by M. Villano

Joint Venture Puts Permit Process Online

Jun 15, 20012 mins
Enterprise Applications

IF YOU’VE EVER BUILT an addition to your house, you know that the process of obtaining a building permit from your local government is tedious and frustrating at best. In Silicon Valley, this process has been known to be downright excruciating.

Early last year, when their permits took weeks (sometimes even months) to obtain, some people had had enough. Enter Joint Venture, a San Jose, Calif.-based nonprofit organization created to champion e-issues. With donations from local high-tech businesses and grant money from a handful of local governments, organization members set out to unify disparate building codes throughout Silicon Valley and move the application process online.

“The plan was geared as much toward the construction industry as it was toward us in government,” says Lisa Bruner, a Joint Venture administrative assistant, who was on hand to launch the endeavor. “Instead of having contractors go down to city hall, stand in line, hand in their plans and wait a few weeks to get an answer, we decided it would be nice if we could enable them to do it all at once.”

Although the program is still technically a pilot, city officials and contractors say permits can be obtained overnight, making Joint Venture’s efforts in streamlining the permit process the first successful effort of its kind.

Even the civil employees are happier. “All of a sudden, we have something that took these people 30 days to process taking two hours,” says Michael Garvey, city manager for San Carlos, which is located about 25 miles south of San Francisco. “In terms of employee morale here, that’s just as good as it is for residents to be able to get a complicated permit without stepping foot in city hall.”

Joint Venture’s plans don’t stop with building permits. Already, Bruner says efforts are under way to add park permits to the sites’ capabilities. Also in the works is an application that would enable city planners to approve CAD-based blueprints online.