July 23, 2013
County Planning & Development Services (PDS) customers can add a couple of new services to the growing list of things they can do online without having to drive to County offices: getting residential solar building permits and making payments on their projects and into their project trust accounts.
PDS created the new services as part of its continuing effort to make the permitting and planning process easier and more convenient for customers in the unincorporated communities.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Greg Cox said, “These are exactly the kinds of services can make life easier for County customers and save them time and money.”
The first new service will let people get residential solar panel permits online without having to wait in line at building counters. The new service takes on extra importance because more and more homeowners are looking to put up solar panels and cut electricity costs.
In the 2012-2013 fiscal year, PDS issued 2,420 solar building permits. That was 71 percent more than the 1,411 the department issued in 2011-12, and more than five times the 433 it issued in 2008-09. County residents have been able to get residential solar permits and plan checks for free since 2001, when the County Board of Supervisors voted to waive fees to support the solar movement.
The second new service will allow County customers to make payments on their projects, which are identified with “Record IDs,” or to make deposits into their project trust accounts, which customers create when they submit discretionary projects that need County approval. In general, customers pay deposits into trust accounts to cover what it will cost the County to begin processing their project. The new online payment system only accepts Electronic Checks (eCheck), or Electronic Funds Transfers. Record payments will include a $2.25 convenience fee per transaction; trust account deposits won’t require a fee.
Customers can find detailed explanations showing how to use the new online services at the PDS website by clicking on the “Accela Updates Frequently Asked Questions” link.
The new services join a number of other online features that the department has introduced to help customers.
Some of those online services include:
- Looking up property records and information, such as building permits for property improvements, boundary lines, zoning classifications, etc.
- Submitting applications for residential building permits online for items such as electric heat pump/AC repair or replacement, gas line repair, window replacement, and water sprinklers.
- Estimating how much projects will cost.
- Checking to see what the “real time” wait times are for business counters at the PDS offices.
In addition, the department has taken other actions to improve customer service. In June, it opened a Quick Business Counter to shorten wait times for customers.