas for Improvement
The Management Review identified ways Permit Sonoma can improve how it serves the public. These improvements are fall into three key thematic areas:
Permit Sonoma’s improvements will increase the efficiency and ultimately the speed at which the public can obtain permits to develop their property. Permit Sonoma will standardize permit reviews, clarify workflows, improve submittal processes, and update county code to streamline permit processes.
Permit Sonoma will make it easier to track permits, understand what is being required and why, and predict the time it will take to complete our work. Even when a permit requires extremely technical information, it should be easy to view the status of a permit and see where it is in the review cycle. Permit Sonoma is working to build process improvements into its core mission, similar to the County’s Five Year Strategic Plan.
Maintaining Existing Operations During Implementation
Permit Sonoma is working to increase the agency’s capacity and decrease interruptions to essential services while making the process improvements called for in the management review. This effort will require significant time investments of staff with direct working knowledge of existing practices, critical thinking ability, and dedication to overcome technical setbacks. It would undermine the goals of this effort to backslide in permitting.
To better track and ensure accountability for making improvements, Permit Sonoma has broken the improvements into 15 key initiatives to improve internal processes and the customer experience.
- Expand over the counter (OTC) and Express Permits
- Application Response and Review Time Frames
- Standardize Statuses
- Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking
- Accela Permit Tool
- Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT)
- Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review
- Expand Required Field Functionality
- Expand Permits Online Portal
- Contracts with Third-Party Plan Reviewers
- Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal
- Time Accounting and Time-Tracking Policy
- Alternate, Third-Party Review Process
- Self-Certification Program
- Customer Service Framework
- Centralized Improvements and Governance
- Standard Operating Procedures
- Opportunities for Customers
- Standardize Division and Section Structure
Customer Service Committee
The Customer Service Committee will be a combination of staff, department leadership, and engaged customers. This committee is critical to learning from our customers by establishing a feedback loop for continuous process improvement, discussing challenges, refining our approaches, and implementing solutions.
Express Permitting Team
The Express Permitting Team will be a multidisciplinary working group dedicated to maintaining a high level of service during the implementation of the consultant's recommendations. The team will draw from the experience of representatives from permit intake, building, engineering, and planning sections that will conduct simultaneous review of projects.
Process Improvement Team
The Process Improvement Team will be the primary group tasked with identifying and prioritizing process improvements. These solutions will include those outlined in the Management Review and others targeted by the team.