City bureaus work to improve timeliness and efficiency in building permit process

News Article
This is a photograph of a new single-family home being built.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Dan Ryan appointed a Permitting Improvement Task Force which met three times over two months and was charged with identifying solutions to improving the timeliness and efficiency of the building permit process.

The goal is to reduce the time needed to receive a building permit by one-third. The baseline data that will be used to measure progress toward this goal are the timelines at the beginning of April 2021, when the task force began meeting. These timelines and the goal for each are shown below:

Residential Building Permits (Setup to Approved to Issue)

Permit and Project TypeApril 2021Goal
New Construction98 days65 days
Addition63 days42 days
Alteration41 days27 days

Commercial Building Permits (Setup to Approved to Issue)

Permit and Project TypeApril 2021Goal
New Construction107 days71 days
Addition80 days53 days
Alteration64 days43 days

The task force came up with ten objectives to collectively achieve the goals above. The first objective is for City bureaus to do the work needed to better enable customers to understand what needs to be included with their permit applications, thus reducing the number of applications rejected for insufficient information and eliminating the delays that occur as a result. There are many steps that can be taken by the Bureau of Development Services and other bureaus that are involved with building permits (Environmental Services, Fire and Rescue, Housing, Transportation, Urban Forestry within Parks and Recreation, and Water) to help achieve this objective.

A survey was sent on July 23 to those who applied for residential and commercial permits from January through June 2021, inquiring about the helpfulness of information available to help customers complete and submit their permit applications. The results from the survey will provide data that inform areas for continued improvement in meeting customers’ needs.

Other projects associated with the first objective are underway and include:

  • Documenting Portland Bureau of Transportation and Portland Water Bureau requirements in writing to provide clarity and predictability for customers;
  • Updating and improving the minimum submittal documents available online;
  • Developing a consistent policy across the seven bureaus involved in permitting regarding City staff communications with customers;
  • Updating the user interface in DevHub PDX (the online permitting portal) so that it is more clear what is required to submit a permit application;
  • Enhancing opportunities for early discussions, before a permit is submitted, to answer questions on what to include with the applicant’s specific permit application and provide a roadmap for how a project will move through the permit review process;
  • Expanding which bureaus are involved in pre-screening permit applications to facilitate multi-bureau review early in the permit process; and
  • Increasing the trainings available for customers on a variety of topics. For example, the Bureau of Development Services will be offering two Lunch and Learn trainings in the coming weeks:

The Bureau of Development Services is coordinating efforts with the other permitting bureaus to develop consistent, holistic approaches on these and other elements of the permitting process. Once the projects associated with the first objective are complete, the task force will proceed to the second objective to improve performance management. The task force will convene every six weeks to receive progress reports from the bureaus as they tackle multiple improvement projects and measure outcomes as they proceed. A project manager is expected to be hired through the City’s Office of Management and Finance in the next few months to coordinate this effort and report regularly to the Permitting Task Force and permit customers on the progress made toward each of the Task Force’s objectives.


Ken Ray

Public Information Officer, Development Services