Citizen Engagement, State and Local Government

Enabling City Growth with Online Permitting


Online PermitTigard, Oregon is located just minutes southwest of Portland and like most metropolitan suburbs, its population is growing quickly. Incorporated in 1961, the community continually strives to maintain a small town feel while blending in the amenities of a modern city. As Tigard aimed to improve its citizen engagement strategy, one small town holdover was their outdated permitting process for construction workers, land developers, and business owners.

Construction permits could only be obtained via mail, fax, or through a visit to City Hall. Even more, in addition to placing a burden on the citizens, processing these paper permits cost Tigard over $20,000 annually and took 2 to 3 days to review and complete once received. Making this matter more pressing, growth projections predicted that the city would need 4 million more square feet of commercial space in the next 20 years to support its growing constituency’s demand for private sector businesses. It quickly became clear that Tigard needed a better way to facilitate this growth.

Working with Accela, the city implemented an online permitting system for simple permits, like electrical, mechanical, and plumbing improvements, to residential and commercial projects. Licensed contractors can use Accela Citizen Access to submit applications and schedule inspections online, all on their own schedule. This digitized ePermit system also lets inspectors access data from the field via their mobile device to speed up the approval process.

By moving the system online, contractors no longer have to wait days to get started on a project; in a few clicks, contractors can submit their information to get the approval they need. Even more, Tigard’s customer service staff has more time to help walk-in customers with more complex questions or other issues.

Since implementing Accela’s solutions, Tigard’s permit center has issued thousands of permits, resulting in well over $100M in combined project value. The ability to streamline approvals, cut down on paper waste and costs, all while improving citizen experiences, has been invaluable.

But Tigard isn’t the only city to adopt the Accela Civic Platform. Just a few months ago, the City Council of Huntington Beach, CA unanimously selected Accela to update and streamline their 14 year old permitting system. The software upgrade will encompass the processes of various departments across the city, including building, fire, planning, and public works. With more modern, digitized procedures across all departments, City employees will be able to speed up processes and response times to citizens.

Given the results of Tigard and the promise of Huntington Beach, it’s no surprise that more and more cities across the country are planning to embrace Accela. Last week, Albany, OR launched their Building Eye program, which is based on Accela. The system promises to reduce the city’s phone calls related to permits and inspections by 60%. San Diego, CA is also looking to Accela to digitize their 46,000 annual permits, 4,000 code enforcement cases, and 137,000 project inspections.

To read Tigard’s full program development and results, click here to download. For more information on how Accela facilitates the progression of citizen engagement goals with enhanced digital services, check out this overview.

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