Audit Highlights Dallas’ Worsening Building Permit Backlog

Home slab with plumbing sits vacant with city of Dallas in background | Image by FOX 4

It is common knowledge among builders and developers that Dallas has a slow and backlogged permitting process, despite recent efforts from its Development Services Department (DSD) led by Director Andrew Espinoza.

The Matrix Consulting Group, a firm that provides client management, staffing, and operational solutions, was retained by the City of Dallas to perform an audit on DSD.

The audit results found that Dallas’ building permit process is a significant point of contention and frustration among the study’s participants.

The audit, titled: “The Development Services Workflow Evaluation and Staffing Study,” looked at the department’s workflow practices, organizational structure, staffing levels, and technology needs.

It determined several areas that need improvement, including communication, process clarity, timeliness, and responsiveness.

While most respondents felt they understood the building permit processes and requirements, most also said the department’s review times were “too long” and that “staff were unavailable to answer questions.”

The Matrix study highlighted that “the sheer volume of areas listed for improvement illustrates the frustrations stakeholders have with the department and its processes.”

Participants viewed “a lack of communication and responsiveness, unclear processes, slow turnaround times, and ineffective online tools” as the primary issues that need improvement.

The audit tracked results beginning in January. Meanwhile, Espinoza has attempted to address many of the participant’s issues since accepting his role as director in June.

“One that comes to mind is that the consultants are supposed to be putting an engineer on the Q team, our express plan review team,” Espinoza said. “We decided to set up a whole second Q team. Our improvement is in line with the intent of the recommendation.”

“As a department head, I think I know where I want to steer the ship,” said Espinoza. “Having a professional advisor as co-captain is very helpful. He works with other captains and can help navigate busy waters.”

Phil Crone, executive director of the Dallas Builders Association, a trade association and network of Dallas builders, believed the Matrix study was “a long time coming” and that “it did a great job of delving deep into the structure of the department.”

“By and large, it really didn’t tell us anything that we didn’t already know,” Crone said, adding that he liked some of the study’s organizational recommendations.

In particular, Crone appreciated that “they identified the silos that exist between the planning department and development services, and the need for certain things, such as the conservation district plan review, to fall under the responsibility of the department that conducts the actual plan reviews.”

Espinoza was set to present the report to the Dallas City Council on November 2, according to an October 14 memo.

“This will hold the department accountable for implementing initiatives and allow for transparent communication with the development community,” the memo read. “In the interim, Director Andrew Espinoza and his team will meet with individual council members to discuss the Matrix study and to answer questions.”

For a complete list of the study’s 57 recommendations for DSD, click here.

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1 Comment

  1. Senior Pastor

    I hope Espinoza isn’t the captain of the Titanic in this situation. All this could just run aground.


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