Item Coversheet

New Business and Commission Requests - R9  M


TO:Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Commission 
FROM:Alina T. Hudak, City Manager 
DATE:October  18, 2023



At the December 14, 2022, Commission Meeting, the City Commission discussed and referred Item R7 D, which sought to direct the City Administration to establish an “Ad hoc Permit Process Improvement Advisory Committee,” to improve the City's regulatory permit processes and customer experiences. The Commission unanimously approved and directed the Administration to return to the City Commission in 120 days to report their progress and any preliminary recommendations. An update was provided for the May 17, 2023 Commission meeting.


In late December 2022, the City Manager assembled an internal committee of staff directly involved with permitting, which included Deputy City Manager Eric Carpenter and management staff of the Building Department, Planning Department, Information Technology (IT) Department, Parking Department, Environmental & Sustainability Department, Fire Department, and Public Works Department.


The group established bi-weekly meetings, and one of its first actions included hiring an external consultant to review and provide a comprehensive assessment of the City's current permitting process. Concurrent with the consultant’s review, staff has been meeting either weekly or biweekly for the past six months with the leadership of all the Departments involved in the development review process (Building, Planning, Fire, Public Works, Environment & Sustainability, Parking, and IT). The staff is collaborating on innovative solutions and efficiencies to improve the permitting process and person-to-person interactions and determining how we can improve the customer experience as they go through this critical public safety requirement. Some recent actions include:


  • IT created a centralized webpage where the most visited and needed resources for all permits can be easily accessed. This centralized repository will be the new hub for permitting related resources and will include links to important information as well as improved search functionality.
  • The Administration is proposing an upgrade to our website to improve the user interface, including a Tyler/ Civic Access Portal interactive decision engine tool to help guide people to the required applications and information. Commission approval on the Tyler contract amendment needed to procure this product is on today’s Commission agenda.
  • IT has implemented a change advisory board (CAB) to streamline intradepartmental communication, ensure collaboration on system and workflow changes, and manage upgrades to the permitting software system to improve services. 
  • Based upon recommendations from the Commission we have developed the job description for an ombudsman type position to serve as a key member of the City Manager’s Office, chiefly responsible for advising and guiding small businesses and residents in Building, Planning & Zoning, Public Works, and Fire Permit matters as well as local licensing.
  • Evaluating staff training needs to ensure we provide the employees the best possible chance to succeed in their roles.


More information on each department's efforts to improve the process is in the next section. Additionally, recent data on turn-around times for permit reviews, and information on permit issuance timelines as well as  departmental checklists available online are attached as Exhibit 1. 


In addition, the consultant’s (Berry Dunn, Inc.) work has provided valuable insight on the challenge’s users face, and their recommendation report has been helpful in reiterating various standard best practices. Their report also highlights examples of processes other building departments across the country use to improve customer interaction. Berry Dunn will be presenting at today’s Commission Meeting their findings and recommendations. More information on the consultant’s work is summarized in the last section of this memo.





As part of our commitment to look closely at the permitting processes I’ve asked staff to identify bottlenecks and make comprehensive efforts towards continuous improvements and streamlining.  


All the departments are revisiting and updating their checklists to ensure that all required documents and supplemental permits necessary as part of a development permit, are clearly outlined in the checklist documents for all permit types so that applicants are aware of all requirements from the start of their application process. State law requires that “a local enforcement agency shall post each type of building permit application, including a list of all required attachments, drawings, or other requirements for each type of application, on its website”.  In addition to the checklists/ list of required documents on the Building Department page, below is the number of checklists some of the other departments have on their department website for permitting.


Below is a summary of the immediate actions our departments have made and/or are working towards.


Building Department: The Building department hosts monthly in-person permit assistance and training sessions that are open to anyone needing assistance with specific permit/s or wanting to learn more about the process. While permit assistance or training can be provided anytime, these monthly meetings are well attended, and often commended for their helpfulness in understanding the process better. Additionally, the Building Department regularly sends out email communications with information regarding the process and “Tips of the Week,” which provides a quick read on frequently asked questions. The Building Department process mapped the customer experience to identify opportunities for improvement (“OPI”). Some OPI identified included implementing search engine tools that would simplify the landing page so that users would quickly get to the correct Miami Beach Building Department page. The Building Department has also implemented on an “all-inclusive” permit application that will allow for the submission of applications for master building permit and sub trade permits (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) all at once, therefore alleviating the applicant from having to apply multiple times and have the master permit and sub-permits issued at the same time.

The Building Department is also looking into improving its customer service with regards to inspection notifications and estimated time of arrivals (“ETA”) through technology that will create the most efficient routes for inspectors and will notify the contractors with a more precise ETA.


