Dallas Recognizes Progress in Commercial Permitting Processing

Dallas Chief Building Official Andrew Espinoza | Image by City of Dallas
Dallas Chief Building Official Andrew Espinoza | Image by City of Dallas

Dallas’ chief building official told the Economic Development Committee on Monday that the Development Services Department’s performance has improved, as seen in the recent public launch of the commercial permit activity dashboard.

The committee consists of Chair Tennell Atkins (District 8), Vice Chair Omar Narvaez (District 6), Carolyn King Arnold (District 4), Paul Ridley (District 14), Kathy Stewart (District 10), Adam Bazaldua (District 7), and Chad West (District 1).

“We’re happy to report that we’re following through on our commitments,” Espinoza said at the June 3 meeting. “The data we’ve collected revealed Development Services is performing at a very high and consistent level.”

The new dashboard went online on June 3 — less than a month after Espinoza told the same committee that some residential permits are being issued within four days.

In a memo sent to the mayor and city council, Assistant City Manager Robin Bentley explained that as of May 30, 2,558 commercial and residential construction permit applications had been submitted to the City of Dallas, and of those:

2,470 applications were submitted in categories with a median issuance time of less than a month.

88 applications were submitted in categories with a median issuance time of over one month.

“DSD staff will continue to review and react to the data revealed by the two dashboards with the goal of providing excellent customer service, timely issuance of permits, and predictable and consistent processes to the Dallas development community,” Bentley wrote in the memo.

During the meeting, Senior Data Analyst Daniel Dudek demonstrated how to maneuver the new dashboard and walked committee members through the latest data, saying “the bulk” of commercial permit applications are for remodels. As of June 3, the commercial dashboard showed:

  • 26 applications had been submitted.
  • 36 applications were issued.
  • 104 permits were in the queue.
  • The number of median issued days was 301.

Some committee members praised DSD for its work, electing to blame applicants for delayed processing times and knocking the media for covering DSD’s struggles with permit backlogs, long turnaround times, and various inefficiencies under former City Manager T.C. Broadnax.

“This has been a topic, of course, that’s been a priority for the council for quite some time now,” Bazaldua said. “I think it also helps our staff’s ability to navigate what I believe is a pretty high-profile topic that often, the City is to blame every single time. I hope that we continue to take feedback from the stakeholders throughout the process on how we can continue to make this transparent. It provides a layer of sophistication that’s been lacking in our City.”

“It’s usually applicants, but then a story gets told and that’s the story because the perception is the reality,” Narvaez said. “The networks and the news, they jump on it and it becomes almost impossible to show what’s going on without pointing out one applicant. Now I can say the dashboard says there’s seven applicants that are outstanding that are over 120 days. Now, what’s wrong with these seven?”

Bentley attributed some of the permitting delays to a limited number of applicants.

“The commercial permitting dashboard reveals that a small number of applications are taking an enormous amount of staff time, with up to nine revisions required prior to issuance,” Bentley stated in her memo. “Rather than continue to dedicate staff time to permit applications that are fundamentally unready for review, DSD will develop plans for two customer service interventions to improve the quality of applications.”

Bentley explained that those interventions include “a more robust predevelopment process” and developing a program to “intervene with elevated customer service and technical assistance when a permit application has been through a targeted number of revisions.”

“I don’t want to point fingers, but typically it’s an applicant,” Narvaez said. “It’s not really on permitting at all. It has to do with a specific issue that the applicant is choosing not to take care of. By having this [dashboard], it shows the reality of what’s going on with the general public and the news media. I think this is going to help you guys cover your tails a little bit.”

The commercial permit dashboard can be accessed here, and the residential permit dashboard can be accessed here.

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