Tehachapi City Council members voted to approve a contract with Sidwell during the Sept. 8 regular council meeting in an effort to streamline the application process for housing permits.
According to Jay Schlosser, the city's development services director, the city received $160,000 from a Senate Bill 2 housing grant as part of the Planning Grants Program funding. The program made available $123 million in noncompetitive grants to California localities. It provides one-time, over-the-counter grants to local governments to update a variety of planning documents and processes that streamline housing approvals and accelerate housing production.
"The state announced back in 2017 a number of programs available at one time associated with the governor's desire to see an increase in housing in the state of California," Schlosser said.
The grant, based on a sliding scale per capita, was a simple one for the city to apply for, Schlosser said.
The city is free to use the grant for anything that can be justified and used for the production of housing.
"One of the areas that the grant was targeting was the modernization of the permitting process," Schlosser said. "A lot of agencies, ourselves included, are pretty heavy in paper because how we process all that stuff (permits)."
Sidwell, a company that aids in the permit tracking process, will assist the city in overhauling the permitting department. This will include a citizen's portal where the public will be able to apply for some building permits from home online without having to go to the city's office.
"This program will help us keep all this information in a single repository, and it will automatically tell participants when they need to do something with the permit," Schlosser said, adding, "Hopefully, the applicant will be able to get online and communicate with the inspector and solve problems more quickly."
Schlosser estimated it will take the city about six months to install the software.
"This new software will make it much easier for our customers to process building permits and planning items," said City Manager Greg Garrett.