Alameda to launch new planning, building permit app

Alameda to launch new planning, building permit app

Michele Ellson

The city's new BuildingEye app will make it easier to find planning, building and code enforcement information.

Alameda’s development-watchers have a new tool to help them keep track of development proposals and construction projects on the Island.

The city has partnered with San Francisco-based app developer BuildingEye to create an interactive map that will make it easier to find planning, building and code enforcement data the city had previously offered in database form.

The app, which officially goes live next week, now contains information on more than 2,000 planning permit applications submitted over the past five years, and the city should finish adding three years’ worth of building permit information this week. In a month or so, the app will also contain three years’ worth of code enforcement information, the city’s building official, Greg McFann, said.

“It’s just opening our data for people to get to so they can see what’s going on,” McFann said. “This is one more way for them to get to it.”

Much of the information has been available through the city’s online planning and building permit database. But getting the information out of the database can be challenging for users, McFann said.

“You sort of need to know how to search for it,” he said.

The city got a demo of the map app in August and has been working with BuildingEye to create something that’s more user friendly, he said.

“I think it’s going to be a great tool,” McFann said.

Users can look up applications by address or by using one of the app’s search filters, which allow users to look up applications by type. They can also click on the map’s location pins to find out what a property owner applied to do and when and whether the application has been approved.

Users who click on the “more details” link are directed into the city’s existing permits database, which offers complete project details, where the permit application is in the city’s process, plan drawings and more.

The app also allows users to sign up for alerts so they can keep track of building projects they’re interested in. For example, Alamedans can set up alerts for upcoming projects in their neighborhoods by selecting alerts based on a certain radius around their homes.

The map features applications for everything from new windows to new residential neighborhoods and commercial projects.

The app has been deployed in other cities in the Bay Area and beyond, including San Francisco, Palo Alto, Salt Lake City and Seattle, the company’s website says.

McFann said the city could consider adding data from earlier years if people request it, but for now, the city wants to see how it works and how far back they want the information available through the app to go.

“It’d be nice to do historic research on projects in certain parts of town,” he said.


Submitted by N.S. (not verified) on Fri, May 29, 2015

This seems like a nifty tool. But what purpose does it serve? Can you use this tool to force the city to investigate non-permitted construction? If my neighbor is doing a build-out without a construction permit or without going through design review and I alert the city, then what? Will the city do anything? I have a neighbor that is doing all manner of construction at his property. I checked with the city and found out that the only permits are to replace windows. Yet one set of outdoor stairs have already been completed on one structure and they are now building a 2nd story deck on another structure. No permits. I have complained to the city numerous times. Nothing. Black hole. The construction is still going on. There has been no response from the city. So again, what does this nifty permit app do? It's for honest people who bother to apply and pay for a permit. Those that don't care to go through the permitting process will get away with it because the city allows them to get away with it.

Submitted by Greg McFann (not verified) on Mon, Jun 1, 2015

The primary purpose of this new tool to make the Planning and Building permit process more transparent. Currently, anyone can check on planning applications and/or building permits and will soon be able to view code enforcement cases. This gives residents an easy way to know what is going on in their neighborhoods. The City of Alameda Community Development Department handles complaints regarding work without permit. Our code enforcement officers clear between 250 to 300 cases annually. However, we receive more complaints then we clear, so not all complaints are resolved immediately. Should anyone feel they are not receiving an appropriate level of response to a complaint or have questions regarding this new tool, I encourage them to email me directly at
Greg McFann
Building Official
City of Alameda

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Mon, Jun 1, 2015

Very useful. Thank you!