Skip to Content

Management Review

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.

On this page:

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:

Efficient Permitting

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.

Organizational Excellence

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.

Tracking Progress

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. They are outlined in the table below.

↓↑ Sort Column Alphabetically or Numerically: Select a column title to sort the table in order by that specific column.
Initiative Task Begin Team Status Schedule
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.01: Develop new policy for instant issuance OTC expansion and express permit implementation 1-July Express Permitting Started On Time
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.02: Develop a representative program team to implement the policy.  1-July Express Permitting Complete On Time
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.03: Develop evaluation criteria to determine which permit types are eligible for OTC and the express permit program.  2-August Express Permitting Started On Time
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.04: Initiate a process to evaluate permit types to determine eligibility.  2-August Express Permitting Started On Time
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.05: Amend any existing regulations, standards, and applications to help ensure application documents reflect program criteria.  3-September Express Permitting Started On Time
01. Expand Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Express Permits 01.06: Initiate a public information process to inform the public and business community of the express permit program and OTC permit expansion.  3-September Express Permitting Started On Time
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.01: Review existing data on review time frames to determine existing review time averages 01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.02: Document current review time frame averages for each application type and group similar application types.  01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.03: Establish current time frame targets for groups of application types.  02-August Process Improvement Complete Ahead
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.04: Identify planned time frame target reduction goals.  02-August Process Improvement Complete Ahead
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.05: Publicize time frame targets so that applicants have clear expectations on review time frames.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.06: Integrate time frame targets with due date tasks in Accela.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
02. Application Response and Review Time Frames 02.07: Continue to monitor review time frames to help ensure consistency with established targets.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
03. Standardize Statuses 03.01: Take an inventory of the different application types that Permit Sonoma processes, grouping similar application types 01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
03. Standardize Statuses 03.02: With each group of application types, develop one common naming convention to use that will identify the status describing each phase in the process.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
03. Standardize Statuses 03.03: Cross-check the naming convention of different application types against one another to look for similarities in terms.  03-September Process Improvement Complete Ahead
03. Standardize Statuses 03.04: Develop a reference guide of terms.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.01: Identify a team of staff members who will be responsible for establishing and maintaining updates in Accela.  03-September Process Improvement Complete On Time
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.02: Prioritize the application types with the highest application volume.  03-September Process Improvement Complete On Time
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.03: Update Accela system configuration to add tasks and due dates.  05-November Process Improvement Not Started On Time
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.04: Establish a required training schedule for staff members to be trained on the new functionality of the system.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.05: Expand level of detail and transparency, allowing applicants to see the names of reviewers currently assigned the application.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
04. Expand Task Functionality and Due Date Tracking 04.06: Coordinating with initiative 2, develop a protocol that will trigger updates in Accela any time a time frame target is amended.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
05A. Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT) 05A.01: For completion of all action items under this initiative, a cross-functional team focused on Accela improvements should be developed.  01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
05A. Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT) 05A.02: Develop a work plan to prioritize and coordinate all assignments.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
05A. Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT) 05A.03: Establish a meeting schedule and establish micro-teams.  01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
05A. Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT) 05A.04: In coordination with the work plan, establish micro-teams to complete assignments.  02-August Process Improvement Complete On Time
05A. Establish an Accela Improvement Team (AIT) 05A.05: After implementation of system improvements, the AIT should develop a monitoring plan.  12-June Process Improvement Not Started On Time
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.01: In accordance with the work plan established for the team, create a cross-functional micro-team of team members with expertise in planning and in MIS.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.02: Develop an action plan for the rollout of DPR.  01-July Process Improvement Complete Ahead
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.03: Start the initiative by making significant progress in process improvement.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.04: Cross-check process steps with Accela implementation contractors to help ensure steps are consistent with Accela system requirements and functionality.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.05: Accela implementation contractors should integrate new process steps into the Accela system.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.06: Go live with the new process steps for Planning applications.  06-December Process Improvement Started Ahead
