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City services are now available online and in person

The pandemic forever changed our lives, but it left its share of silver linings—more time with family, more time outdoors, and more time baking. At City Hall, participation in City meetings and access to our Permit Center have gone through a renaissance as well, and today we serve more people in a more efficient, convenient, and accessible way.

Alameda Post - a drill, some screws, floor plans, and a tape measure. Read on for more information on the Permit Center before you start construction

City Council meetings and meetings of City Boards and Commissions are open to the public, and everyone is welcome to attend either in person or virtually (Zoom). If you join us in person at City Hall and would like to make a comment, complete a speaker slip when you arrive and submit it to the City Clerk. If you are joining on Zoom and would like to make a comment, raise your Zoom hand at the beginning of the agenda item you wish to speak on. You can also watch City meetings on Facebook Live or on our live broadcast channel.

Permit Center improvements

The City’s Permit Center serves the critical function of making sure homes and buildings in Alameda are safe. This applies to new construction and work on existing homes and businesses. Before the pandemic, the City averaged 12,000 visitors to the Permit Center each year, which means that on any given day, 65 to 120 individuals came to City Hall during business hours to meet with our staff. We did not handle any permits by email or virtually.

Things have improved! We are serving more people than ever through our online Permit Center portal, and through these efficiencies, only about ten people who need permits come to City Hall in person each day. We also serve people by phone, respond to an average of 5,000 emails a year, and started hosting virtual meetings last year, completing 418, and we are on track for more this year.

By innovating the City’s Permit Center, we are meeting residents and property owners where they are at, and the results are significant! Last year, the City issued more than 4,000 permits for property improvements worth $189 million, including renovating older commercial buildings to support new industries and jobs, single-family home additions and remodels, energy-efficient window replacements, solar panel installations, and home electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

Alameda Post - two women smile at the camera
Permit technicians Jennifer and Eva. Photo courtesy Sarah Henry.


But we want to make getting a permit even easier, so I asked Permit Technicians Jennifer and Eva for their top 5 pro tips:

  1. Don’t start work or order supplies before getting a permit. It will slow you down and cost you more in the long run.
  2. Dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. You’ll save time and money by working with a licensed professional to prepare your plans in advance.
  3. Make sure you submit your permit application when prompted. Then check the status of your permit application online to see what steps are complete and what items are still pending.
  4. Reach out to us! The City responds to permit applications within two weeks. If you haven’t heard from us in two weeks, there’s probably something wrong, so please give us a call.
  5. Check the City’s Permit Center web page for more information. The Planning Division has all the information you might need, including changes to what’s allowed in residential zones and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), a guide to residential design, information about what’s required to replace windows, tree removal guidelines, guidance on who can prepare plans, and dozens of forms and handouts, including a code complaint form.

Still have questions? Call the Permit Center at 510-747-6800 or or email [email protected]. We are open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. By the way, if you call us and reach voicemail, always leave a message with your name, the reason you are calling, and your phone number—we will reply within 24 hours.

Sarah Henry is Communications & Legislative Affairs Officer for the City of Alameda. Reach her at [email protected].

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