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Permit hours to expand

City allocates $60K in bid to ease access for residents and contractors.

June 27, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

La Cañada Flintridge is a city full of homes being built up, torn down or remodeled, and contractors doing business here are about to get a break from City Hall.

Later this summer the city will expand the hours that staffers are available to approve plans and building permits from two hours in the morning to most times throughout the business day.

On Monday the City Council voted to allocate $60,000 in the 2012-13 budget to improve customer service at the building and safety office. The office, which conducts plan checks and issues building, plumbing, electrical and mechanical permits, will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a lunch break from noon to 1 p.m. The office is currently open from 8 to 10 a.m.

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The change will take effect after the city formally approves its new budget, which is expected to take place July 16.

Contractor Bill Abel said changing the office hours will be a boon for Abel Builders.

“I would be so happy I could throw a party,” Abel said. “Expanding the hours is a marvelous idea, because two hours is just never enough.”

The office frequently fills up with contractors and residents, prompting staff to stay on hand until as late as noon, according to a city budget report.

Director of Community Development Robert Stanley said the change is meant to prevent the log jam.

“The hope is everybody doesn't come in the morning like they do now, that they'll spread it out throughout the day,” Stanley said. “If it turns out that doesn't help to clear that up, we'll pursue a different strategy.”

Stanley said the office will provide feedback to the council every six months to make sure the change is improving service.

The city is also creating regular office hours for city Building Inspector Joseph Rojas, who is frequently on site at inspections. Rojas will have office hours from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

John Mills of Behr Construction in La Cañada said the city's move is “unbelievably great, because [we] have been hindered in the past by it being closed.”

Abel said he would love to see the city offer some services by appointment to further reduce wait times, but he's happy with the current proposal.

“My hat's off to Robert Stanley. I know he's been trying to improve the process,” he said.

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