Department of Building Inspection FY 2005-2006 Accomplishments


Since May 2005, the Mayor’s mandate has been to initiate internal reforms to address numerous ‘legacy’ issues that had dogged the Department from its establishment in 1995.  Most importantly, the primary mandate was to de-politicize the Department to attract a permanent new Director.  Some of DBI’s legacy issues had been documented in public reports, including the Rudy Nothenberg Report of June 2004, which identified 12 recommendations; the Controller’s 2001 audit and recommendations; and the Civil Grand Jury 2002-2003 Report & Recommendations, updated with its “Progress Report” in June 2006.


Using past audits and reports as a framework to initiate improvements, DBI management and staff were able to accomplish many of its goals. For example, with respect to Mr. Nothenberg’s 12 Recommendations for DBI improvements, eight of these were specific to DBI and four were directed to the Mayor’s Office and the Fire Department.  Of DBI’s eight recommendations, we’ve addressed and implemented six – with the remaining two pending (a Demolition ordinance that involves City Planning, and which is ‘in process’ right now and part of our December 2006 Agenda in a Joint Hearing of the BIC & Planning Commissions;  and DBI’s current active recruitment of a permanent MIS manager).

DBI’s Accomplishments and Achievements over the past 18 months fall into three categories:

  1. Efficiencies
  2. Transparency
  3. Professional Effectiveness & Quality Performance Controls

I.  Efficiencies


  • Reduced Commercial Plan Check backlog 72% from 16 days in Sept. 2004 to 4.5 days in Dec. 2006 with the number of applications pending initial review dropping dramatically from 140 in 2004 to 28 in 2006, an 80% reduction.
  • Reduced Residential Plan Check backlog 70% from 21 days in Sept. 2004 to 6.3 days in Dec. 2006 with the number of applications pending initial review dropping from 387 in 2004 to 63 in 2006, an 83% reduction.
  • Reduced Major Projects’ Plan Check backlog 23% from 30 days in Sept. 2004 to 23 days in Dec. 2006 – with the number of applications pending initial review dropping from 329 in 2004 to 60 in 2006, an 82% reduction.
  • Completed 98% of customer-requested inspections within two working days.
  • Turned-around 89% of all permits requested over-the-counter in 2006, and approved 89% within a two-seven-day period, compared to 78% of all permits requested over-the-counter in 2004.
  • Approved and issued 60,971 permits in 2006 compared to 60,503 in 2004 .
  • Performed 131,563 inspections in 2006, compared to 123,514 in 2004 .
  • Increased total revenues from just over $36 million in 2004 to $44.5 million in 2006.
  • Reduced total expenditures from $40 million in 2004 to $38 million in 2006.
  • Promoted 55 employees into positions of increased responsibilities.
  • Hired 41 new employees to eliminate understaffing in critical skill-sets and made strong improvements in DBI’s goal to reduce backlog.
  • Approved permits for property valued at more than $2.5 billion in 2006, from $1.5 billion in 2004 .
  • Finalized Departments first Five-Year Strategic & Efficiencies Plan and won unanimous approval from the Building Inspection Commission for the Plan.
  • Streamlined DBIs Solar Energy Permit Program and increased the numbers of approved permits from 20 in 2004 to more than 400 in 2006.


II.    Transparency

  • Published and distributed in June 2006 an integrated Employee, Commission and Permit Expediters Code of Conduct Manual. their district assignments to eliminate opportunity to provide preferential treatment.
  • BIC approved DBI’s proposed strict Statement of Incompatible Activities (SIA), and the Ethics Commission approved it unanimously in September 2006.
  • Enforced prohibition and disclosure requirements for outside employment for staff.
  • Acted swiftly on all personnel related matters, and increased the use of disciplinary measures where appropriate.
  • Increased transparency of permit activity by providing more information and easier public access to DBI’s dramatically improved website to track permit and complaint activities.
  • Imposed strict prohibitions on staff conducting inspections outside their district assignments to eliminate opportunity to provide preferential treatment.
  • Made staff rotations throughout the divisions standard procedure, thereby eliminating past practices of cultivated relationships that may have resulted in preferential treatment opportunities.
  • Enforced restrictions of customer access to non-public/employee-only areas.
  • Replaced/upgraded all of computer hardware/software for all employees to improve accountability and transparency of service provision (completed in January 2007).
  • Finalize first phase of the Permit Tracking System (PTS) to integrate DBI and City Planning’s permit systems –with RFP for Business Process Reengineering as Phase One.  This system, albeit complex and requiring time to fulfill, will improve further efficiency, accountability and transparency in the permit process.
  • Won strong support from the Civil Grand Jury in its June 2006 Report on the substantial progress DBI has made in implementing the CGJ’s 2002 Recommendations.

III.    Professional Effectiveness & Quality Performance Controls

  • Increased training and cross-training for all employees not only in technical areas, but also for employee professional development purposes –and hired a new full-time professional Training Coordinator in 2006 to assist with International Code Standards required by 2008.
  • Increased supervision of staff and appointed more supervisors and managers.
  • Continued to improve consistency in code interpretation, and reduced “gray” judgment areas.
  • Increased quality control spot checking.
  • Instituted random assignments of permit applications to plan check staff to eliminate opportunity for preferential treatment.
  • Established monthly networking coffee meetings to improve morale, encourage team work, and improve internal communications across all DBI divisions .
  • Hosted the first "Meet the Professionals--DBI Education Summit"on Oct. 25, 2006, to increase public awareness of DBI services and to educate DBI customers on what’s required to make the permit review/approval process as efficient as possible. More than 400 registered and approximately 300 people participated in DBI’s first Annual Summit.
  • Worked more closely with Assessor, Fire, Planning and DPW to improve coordination among responsible authorities, and to achieve departments missions.
  • BIC recruited and hired in 2007 a highly qualified new permanent Director to lead DBI.



  • Continue to improve management of employees by acting swiftly on all disciplinary-related matters.
  • Finalize performance evaluations (99 percent completed), and complete clear staff work plans.
  • Obtain more training and assistance from the Ethics Commission, and pursue increased citywide funding to enable the Ethics Commissions work to move on a fast-track timeline.
  • Continue to provide more training to strengthen a culture of ethical and professional conduct.
  • Finalize permit priority processing guidelines, reflecting environmental and other city-wide goals.
  • Allocate $900,000-plus increase in funding Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS) study to assist in the development of a comprehensive earthquake plan.
  • Establish a seismic safety and emergency response division to further prioritize the City’s need to be better prepared for seismic vulnerabilities, and improve coordination with citywide emergency response efforts.
  • Renovate customer service area to further improve department operations at 1660 Mission, and reconfigure additional space on 4th & 5th Floors.
  • Increase proactive community and public outreach to improve the perception and understanding of DBI operations.
  • Continue to provide courteous, professional, fair and equitable services to all customers.

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