05B. Expand Online Submittal and Plan Review 05B.07: Develop a priority list of system improvements needed after the go-live date.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
05C. Expand Required Field Functionality  05C.01: Prioritize the application types that generate the highest number of submittals.  01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
05C. Expand Required Field Functionality  05C.02: Micro-team members from the discipline associated with the application type should develop a list of documentation required for a complete application.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
05C. Expand Required Field Functionality  05C.03: MIS team members and/or Accela configuration contractors should integrate documentation requirements into Accela.  03-September Process Improvement Started On Time
05C. Expand Required Field Functionality  05C.04: Go live and monitor progress.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
05D. Expand Civic Portal  05D.01: Complete initiative 3, “Consolidate and Standardize Accela Statuses 06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
05D. Expand Civic Portal  05D.02: Develop micro-teams consisting of technical experts and experts from the respective disciplines associated with the application types.  01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
05D. Expand Civic Portal  05D.03: Each micro-team should develop a plan to expand Civic Portal.  02-August Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
05D. Expand Civic Portal  05D.04: Each micro-team should test the functions before going live with system changes.  05-November Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
05D. Expand Civic Portal  05D.05: Monitor progress and make a prioritized list of challenges that require adjustments in the system.  12-June Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
06. Contracts with Third-Party Plan Reviewers 06.01: Work with the County’s procurement process to select third-party plan review companies.  1-July Department Leadership Started On Time
06. Contracts with Third-Party Plan Reviewers 06.02: Train selected firms in Permit Sonoma processes.  6-December Department Leadership Started Ahead
06. Contracts with Third-Party Plan Reviewers 06.03: Permit Sonoma should initiate a three-month initiative rollout, having the third-party reviewers handle an increased number of applications to allow Permit Sonoma staff to focus on a timelier resolution to previously submitted applications.  4-October Department Leadership Started On Time
06. Contracts with Third-Party Plan Reviewers 06.04: Once the backlog has been cleared and applications are being processed within the review time frame targets established in initiative 2, the third-party reviewing firms should be used an ongoing basis to help ensure application time frame targets are being met.  7-January Department Leadership Not Started On Time
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.01: Develop a template for a checklist to create a standard, consistent format for all application types.  01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.02: Develop standard comments for use in plan review.  02-August Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.03: When completing a plan review, the staff member assigned to the project should note comments using the template.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.04: Provide comments to the applicant on the prescribed form.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.05: Upon resubmittal of plans, the applicant should provide a response to each staff comment on the form provided.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.06: When staff review the applicant’s resubmittal and responses to comments, staff should confirm whether the issue was resolved to staff satisfaction.  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.07: For comments that have to be reissued to the applicant for resolution, the staff member should note why it needs to be reissued  03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
07. Checklist-Based Review and Resubmittal 07.08: New comments after the initial review should be avoided where possible. In the event that a new comment has to be provided, a protocol should be developed so that these issues are handled with consistency from one project to the next.  01-July Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
08. Time Accounting and Time-Tracking Policy 08.01: Expand Accela time accounting and invoicing functionality.  05-November Process Improvement Started On Time
08. Time Accounting and Time-Tracking Policy 08.02: Develop and publish plan review time-tracking policy.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
08. Time Accounting and Time-Tracking Policy 08.03: Annually update minimum fees so the minimum fee represents the average cost for the previous year.  07-January Process Improvement Not Started On Time
08. Time Accounting and Time-Tracking Policy 08.04: Evaluate moving to a flat fee.  08-February Process Improvement Not Started On Time
09. Alternate, Third-Party Review Process 09.01: Review historical TPPC program use.  05-November Process Improvement Started On Time
09. Alternate, Third-Party Review Process 09.02: Revisit list of preferred third-party reviews.  05-November Process Improvement Not Started On Time
09. Alternate, Third-Party Review Process 09.03: Revise the TPPC fee.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
09. Alternate, Third-Party Review Process 09.04: Develop a workflow process and video for the TPPC process.  07-January Process Improvement Not Started On Time
09. Alternate, Third-Party Review Process 09.05: Evaluate the third-party review program on a quarterly basis.  08-February Process Improvement Ongoing On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.01: Determine eligible self-certification plan reviews.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.02: Start by identifying a single type of plan review that could be eligible for self-certification.  06-December Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.03: Determine requirements to self-certify.  07-January Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.04: Standardize the requirements for consistency between self-certified plans.  07-January Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.05: Develop a guide with established protocols to share with all Permit Sonoma staff who perform plan reviews.  07-January Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.06: Before the program launch date, develop a public information campaign to inform the public of the new program.  08-February Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.07: Launch the program for a type of plan review. 09-March Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.08: Monitor the program.  10-April Process Improvement Not Started On Time
