City Launches Online Tool That Displays Daily Updates of Planning Applications

City Launches Online Tool That Displays Daily Updates of Planning Applications

The City of Palo Alto has partnered with Buildingeye to launch a new interactive online tool that allows citizens and business owners to see what new planning applications are proposed for their neighborhood, as well as view a description and map of the project.  The tool takes current and recently approved planning application records including architectural and individual reviews, and puts them into a user friendly map to make it easy for the public to see the latest planning applications in the city.  

"Over the past several years, the City has been working to increase transparency and make more information of all sorts available online," said Palo Alto Director of Planning and Community Environment Hillary Gitelman.  "This new interactive tool lets the community know exactly where and what is proposed for their neighborhood.  It builds on the functionality we added earlier this year allowing residents to create parcel records with zoning information about their property.  It also complements significant customer service enhancements in the Development Services Department."    

As part of the City's transformed building permit process, the community is now able to access through a 24-hour online website many traditional counter services including applying for certain permits, scheduling an inspection, and checking on the status of their projects.  In addition, the City's Development Services is now using real-time mobile inspection technology that allows inspectors to communicate instantly about the status of an inspection as soon as a review is finished in the field.  

“Partnering with startups such as Buildingeye represents a new model for cities,” said Palo Alto Chief Information Officer Jonathan Reichental.  “The startup acquires timely feedback from government staff that ensures their product meets market needs, and cities get to shape a solution more quickly that works for them.  Palo Alto has leveraged the startup ecosystem for our City operations, which has resulted in both more responsive and timely services for our community, as well as created a model for other cities to emulate.”

How it works
The Buildingeye tool can be accessed at  Once you enter an address or zip code, the planning applications for that area appear as icons on the map.  Each icon is color coded: blue for a new application or one currently under review and a green icon indicates an application that has completed the planning review process.  When you click on an icon, it provides basic information about the application including the project site address, a brief description and the contact details of the project planner.  Information on the site is updated daily from the City’s permit tracking system, and includes data for the past three years.  

There is also a sign up for residents who are interested in being notified when an application in their neighborhood enters the system.

“About one-quarter of the applications are reviews of two-story residents (called Individual Review Applications),” explained Gitelman, “with the remainder a combination of architectural reviews, conditional use variance and signage applications.”    

Filtering tools
The map can be filtered to search by neighborhood, address or zip code, application type and date range. The icons can be turned on and off to show just current applications or only ones that have completed the planning process.  The interactive tool is also available on smartphone and tablet devices.

Email alerts
Anyone can create an email alert for a neighborhood, zip code or drop a pin on your chosen location and a circle with a 600 feet radius appears.

Last Updated: November 10, 2014