Fresno Mayor Lee Brand Thursday leads the press conference announcing the launch of the city's online permitting portal. Photo by Edward Smith

published on May 31, 2018 - 2:30 PM
Written by Edward Smith

City of Fresno officials announced Thursday in a press conference its new online portal for contractors, residents and developers to apply for construction permits online is ready for business.

The $3.5 million software, titled Fresno’s Accelerated Applications System to Track Electronic Reviews (FAASTER), went “live” on Monday as the first major step in Fresno Mayor Lee Brand’s Business-Friendly Fresno 2.0!, providing a “comprehensive look at all our permitting and plan check processes.”

As an alternative to going to city hall, FAASTER allows users to apply for permits online, including from a smart phone.

“There’s a slight pause, but it’s a lot quicker than coming to the counter,” said Bonique Emerson, DARM Planning Manager.

The program works with the Development and Resource Management (DARM) department, as well as other departments, to monitor and track applications for projects ranging from home improvements to business remodels to multi-million dollar development projects.

Users make a profile on the City of Fresno’s website and can submit all the necessary paperwork and pay the fees associated with a project.

Once the payment has been made, the application is submitted and all of the numerous departments throughout the city review site plans and make comments directly onto the files so users can see in real-time what changes need to be made, as opposed to having to wait for all departments to review a plan and getting them at the end.

The city even made accounts with CalTRANS, the Metropolitan Flood Control District and a number of others agencies outside the city to weigh in on projects.

“As soon as we get our mechanical comments we can download them and start addressing them,” said Sal Gonzales, co-president of Lance Kashian & Co., who got to use the program during its beta testing in April.

This means not having to keep workers waiting while applications are in review stage, said Gonzales.

The rollout of the website is a part of Mayor Brand’s Business Friendly Fresno 2.0!, which seeks to change what some have viewed as an outdated and at-times uncooperative process for homeowners, business owners and developers.

The customer service at city hall even drew the ire of Councilman Garry Bredefeld, whose plans for a money-back guarantee for late permits are still being reviewed by city council.

Now that the website has been implemented, the monitoring the website allows will work toward addressing culture and create accountability, according to Brand. The city can monitor how long a permit stays in a certain department and the city can identify consistently truant agencies.

The website is the first of many projects the mayor and his 16-member task force have developed so far. Other ideas in the works are a customer service liaison, at-risk developments that allow businesses to proceed before applications are approved and pre-qualified third party plan-checks that would identify and suggest architects and engineers familiar with the city code.

But it was the website that had to come first, according to Brand.

“Without this, we can’t go any further,” he said.

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