10. Self-Certification Program 10.09: At the end of the third month, start program development for the next plan type and repeat tasks 2 – 8 12-June Process Improvement Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.01: Establish a CSC.  02-August Customer Service Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.02: The CSC should establish a work plan and schedule to guide customer service improvement initiatives under the committee’s charge, prioritizing more critical issues.  03-September Customer Service Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.03: The CSC should consider establishing a customer service policy for the department as the first priority item 04-October Customer Service Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.04: The CSC should operationalize a customer focus throughout the department.  06-December Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.05: The CSC should create a customer service campaign.  09-March Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.06: The CSC should develop a customer service measurement system and create a flowchart and sequence of steps involved in the customer satisfaction measurement process.  07-January Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.07: In follow-up to results from customer surveying, the CSC should develop a prioritized list of customer service improvements as a result of feedback received.  07-January Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.08: The CSC should continue to provide public access to key performance data.  09-March Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.09: Identify key customer requirements.  05-November Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.10: The CSC should develop a plan to improve internal support systems.  08-February Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.11: The CSC should implement a system-wide customer service training program.  09-March Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.12: The CSC should develop a customer awareness and education campaign 09-March Customer Service Not Started On Time
11. Customer Service Framework 11.13: Coordinate a quarterly department newsletter with the SOP team and process improvement committee (PIC) that communicates updates from the three committees. 09-March Customer Service Not Started On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.01: Permit Sonoma should develop a PIC.  01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.02: The PIC should inventory all process improvements and develop an organized structure that states the process improvement, its purpose, responsible staff members, and the status of the improvement.  01-July Process Improvement Started On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.03: The PIC should prioritize the improvements on the inventory, giving greater weight to items that can yield the greater returns in improved customer service, quality of life in the workplace, and job performance.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.04: If possible, use a central, electronic communication tool to help with group coordination.  02-August Process Improvement Complete On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.05: The PIC should be a committee that not only tracks the progress of improvements but also operates as a think tank.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.06: The PIC should develop a communication plan for the rollout of finalized process improvements.  02-August Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.07: The PIC should develop an education and awareness plan for each improvement.  02-August Process Improvement Started On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.08: A governance subcommittee should be part of the PIC.  01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.09: Foster a culture of continuous process improvement.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
12. Centralized Improvements and Governance 12.10: Coordinate a quarterly department newsletter with the SOP team and CSC that communicates updates from the two committees. 03-September Process Improvement Not Started Delayed
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.01: Permit Sonoma should develop an SOP team 01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.02: The SOP team should take inventory of all existing SOPs and develop an organized structure that states the process improvement, its purpose, responsible staff members, and the status of the improvement.  02-August Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.03: The SOP team should share the inventory of existing SOPs with department managers and supervisors and request feedback on SOPs that need to be developed.  02-August Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.04: The SOP team should work with individual divisions/sections to develop SOPs. The team should develop a schedule that prioritizes the SOPs that need to be developed and provides a time frame for development and implementation.  03-September Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.05: The SOP team should have a liaison who works with the PIC and the CSC. The liaison should help orchestrate SOPs that need to be developed based on new process improvements and CSC improvements.  01-July Process Improvement Complete On Time
13. Standard Operating Procedures 13.06: The SOP team should develop a communication system that communicates SOP updates to the department.  01-July Process Improvement Ongoing Ongoing
14. Opportunities for Customers  14.01: Develop an education campaign. 12-June Customer Service Not Started On Time
14. Opportunities for Customers  14.02: Solicit feedback from the public. 12-June Customer Service Not Started On Time
14. Opportunities for Customers  14.03: Develop a schedule for education events. 13-July Customer Service Not Started On Time
14. Opportunities for Customers  14.04: Develop educational tools and resources to keep the public engaged throughout the year. 13-July Customer Service Not Started On Time
15. Standardize Division and Section Structure 15.01: Working with the department leadership team, the Human Resources section of the department should inventory the current inconsistencies in the department organizational structure.  1-July Department Leadership Complete On Time
15. Standardize Division and Section Structure 15.02: Develop a plan to resolve the inconsistencies in the organizational structure.  3-September Department Leadership Started On Time
15. Standardize Division and Section Structure 15.03: Working with department leadership, prioritize organizational structural issues to resolve and implement the plan.  1-July Department Leadership Started On Time

Core Committees

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.