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City of San Diego facing 'overloaded' building permit backlog, delaying home renovations

"It's very frustrating," said Chris Dulnikowski, co-owner of Ruland Design Group.

SAN DIEGO — If you're planning to make some renovations at home, you're going to need some patience.

CBS 8 has heard from people who said getting a building permit from the City of San Diego is becoming more and more difficult.

An overloaded system

“I mean it's tough. Everyone is backlogged and overloaded,” said Chris Dulnikowski, co-owner of Ruland Design Group, a firm that specializes in accessory dwelling units, also known as ADU’s.

Dulnikowski spends a lot of time navigating the building permit process. Especially these days, since it takes much longer than it has in years past.

What used to take an average of two to three months, has now doubled, if not more.

"When we give the plans to the building department to when you get the permit on hand, roughly five to seven months if not more," said Dulnikowski.

And that doesn't include construction, which for ADU's, can take well over a year to complete.

Dulnikowski said the delays started during the pandemic, and haven't let up much since then.

Skyrocketing demand 

The delays come as demand for home projects has skyrocketed.

"It's very frustrating but the biggest challenge is with our homeowners. They need space for their parents aging in place. They really want to bring their mom or dad or their in-laws so they can be close to home. That's a year out from when we start the project," said Dulnikowski.

Dulnikowski has an employee whose sole job is to follow up with the city regarding permits.

But even that doesn't seem to speed things up.

What's causing the delays?

CBS 8 asked the city what's behind the delays.

"We've actually experienced unprecedented delays due to the increase in the number of permits that we have received, as well as with all of the staff transition that we've been dealing with the last two years," said Elyse Lowe, director of the city's Development Services Department.

The department is on track to process 70,000 permits this year.

Lowe acknowledges the challenges they're facing, saying not only is there a backlog of permits for larger projects like ADU's, but for smaller ones as well.

"You used to be able to walk into our lobby, sit there and wait, meet with several different people over the counter, and potentially get your permit within a day or two. That process right now takes upwards three or four months," said Lowe.

Lowe said the department is working towards improvements

What the City of San Diego has done so far: 

  • The city council recently approved adding positions
  • Gave raises and restored pensions to help with hiring
  • There are 150 vacancies out of more than 600 employees
  • Gone virtual to make things easier

"100% of our permitting services are online. You do not come into the building other than to look up your records or pay a bill," said Lowe.

Since the system has changed, Lowe suggested homeowners sign up for a free webinar on their website to learn more.

As for what else they can do-make sure what you're submitting is complete to avoid delays.

And as Dulnikowski tells her clients, be patient. “It's worth it, but it's not going to happen overnight,” said Dulnikowski  

WATCH RELATED: North Park couple fixes up troubled home in their neighborhood (June 2022).

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