How to fix Humboldt: permit simplicity?

THC has been day dreaming about ways to help address some of the most pressing problems in Humboldt. Of course, we have to call it day dreaming because, despite of how freaking awesome our ideas are, the thought of our government entities actually doing something positive can be met with only one response – you’re dreaming!

But we’ve stumbled on something that we think can make a real difference. Read on, and then tell us what you think in the comments below (or in those really kind emails you all keep sending us!)

A reader gave us a tip to read up on a program that a handful of cities and counties in California are already adopting, and which has already provided some promising results.

We are talking about permit simplicity – a program that allows businesses the obtain a permit for improvements to an existing building in one day. (We know – we almost didn’t believe it ourselves!)

A group, simply called “Permit Simplicity,” has a schnazzy website set up where you can read all about it. You can visit the site here: Permit Simplicity

In a nutshell, businesses can submit plans prepared by a designated, pre-qualified professional architect or engineer which will be reviewed by the planning staff, and a permit will be issued the next day. It’s so groovy we just can’t say how groovy it is enough times!

The permit simplicity program has already been put in place in Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Yolo County, Sacramento County, and Stockton, according to Permit Simplicity.

You can read about the particulars of how a few different municipalities have fared so far with the program here, here, and here.

The fact that businesses could potentially have their improvement to buildings approved is great, but that application really only scratches the surface. THC is all worked up into a lather because we see huge potential for permit simplicity to help in many other ways.

First off, let’s point to economic growth potential for businesses trying to invest in the Humboldt Community. That’s reason enough in our mind, but the list goes on.

Allowing private architects and engineers to handle the process of vetting the plans will drive up the amount of work being given to the private sector. (Generally speaking, more work = more jobs.) On top of that, taking those duties away from planning staff would be a huge boon to those, ahem, chronically overworked and understaffed government agencies we keep hearing so much about in Humboldt. Plus, any reduction in the amount of time one has to spend dithering around with planning staff is an attractive proposition.

But what if this program were to expand beyond being available to only businesses, and only for improvements to existing buildings? What if homeowners, or people who want to build their own home, could utilize the program? Voila! Easier to build a house. We all know, from when THC touched on the idea previously, that increased housing stock of any type makes affordable housing for low-income folks way easier to find. Not to mention that the process could apply directly to building more affordable housing as well.

Finally, we think that permit simplicity could be a huge win in helping Humboldt County get people to actually register with the County for cannabis cultivation. Think about it – less direct involvement with the ever-untrustworthy Planning and Building Department could mean tons more people would be interested in signing up. Not to mention that providing an easy avenue for people to bring their currently un-permitted homes into compliance via quick and easy one-day permits for improvements would mean that’s one less barrier for people to qualify for these programs. This could actually help make the marijuana cash cow provide the fruits to County coffers the way all the Supervisors and Planning Commissioners want us to believe.

If we added in the online permit tracking program that Sonoma County has adopted – and which we also happened to write about recently – then THC thinks Humboldt might really be in business! What do you think?

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6 Responses to How to fix Humboldt: permit simplicity?

  1. Marc Delany says:

    All professionals sign off and approve first.

    Who is now paid to process the permits, and who would be able to if it were farmed out? All qualified (state certified, or otherwise licensed work…. licensed by the state…. should be approved over the counter, with checks to follow, rather than precede the permission.)

    Once the conceptual project is approved or otherwise allowed under planning regulation, any qualified professional should be able to get a quick approval from staff. Generally staff is NOT an architect or engineer… they know only the bureaucratic process well… Also, projects vary from garden sheds to malls…. anything less than a house should be approved by the licensed professionals and signed off by the jurisdiction that is reviewing to assure the public that licensed folk are on it.

    The staff we pay already should be able to do 99% of this in a day or so, depending on common sense factors…. Look at the project numbers per staff past few years. “Full cost recovery” is a strange idea for staff already paid to complete the same task.

    The process is largely in the hands of staff to create as simple or complex process a review as the county wishes. Staff should be reviewing laws and ordinances as affected in a project, not Cart Blanche. Have you ever seen the scope of work for permit review????

