Reform Initiatives

Introduction

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection’s mission is to ensure that life and property within The City are safeguarded by verifying that buildings and structures are developed and maintained in adherence with the all applicable codes and regulations. To further the public’s confidence in the department’s management, operations and oversight, staff have identified the following key issues and potential initiatives to improve our processes, develop our staff, and enhance transparency for the public.

This initiative officially began on May 19, 2021. Quarterly status updates will be posted to this page.


Management

Area of Focus

Ensure ethical staff conduct and reducing potential conflicts of interest in the department.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

Staff are assigned training modules on ethics and conflicts of interest.  Staff must read the Code of Conduct and sign a Statement of Incompatible Activities.  Staff must also file a Form 700 disclosure every year and attend ethics trainings.

New Initiatives

  • Code of Conduct review and updates
  • Additional staff trainings developed on topics including, but not limited to accountability, customer service, diversity/equity/inclusion, people management
  • Racial equity review of department functions


Administration

Human Resources

Area of Focus

Attract and hire highly qualified, diverse employees and provide them with standardized on-boarding and ongoing training to succeed in their role.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

Department posts jobs widely, shares job postings with staff and keeps all hiring opportunities open for applications for an appropriate length of time.  Department employs best practices in assembling hiring panels, including recruiting representatives from other departments, seating a diverse panel for the interview team and using standardized scoring methodology.  Department follows candidate de-identification protocols and requires implicit bias trainings for panel members.  Department representatives participate in DHR working groups, including the Diversity Recruitment Working Group and working groups to address de-identification policies, discipline and outreach and recruitment. 

New Initiatives  

  • Standardize the interview, hiring and onboarding processes.
  • Participate in a spotlight series showcasing different types of jobs at DBI as part of an outreach effort and expand outreach
  • Establish a new standard of posting a recruitment for a minimum of two weeks
  • Expand and standardize onboarding, training and mentorship programs
  • Implement staff training around racial equity and organizational culture initiatives


Records Management

Area of Focus

Ensure the accuracy, integrity and public accessibility of public records managed by DBI.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

The public record for property information includes the permit application, plans, job card, Certificate of Final Completion and issued permit, which are all digitally saved.  To protect digital copies, DBI logo is embedded in the document and file is locked.

Customers can view official building plans in DBI’s office, but are restricted to viewing only. Customers aren’t allowed to take photos of these records based on state law.  Customers are instructed on the rules, and computers at the counter are restricted and have a generic login, so they only provide access to the website, not to the internal network.  Any printer copy is considered official copy of the record with the DBI logo that’s embedded into the document.  There are two different logos—public and internal copies to signify where the documents originated.  For requests for building plans, DBI notifies the design professional of the request, and the design professional has 30 days to approve or deny the request.

Any staff that have access to Papervision sign an agreement that it’s strictly for business use.  Only RMD staff can edit, and the department maintains an audit trail.  The department manager reviews a report of everyone that has viewed or made any edits to any record.  New staff has limited access to Papervision until they are past the probational period.

New Initiatives  

  • Implement Secure Share (instead of emails) to provide more security and more capacity.


Management Information Services

Area of Focus

Ensure the accuracy and integrity of building permits and records.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

After a permit is issued, then the Permit Tracking System (PTS) record is locked—and if we need to go back and make any changes, it needs to go through a supervisor.  Customers can’t file a ticket with MIS to update info—DBI staff are the gatekeeper to protect the records.  The system automatically backs up and preserves records integrity.  This back-up of all records ensures that the record would still exist and be protected, even if the primary record is altered or removed.  The department maintains audit tables showing any records deletions.  In the case of a discrepancy, an audit report would be generated. 

New Initiatives  

  • Cybersecurity assessment training for IT managers.
  • Modernization of the permit tracking platform.


Inspections

Building, Electrical, Plumbing and Housing Inspections

Area of Focus

Ensure the integrity of the inspections process and protect from abuses.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

Inspections Division has divided the city into districts and assigns inspections to district inspector.  Inspectors are not allowed to perform inspections outside of their district unless assigned by a supervisor.  Inspectors are rotated to different districts on a regular basis.  Division managers perform spot checks on inspections, and senior inspectors review reports.  Division strives for consistent language in results on inspections, and inspectors are trained to verify information on the website.  To close an order of abatement on a housing case, it has to be signed by the Chief Housing Inspector.

New Initiatives/Recommendations

  • Pre-inspections for enhanced quality compliance
  • Training for inspectors, ensuring they are looking at approved plans and know what to look for
  • Inspection notes and correction details on permits made available online
  • Prominent info on our website for customers about how to elevate concerns
  • Guidelines for the public about filing complaints for code enforcement—often need more specificity


Code Enforcement

Area of Focus

Ensure the integrity and fairness of the code enforcement process.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

Violations are separated into tiers—vacant buildings, soft-story, boiler program, miscellaneous violations.  About 75% of the work is clerical vs field work.  Inspector needs to sign affidavit to confirm posting of notices.  Information is tracked electronically and by spreadsheet to keep people accountable.  Inspectors have to document the results.  Code Enforcement Chief reviews every Notice of Violation for accuracy and documentation.  If a customer is not satisfied, the Chief reviews the inspectors’ work.  The expectation is a 21-day turnaround for all cases (to set up a hearing).  The division engages in quality control every other week.  Two years ago, the department formed the complaint investigation team (used to go to district inspectors) to improve response.

New Initiatives/Recommendations  

  • Per the enhanced quality compliance legislation, assign team lead and develop a new process to refer repeat violators to appropriate State Licensing Board for potential action
  • Expand and clarify public information and outreach around code to further educate the public about code enforcement and violation penalties. 
  • Appoint a new senior inspector to supervise and ensure accountability
  • Make NOVs available to the public in a database


Permit Services

Area of Focus

Ensure plans are reviewed and permits are issued with the highest level of confidence and integrity.

Existing Structure/Safeguards

Permit Services Division assigns projects to plan checkers randomly, so customers can’t ask to get specific plan checkers.  Managers perform quality control periodically.

New Initiatives  

  • Spot checks on plan review and additional quality control.
  • Standardization measures for plan review to ensure consistency.
  • Qless scheduling to ensure projects are assigned to plan reviewers randomly.
  • Defined criteria for rechecks.
  • Established criteria of OTC vs. in-house review to provide better guidelines for customers.
  • Training on how to spot and report typical methods to avoid code compliance per enhanced quality compliance control