To keep a project moving through the Planning Department process the architect needs to stay connected with the planner and department staff. Once the Planning Department receives their initial planning fee you become a serious customer in the city’s viewpoint. Attention and service can step up, particularly when calling the department with questions.
In addition to the 5 points in Planning Approval - Part One, here are a few more about the procedure.
6. It isn't widely known to most applicants that a Planning Dept has 30 days max to respond to the initial application. Why? The Permit Streamlining Act (Govt Code Chap 4.5 of Title 7) was enacted in 1977 to expedite the processing of permits for development projects. If the Planning Department fails to either approve or disapprove the permit within the 30 days the application is ‘deemed approved’. This is an unspoken motivation for the Planning Dept to get back to you in a timely fashion. The Permit Streamlining Act clock does not start until the applicant submits a completed permit application.
7. When a planner returns a letter stating the application is ‘complete’ it just means everything has been submitted for the planner to start their review of the application. During the review the planner will itemize a list of questions, clarifications, possible corrections etc., and send these back. It is always best to send a Response Letter as quickly as possible so as to stay in the queue and keep the project fresh in the planner's work scope. You want to be persistent in communicating with the planner particularly when there are any questions about what they need.
8. When submitting the Response Letter always provide the answers to the exact questions or clarifications being asked for but try to be brief and to the point. Getting a second letter from the planner with the same comments or questions can really add time to the approval process.
9. A careful read through of the official project document called Conditions of Approval can be a lot of dry reading of standard text. But I look for specific project requirements that must be met before the final project approval is granted after construction is completed. And always attach the Conditions of Approval to the cover sheet of the Constructions Documents given to the General Contractor so that they are aware of these additional specific requirements.
10. After Planning Department approval the plans go the Building Department. It is important to know that once the Building Dept. stamps and approves the plans, any changes/revisions or alterations must be resubmitted to the Planning Dept. for new review and approval.
It is always best when the client knows some basic architecture terminology. For example "plans" can refer to different documents depending on who is using the term and the purpose of the plans.
I will be posting explanations of these terms soon. Hopefully it will help home owners as they maneuver through the planning and building process with their architect.
Los Gatos Architect