The recent launch of our new permitting, complaint, and inspection software did not meet our expectations for effectiveness and service. Customers were initially unable to access or use the system and had trouble contacting us for help. We took immediate steps to correct these issues, working with our partners in Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) to stabilize the system and add resources to the response teams. We continue to identify and correct other issues. Still, we know that this rocky roll-out had a negative impact on our customers and the public and I am very sorry about that. We’re working hard to make this right.
Many of you have asked why we changed systems in the first place, noting that our new system doesn’t do many of the things the old system did. This was a difficult choice to make, but I believe it was the correct call. Our old system was extremely out of date, no longer supported by the vendor, and failing. Our collection of custom applications that made the system more efficient were difficult to update and maintain. We also wanted to be part of a City-wide platform with more integrated services and a single interface for customers. We wanted better automation and greater process efficiencies, and better tracking. For those and other reasons, we chose a flexible, off-the-shelf system that had most of our desired functions and that could be improved over time. Right now, we’re prioritizing system enhancements that we’ll implement over the next several months.
The new system is a big change for our customers and for staff. There are several ways for customers to get help using the new system. The Seattle Services Portal has a robust Help Center that we update with new articles based on the questions you ask and the feedback you provide. We’ll be adding short videos on selected topics and we’ve just recently posted a robust FAQ. If you still need help, see our list of contacts.
Our staff continue to work hard to meet your expectations for timely and effective service. In addition to the new software, we continue to experience record high demand for permits. Our production timelines have extended beyond normal since the system launch, but we’re making progress.
I appreciate your patience as we make the transition to our new system. While the initial launch was rocky, I’m committed to finding solutions to improve the system to better serve our customers and the public.
On July 1, many of the Design Review program changes that were adopted in Ordinance 125429, in October 2017, went into effect. The changes included:
- New requirements for early community outreach for all projects going through Design Review
- Changes to the thresholds that determine which projects are required to go through Design Review
- The type of Design Review that would be required
SDCI and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) also published a final joint Director’s Rule that expands on the new community outreach requirement.
We will be hosting two Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions online:
- July 10, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
- August 14, 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Find us on Reddit’s AMA board day-of, or under DON’s username SEA_Neighborhoods.
For questions about how the new requirements may impact a specific development project, please contact:
Lisa Rutzick, SDCI
For questions about the requirements for early community outreach, please contact:
Danielle Friedman, DON
Washington state law authorizes the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) to impose a fee on residential and commercial building permits issued by local government agencies, plus an additional surcharge for each residential unit after the first unit (RCW 19.27.085). Each Washington county and city is required to send the money collected for this purpose to the state treasurer on a quarterly basis. SDCI has always added this fee and any related surcharges to building permits issued by the City of Seattle.
State law further specifies that the legislature may adjust these charges every four years, although the fee has not changed in several decades. This spring the state legislature established new SBCC fees, effective on July 1, 2018. The fee is increasing from $4.50 on each building permit (plus a $2 additional surcharge on each residential unit after the first unit) to $6.50 on each residential building permit and $25 on each commercial building permit. The $2 additional surcharge remains the same for both residential and commercial. The fees will be automatically added in our permitting system when building permits are issued.
SDCI is in the process of creating a new Design Review Board to serve the Central Area. We are currently finalizing our selection of candidates to fill board positions representing local residential, community, development, business/landscape design, and design profession interests.
Design Review Board members evaluate the design of new buildings based on citywide and neighborhood-specific design guidelines; the new Central Area neighborhood-specific design guidelines were recently adopted and are in effect. The boards review large mixed-use developments, multifamily housing, and commercial projects. Board meetings are held twice monthly in the evenings. The first Central Area Board meeting is expected to be held at the end of July.
For questions about the new Central Area Design Review Board, please contact:
Lisa Rutzick, SDCI