    I think staff are often confused about their role. When there is a difference of opinion between a licensed engineer and staff, whose recommendation and design must be followed?… I’m sure all the public is appreciative of staff oversight, protection and review, even more so if that review did not slow, stop or increase the expense to the point where the project cannot be contemplated or completed… which is what is happening now.

    This solution has been suggested many times, and as a savings for affordable housing development.

    It is a GREAT suggestion, lets do it this time.

    Marc Delany
    Retired – Sr. Construction Specialist, City and County of SF, Mayors Office of Housing (affordable housing), Affordable Housing nnnConsultant – Ghoti & Co.


    • Henchman Of Justice says:


      Nice write up, but part of it is flawed.

      Anything less than a house still qualifies for 30 day reviews, possible special permits, etc…..

      Then, of course, different counties have different zoning requirements.

      Then, of course, swapping a professional for staff may or may not save time, just depends on workloads…..professionals can be slow too.

      And finally, no matter WHO prepares the casework/application review, the county issues the permit. Something they dont like, its still on the applicant.

      Staff already makes it simple for certain things like predesigned drawings ready for permit because they are pre-approved, braced wall lines identified and all……………..a problem is all the structures and their locations that dont mesh with normal, but scream outrageously HUGE or CONFLICTED development impacting environment.

      A non square box versus a castle, or infill versus outfill, or commercial versus residential, or single family versus multi family, or ag versus timberland, or park versus native indigenous natural resource conservation areas, or private versus public (SMA’s, ROW’s, ED, Quitclaims, etc… ), you can figure it out as being complex and the reality is too much intervention by others is mandated because it forces economics to be created and the justification is public safety and rights and a real estate market ……(outsourcing creates cash flows, wealth transfers, illegitimate jobs, etc)


  2. Henchman Of Justice says:

    Staff this, staff that, staff, staff, staff…..Staff Infection is a hospital thang…..

    As far as online tracking – stupid

    “The process should be simple, simple is not tracking”.

    As far as next day permits – negligence

    “If a permit application comes in, no way in hell is one day gonna check and balance.

    Staff may not be licensed engineers, but they are respinsible for approving safe structures.

    “Problem is staff cherry picks processes because they can. Staff favorites go through quick, while staff enemies go sloooooowly.”

    Even when engineers do calculations, staff says it is wrong, so to say staff is uneducated on the things they are involved in is misguided.

    Again, it is about priorities of swift application processing not getting stuck behind fucking grant proposals for pulled pork projects, or staff dealing with assanine requests by supes on pot, general plan, or any other less than intelligent idea. Or, Planning Commission assanine requests…..and so much more.

    BTW THC,

    If staff must allow a 30 day referral/review/comment period on applications for projects, or public notices, planning commission hearings, etc….how the fuck are ya gonna issue a permit in a day when all these state mandated laws for due process exist?

    It is easy…..get the application and process it without hickups caused by other workloads.

    God damn it, how fucking hard is it to “not multi task”? Do the fucking job and quit making fucking excuses.

    Oh, and fuck these other counties as models……ya, one gubbamint model is a model for all gubbamint… radish bullshit.


  3. Henchman Of Justice says:

    Here is a form of prejudice, bias and not protecting individual rights, nor a due process that is to be “indiscriminately standardized”:

    ~ “We are talking about permit simplicity – a program that allows businesses the obtain a permit for improvements to an existing building in one day. (We know – we almost didn’t believe it ourselves!)”

    Response: HOJ points out yet again how business is favored over individual personhood, aka economics versus individual rights…… of money versus living life prior to economics.


  4. Shak says:

    First three videos: Global & Regional. I haven’t listened to the rest yet.
    Be very aware that the criteria for regional & global consists of multi-housing permits only. Single housing & rural housing are obliterated. Yes, even renovating single family dwellings is out. If you build a store, it must have apts above. If you build apts, they must have a store below. No garages for cars.
    While it’s about time they streamlined, a deeper look without the hype & charm is paramount.
    Don’t forget the AFFH program that forces integration whether you’re for it or not. They tell YOU who will be living in YOUR multi-home.
    Homework, not hype work, required here.


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