Yup - time for Mr. Crankypants again.
I heard on the news last week that the city is reducing staff at Ye Old Permit Office. Well, this makes sense - no money floating around means no new buildings being built and equals no need for permits. I did not however think of the downstream impact. I went downtown last week to get a simple permit to install an exhaust fan. No big deal. There are different kinds of permits. 'Over The Counter' for simple stuff, and Full Plan Review for more complex jobs. (i.e. leave your first born) One type of the OTC permits is called a 'Subject To Field Inspection' or STFI - yes, they call it a 'Stiffy', it's supposed to be the simplified permit to save us all money.
There are a myriad of rules applicable to each type of permit. The Department of Planing posts these rules on what the call 'Customer Assistance Memos' or CAM's. Now these rules are all suppose to be followed for each permit but once you've been getting permits for a while you learn which pieces of information you really need as opposed to what's in the CAM. And by 'learn' I mean you get tired of watching the counter staff tear apart your permit application packet, tossing what they don't feel they need. It's completely arbitrary how they enforce the rules and totally depends on who you get at the counter. Oh, and just to make it interesting they can, and do change the rules at their whim and do not update the CAM or notify their customers.
Woe to those who might be tempted to point out to the ridiculous-ness of it all to the counter staff, your going to have to deal with these folks again. Believe it or not these people know me, and pretend to like me. Lovely.
So I go in last week with my dinky little permit application for a job that has a total cost under a $1000. The first new twist is that they now require a schematic drawing of the work. The dude hands me a blank sheet of paper. (?) He thinks I can scratch this out on the counter. Like I have all the measurements in my head. (???) Not knowing any of the details of the job, I tuck tail and head back to the office. Jay will have to draw them up. So we get that together and I go back in today with my little drawing and application packet and I'm told that I also need the legal description of the property. Ok, I can handle that. It's on the application form, always has been, no matter that they've never required it before. The gal gives me the phone number of the city agency that has that information. So after dialing the number and wading through the 7 part telephone dialing tree. I get to the right department and I'm told the description is too long to give out over the phone. I'll need to look it up online and print it out. The funny part you ask? They are asking me for information that they already have in their own computer system!
So! Fine. I head back to my house as it's closer than the office and print out my legal descriptions and go back to the permit office. Now bear in mind the cost of the permit and the labor to get them is charged to the customer. So the city has just cost the customer double my labor on top of the permit cost that is already about 1/5 of the total project. What it really comes down to is they're positions are under scrutiny so they are going to go by the book the whole way. If it takes twice as long to get a permit, fine it's no matter to them. It's job security.
I finally leave victorious with my permit in hand and start the climb back up the 8, long, up hill blocks, in the rain, to my car. I'm with in sight of it. I've almost made it and...
a pigeon poops on me.
I'm certain it's in the employ of The City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development.