Fire Department: The Fire Department has added additional availability for pre-submittal meetings to answer code related questions to design professionals and meet with property owners and design professionals after first, second, and all reviews if needed to understand the comments for rejection. Design professional may also submit drawings via email for a pre-approval before re-submittal to avoid subsequent rejections in the system. The Fire prevention reviewers also proactively contact design professionals during plan review for clarification or identification of required code elements to avoid rejecting plans, if possible. During inspections in the field, inspectors may allow redline revision that allow field inspection to continue and not wait for official re-submittal of revision. This also allows for us to provide several field revisions and inspections in the field, so all revisions can be submitted later, resulting in less re-inspections. Additionally, inspectors may manually add additional inspections in the field that the customer was not able to get scheduled in the system due to system prioritization order. Preliminary life safety inspection before TCO or CO can also be requested.


Planning Department:  In an effort to streamline the permit review process, the Planning Department evaluated 208 permit types and work-classes to identify permits routed to Planning which did not require the department’s review. This significant effort served to update the review process by removing unnecessary routing of permits such as Shop Drawings and Sub-permits for Planning-Zoning and Planning-Landscape review if the department’s approval is not required for issuance of the permit. Additionally, the department developed 22 checklists to assist applicants in identifying documents and information required for a complete and successful application submittal.

To further assist applicants, the department continues to provide guidance on designs to meet the City’s Land Development Regulations. Unlike state regulatory codes such as the Florida Building Code and the Florida Fire Prevention Code the City’s Land Development Regulations is not a state-wide code, but rather a unique set of principles which regulate the built environment as well as uses particular to Miami Beach. These regulations can be complex and difficult to navigate and require familiarity with regulations to design compliant projects. As such staff regularly meets with design professionals and property owners to provide guidance concerning compliance with zoning regulations and develop options when applicants are faced with challenging designs or site conditions.

The department has also created a no-cost, fast-track paint permit for applicants selecting colors from the City’s pre-approved paint palette. This permit is available online and can be applied for and issued in minutes. Other services provided by the department include a Historic Property Database to determine if properties are in historic districts or individually designated. This information is important when considering improvements to existing structures which may require approval from the Historic Preservation Board. In collaboration with the Department of Information Technology, searchable databases of Conditional Use Approvals and permits issued in Historic Districts were created. These databases are used by development teams to research prior approvals which may be necessary for applications to Land Use Boards and Building Permits. Additionally, the department also created a series of FAQs for processes related to or requiring Land Use Board approval and posts links to the Resiliency Code which was recently updated to be more transparent and facilitate interpretation by architects and other stakeholders. The department will publish the Resiliency Code using the Gridics platform which will not only enhance transparency of the code but combines several data sources to obtain comprehensive information at the parcel level to facilitate compliant submittals. Implementation is expected by end of 2023.

Environment and Sustainability Department: The Environment and Sustainability Department (“E&S”) receives a high volume of calls for one plan reviewer to address. To make sure that a live person can answer and provide service, E&S initiated a project request with Information Technology (“IT”) in order to create a more efficient phone system for the Urban Forestry Division (“UF”). IT recommended setting up an automated voice recording (“AVR”) system to clearly outline service options for callers; this would prompt callers to select between permit reviews/tree removals, inspections/code violations, and general urban forestry questions. Each menu option directly routes to a UF team member; if a staff member is unable to answer the call, the caller would be routed to the E&S Main Line to reach a department representative, maximizing the user experience and ensuring the public can reach someone during business hours without the added frustration of leaving a voicemail. In addition, the AVR system allows callers to reach team members directly using the employee directory. These options, as well as general information about office hours, are available in both English and Spanish. 


According to the call reports generated by IT, UF receives an average of 130 calls per month. These calls include but are not limited to tree removal permit requests, reports of unapproved tree removals, and questions regarding violation status. UF consists of three members who share these tasks. Inspections are typically conducted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and permits are reviewed daily with a 10-business day deadline for evaluation. UF has an average turnaround time of 8 days for UF Tree Removal permits, and 2 days for Building Department permits requiring the discipline. Since implementing the AVR system on March 31st, staff has found the process to be streamlined, making it easier to receive calls directly related to the roles for which they are responsible and allowing customers to reach a team member if staff are in the field or otherwise unavailable. This is an ongoing effort with IT to make improvements to the system and guarantee a positive resident experience.

Furthermore, E&S performed a thorough review of the Building Department checklists to add newer Ordinance requirements from the Environmental Resources Management Division for sediment and erosion controls and the associated signed affidavit. This ensures everyone is aware of permitting requirements, regardless of how often they seek a Building Permit.


