Let’s end this Housing Complex Day down at 941 North Capitol Street with nod of credit to where credit is due—-that is to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for making some undeniable strides in how they deal with the city’s permit seekers.
The centerpiece of that is the new permit center, which spokesperson Michael Rupert explains opened in 2007. It brings all sorts of reviews into once place—-structural, electrical, mechanical, water, historical, and zoning (“That’s what really causes people delays,” Rupert says), to name a few. As mentioned before, there’s a comfortable waiting area, complete with TV. Behind the scenes, there’s been a big effort to make all sorts of different computer systems talk to each other, to make the process smoother. And, now, more than 60 of the simplest permits can be applied for online—-saving you a trip here.
So why still so many unsatisfied customers? Rupert says the process is rigorous by design. “There’s a reason there so many engineers and attorneys and architects involved….As a homeowner myself, it’s hard for me to understand why I can’t go down to Home Depot grab some wood, and build a deck….All the laws are in place to protect people.”
In any case, Rupert says, the city is doing more to streamline the process. For one thing, it’s looking at the process of paying for your permits, to try to put together an all-in-one receipt rather than ahave to keep going back and forth to a cashier paying for each part. And maybe someday, Rupert says, builders and architects will be able to submit plans online, saving trips. (Don’t hold your breath, though: “Those systems are expensive,” Rupert says, “and the District isn’t flush with funds right now.”)
The fact remains that troubles obtaining all the proper permissions often lie in other agencies—-WASA, Pepco, DDOT, historic preservation, et al. But DCRA, unlike a lot of those agencies and based on its long awful reputation, Rupert says, “just doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt.”