City turns to technology in bid to dramatically speed up permitting backlog

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The city is reporting progress in tackling its building permit backlog. One key part of that effort: The Planning and Permitting Department is finally phasing out its 26-year-old software system as it rolls out a new platform.

It selected a mainland-based company Clariti Community Development Software as its new permit management system at a cost of $5.6 million.

Permit applicants will be able to apply and pay online.

The department’s “ProjectDox” system for electronic plans will also be upgraded.

“Users will see auto calculated time so DPP or applicant can clearly identify who is holding it up and who’s not,” said DPP Director Dawn Apuna.

“Users will have the ability to download comments and markups into an excel sheet that can be shared with the design professionals prior to the end of review cycle,”

Although it will take 18 months to fully install, Apuna said it will greatly speed up the process for both residential and commercial projects.

“Even though it’s a pretty fast process, it’s very intensive with our staff, helping to build it, but yeah, patience,” said Apuna. “Like I think in 18 months, you’re really going to see a change.”

Apuna said it’s currently taking about a year to review commercial applications and six to nine months for residential.

And time is money.

“Every day of delays costs an enormous amount of money,” said Eric Crispin, vice president of Ohana Real Estate Investors.

“It’s only gotten worse, progressively worse,” added residential designer Jennifer Jackson. “So, for them to now be coming out and saying these things, I’m hopeful.”

DPP said it’ll continue using artificial intelligence for permit review, which is something it started last year. Apuna said it helped to eliminate the 3,600 in backlog in the pre-screen phase.

“It’s not easy hiring people, too, at the level of expertise, which is why I think even more so now our ability to embrace AI is a really important role important for us so that’s where we are,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.

“It sounds very encouraging,” added Crispin.

“I think what Dawn and her DPP staff are proposing is leveraging technology to eliminate a lot of the doubt and a lot of the questions that are typical in the permitting process”

The city’s using federal fiscal recovery funds (FRF) to pay for the technology upgrades.

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