AUDIT: DEFICIENCIES AT DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND PERMITTING HAMPER SERVICE TO TAXPAYERS
News Release from Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine, January 7, 2020
(HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I) — The City Department of Planning and Permitting does not provide timely permitting services; the new One-Time Review 60-Day process is not working and DPP’s appointment system allows for abuses. These and other issues have a devastating effect on the economy of the City and County of Honolulu, said Councilmember Kym Pine.
The findings are in the latest report on the Department by the Office of the City Auditor, which Councilmember Pine says highlight the DPP’s need for help. “Employees at DPP are among the hardest-working in the City and the department is seriously under-staffed,” she said.
“Multiple audits of DPP, including this latest report, show that the short-staffed department is failing to provide taxpayers the services it is mandated to provide,” she said.
“The length of time needed to obtain building permits has been a dreaded reality for decades,” Pine said. Because of widespread problems in the department, it only met its two-day goal for residential plan reviews 26 percent of the time in the past five years. The audit says taxpayers submitting residential permit applications have to wait an average of three-and-a-half months to receive approvals.
“Delays in permitting prevent construction projects, large and small, from starting, preventing purchases of supplies and employment of our people,” she said.
As part of a Permitted Interaction Group that has been studying these problems, Pine believes system-wide change is needed. DPP should convert from its inefficient plan-review operation to an inspection-driven model that will catch illegal, non-permitted activity in the field, such as with so-called ‘monster houses.’
“The department neglects to collect fees, resulting in huge revenue losses for the City,” said Pine. “Fees are an important tool to deter bad planning and mistakes and without them, DPP staff is left to correct plans for applicants which wastes time and money and creates backlogs.”
“The proliferation of so-called monster houses under DPP’s watch is a symptom of its deeply rooted problems. “Using the auditor’s findings, some of which both the department and the Office of the Managing Director agree with, I call on the City Administration to move forward to repair this broken system,” said Pine.
Councilmember Kym Pine represents residents of District One (ʻEwa, ʻEwa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko ʻOlina, Nānākuli, Mā‘ili, Wai‘anae, Mākaha, Kea‘au, Mākua) and is chair of the City Council’s Committee on Business Economic Development and Tourism.