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New online tools illustrate the performance of Portland’s building permit system

News Article
The Bureau of Development Services is unveiling a suite of tools to provide real-time information about the City of Portland’s building permit processes, the types of reviews permits go through before they are issued, and the roles of the City and applicant at different stages.

Two online dashboards are now available to help illustrate for the public the current performance of the City’s commercial and residential building permit processes and the considerations involved in different phases.

The Portland Permit Metric Dashboard illustrates permit activity during three different time periods:

  1. Within the last 20 business days (approximately one month),
  2. Trends since January 2019, and
  3. The average lengths of time needed to complete different phases of a permit’s life cycle, from the initial permit request submitted by an applicant to the issuance of a permit that allows work to proceed.

The Review Team Dashboard illustrates the shared responsibility of City permitting bureaus and permit applicants in ensuring the timely review and submission of materials that enable the issuance of a building permit. It illustrates the types of permits that often require more than one review by City staff as well as those that are most often re-reviewed due to updates needed in development plans to ensure compliance with building codes.

Data for both tools are updated hourly on business days.

“These tools are intended to give permit customers a better understanding of the time involved in different phases of the permitting process and the roles of both the applicant and the city in ensuring the timely issuance of a permit, all of which is intended to help customers schedule their projects,” said Rebecca Esau, director of the Bureau of Development Services. “Additionally, these and other dashboards the bureau is creating will inform city leadership working to improve permitting timelines and provide ongoing needed visibility into where delays are occurring, so specific issues can be addressed quickly.”

The Portland Permit Metric Dashboard is organized in three sections. In its first section, it illustrates the numbers of residential and commercial permits set up and approved in the last 20 business days and the average numbers of business days taken to get permits through the following three phases:

  • Intake Request to Permit Setup: This is the initial application status for a permit, when a customer submits an application, plans and drawings, mostly through the online Development Hub PDX service. The amount of time it takes to complete this milestone is influenced by the completeness of the submitted documents. Permitting technicians can set up the permit only when the application and other minimum requirements are met.
  • Pre-Issuance to Approved to Issue: This milestone is the period in which a permit technician performs a quality assurance check on all the updated information that has been requested by the technical reviewers. Permit technicians confirm the final documents have been updated, reviewed and approved by the required technical staff before a permit is issued.
  • Permit Setup to Issuance: This covers the entire period from permit setup to the issuance of a permit which allows the construction of a project to begin.

The second portion of the dashboard illustrates year-by-year figures, since 2019, for commercial and residential construction permit requests received by the Bureau of Development Services. This section of the dashboard describes the changes to permitting processes that the Bureau implemented both before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, including the closure of the Permit Center in downtown Portland and the transition to receiving most permit requests online through Development Hub PDX that began on Dec. 14, 2020.

The third section of the dashboard goes into greater detail on the different stages of a permit’s life cycle starting with the request for a permit from a customer and going through a permit’s issuance, at which point a project can begin. Users can filter the data to illustrate individual calendar or fiscal year data from 2019 forward. Users can also see the duration of different elements of the permitting process such as deferred submittals (permits in which the review of certain aspects of a project are deferred until after a permit issued) and revised permits in which changes in a project’s design, after a permit is issued, warranting further review by city permit technicians and plan reviewers.

This dashboard does not illustrate the time involved between the issuance of a permit and final inspections, during which actual construction activity occurs and after which a project is completed.

The Review Team Dashboard allows a user to explore the timeliness of different permit review teams within the City’s permitting bureaus and identify how much permit review time is taken up by City staff and how much time is guided by a permit applicant’s responsiveness to provide information and plans needed to approve and issue a permit. It allows users to filter information by calendar or fiscal year (since 2019), permit types, project valuations, permit review groups, type of work, project valuations and numbers of reviews.


Ken Ray

Public Information Officer (for news media inquiries)