Information Technology Department: The Information Technology Department (“IT”) has implemented the following technical system improvements, including annual upgrades of full server infrastructure to align with Tyler Enterprise Permitting and Licensing (formerly EnerGov) best practices. IT has also designed a more modern infrastructure solution for Tyler. The goal was to 1) create a scalable distributed architecture; 2) conform to an environment that could be better supported by the vendor; and 3) improve overall performance of the system. Furthermore, IT designed and implemented an annual citywide “Software Lifecycle” process by which all three primary ERP systems are upgraded in a more refined and predictable fashion. This has allowed for realistic expectations for the vendor fixes and/or enhancements which are tracked throughout the year through department engagement and daily support operations. The following features have been added as part of the upgrade:


·         Change in customer login experience

Tyler’s Modern Login technology has been implemented, which enables better controls of contacts and will assist in the consolidation and cleanup of records and provide a more singular view for our residents and businesses when using CSS.

·         Change in City Staff User Experience

The Enterprise Permitting and Licensing application will now only be available in a more modern and secure user interface. This will provide a more streamlined and secure experience as departments are transitioned.

·         Records Cleanup -

IT identified that Enterprise Permitting and Licensing had more than 70K open records. These were a combination of Permits Plus records that were transferred over and records that remained open based on several operational factors. IT worked with each department to identify which records could be changed to a more appropriate status and which ones could be closed programmatically. A substantial number of these records were closed, which has led to improved system performance. Departments will continue to work on merging existing contacts and eliminating duplication of new contacts in the future.


Customer Relationship Management System implementation (CRM) - As part of IT’s continuous assessment of Tyler’s products and other technology gaps, IT is working towards the consolidation of hundreds of thousands of contact records for the City’s residents and businesses. As part of this initiative, IT is working to implement a city-wide Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) platform that will allow a more wholistic view of those we serve. This CRM system is expected to go live in the early Fall of 2023 and will provide a centralized look into our customer interactions and records. With this step taken, the City can then introduce solutions for customer information (open requests, permits, violations, etc.) to appear in one place. This would augment the City’s customer service call centers and add functionality to recognize customers when they call in to the phone system. These solutions will allow for more transparency and provide accurate metrics that will enable departments to better tend to our resident and business’ needs.

Telecommunication Improvements - IT is working to implement new call center, 311, and interactive voice response (IVR) systems as part of their multi-year customer experience improvement strategic plan. As part of this initiative, IT has worked extensively with the Customer Service Center and are currently developing improvements with the Building Department, Code, Public Works, and others.  Once complete, City departments will be transitioned and onboarded beginning in the late summer and through the end of 2023.


Public Works Department: The Public Works Department reviewed all permit types and work-classes to eliminate unnecessary permit types/classes. The Public Works Department has also modified the process in which applicants submit permits. Previously applicants were able to apply for different permit types and work classes without providing any initial required documents. The Public Works Department, with the assistance of the IT Department, has modified every permit type and work class to require the applicants to provide all the initial required documents prior to submittal. This will provide more complete initial permit applications and improve the review process. Additionally, the Public Works Department has updated their website to include checklists for each permit type and work class. The Department of Public Works has also created an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) section on their website to provide various detailed answers to various common question applicants may have in regard to general permit questions, as well as specific permit types and work classes. This FAQ page will help guide applicants along the permit process and provide an immediate answer to common questions. Finally, the Public Works Department is in the process of finalizing a monthly survey that will be sent out monthly to active permit applicants, requesting feedback with their interaction to the Department and permitting process as whole. This survey will provide the Department with insightful information regarding the permit process as well as help improve customer service.




The City contracted with Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker LLC (“BerryDunn”) on March 22, 2023 to assist in analyzing the City’s development processes from initial due diligence complete through

certificate of occupancy or completion in order to assist with both process and productivity improvement and to ensure that its regulations and processes relating to development projects are fair, balanced, and efficient.


Upon receiving a Notice to Proceed, BerryDunn began communicating immediately with the Administration to establish schedules, develop a work plan and proceed with transferring information. BerryDunn divided the project into two phases. In Phase 1,  BerryDunn assessed the current permitting process, including, but not limited to, information-gathering, fact-finding meetings, including focus group sessions with external stakeholders (e.g. property owners, developers, contractors, permit expeditors, and other interested parties, etc.),  and as-is process diagrams.

Phase 2, consisted of the consultant’s research, peer benchmarking, recommendations for improvement report and a presentation of its findings and recommendations to the Commission during the September 13, 2023, Commission meeting.  A copy of the recommendations report is attached.


The combined efforts of the City Departments and the Consultant is moving the permit process in a positive direction. Continuous evaluation, collaboration, and implementation of best practices will lead to further improvements and a better customer experience.





Applicable Area

Is this a "Residents Right to Know" item, pursuant to City Code Section 2-14? Does this item utilize G.O. Bond Funds?
No No 

Strategic Connection

Organizational Innovation - Make Miami Beach more business and user-friendly.
Legislative Tracking
Office of the City Manager

BerryDunn - Miami Beach Recommendations for Improvement 8.31.2023
Exhibit 1