The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled cities to incorporate fully-virtual or hybrid elements into routine city services that were previously completed in-person or on paper, such as building plan reviews and entitlement processing. Throughout the year 2021, the City of Tustin has continued to innovate and refine its procedures to not only adapt to the realities of the pandemic, but to further streamline navigating City processes for staff, residents, and customers alike. Below are examples of how the Community Development Department has accomplished this throughout the year 2021.
Accelerated Building Plan Reviews
The Community Development Department conducts an initial review of building plans within ten (10) business days and reviews subsequent submittals within five (5) business days. The Department hired a new, in-house plan checker to accelerate this review process. An expedited review can also be requested for an additional fee depending on the availability of consultants. Once approved, electronic signatures from all departments are applied to the plans, thus eliminating the use of paper plans and reducing delays for permit issuance.
Plan check by appointment
The City of Tustin is implementing plan check by appointment services every Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for minor projects such as residential solar, patio covers, retaining and free-standing block walls, pools and spas, residential remodels such as kitchen and bathroom remodels, etc. The maximum plan check time allotted for any project is one hour. In order to qualify for an appointment, and for staff to estimate the time required for the plan check, the plans should be submitted by email to Aaron Cowen firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours before the requested date. The subject of the email should clearly state “Plan check by appointment”. You will then receive a confirmation regarding your appointment via email. Planning and Public Works staff will also be available during your appointment time, to review the planning and public works requirements. All appointment requests must be made by email to receive a confirmation.
Online Plan Submittals, Reviews, and Inspections
Customers are able to request services and submit a variety of applications online, including submitting building permit, entitlement, and administrative permit applications, and requesting building inspections. Staff are then able to review such applications and requests virtually to the extent possible, reducing the amount of time these processes would normally take if completed fully in-person. Customers can also request services at City Hall (such as submitting hard copies of plans) by appointment. At their appointment, directional signage leads customers to the appropriate meeting location where they can call city staff using a newly installed intercom unit.
Engage Tustin Mobile App
A mobile application, known as Engage Tustin, was developed to allow members of the public to communicate with city government and staff more effectively. The primary purpose of the application is to allow the public to report non-emergency issues such as code and building violations, potholes, street light malfunctions, and graffiti in a more convenient manner. Photos can be attached to such requests to equip staff with more context regarding these requests, allowing for faster and more meaningful action to take place. Additionally, users can view and register for upcoming classes and activities sponsored by the City, view the City’s calendar of events, pay a water bill, and more. Use of Engage Tustin is free of charge.
Transparency and Community Engagement
The Community Development Department is dedicated to engaging with the public on matters regarding the community’s vision for the future. The year 2021 saw multiple of such projects take the spotlight including the Housing Element Update, Historic Survey Update, and the Outdoor Dining & Commercial Services Survey. Dedicated webpages have been created on the Department website summarizing these efforts and shared on social media as opportunities for community engagement to occur. The community can also keep track of major current projects under review on the Current Projects page on the Department website.
Streamlined DCCSP and RHASP Projects (SB2)
One of the Department’s SB 2 Planning Grant-funded projects includes streamlining applications and review systems for projects within the Downtown Commercial Core Specific Plan and Red Hill Avenue Specific Plan areas. The goal of this effort is to offer streamlined project submittal, review, and approval for development within this area. While these streamlining measures were completed in 2021, a separate critical review of the effectiveness of the two Specific Plans in conjunction with the Strategic Plan goals and objective, will begin in 2022.