ABAG’s Regional Housing Technical Assistance Program is offering up to seven free, one-year licenses to Bay Area jurisdictions to pilot an innovative online tool from Symbium Corp. called Plancheck that streamlines residential site plan review for applicants and planners by incorporating the participating jurisdiction’s residential municipal code regulations into the tool for a customized plan review experience.
Members of the public and planning staff can enter an address online, select any project scope (i.e., construct a new single-family residence) and Plancheck will instantly display only the relevant zoning regulations that will impact the project. It will perform an instant, initial compliance check of the project against non-discretionary regulations such as lot size, floor area and required parking. Plancheck also surfaces all relevant application forms per the project scope and location.
Additionally, the tool automatically generates an editable first draft of comment letters for planning staff to provide to applicants.
- Check out Plancheck in this brief video: https://vimeo.com/647431334 (Password: ABAGPILOT).
- Hear from a local government staffer about participating in the pilot program from this short interview with Avery Stark, Associate Planner, Milpitas: https://vimeo.com/730509582 (Password: ABAGPILOT).
- Ask ABAG staff your questions via email at HousingTA@BayAreaMetro.gov or Symbium staff questions or request a software demo by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Participate
To be considered for a free Symbium license, complete this short, online questionnaire by December 16 at 5 pm. Responses will be evaluated based on the local jurisdiction’s availability of data, commitment to accelerating housing and how Plancheck would be used to address existing bottlenecks in processing residential permits.
Current pilot participants may apply for a second year of funding, but the first priority for remaining licenses will be to new applicants.
Plancheck assist with the process by:
- Automating responses to routine questions (i.e. how many parking spaces does my project require), allowing staff to focus on more complex, discretionary analyses.
- Ensuring that regulations are consistently applied.
- Reducing the time needed to train new planning staff on complex regulations and plan reviews.
- Allowing applicants with the public-facing portal (at no additional charge), to quickly learn what regulations apply to their project and what forms are required for a complete submittal, improving customer service, speeding up processing and freeing up staff time.
Staff time required
The local government staff time required to configure Symbium Plancheck varies depending on the complexity of the zoning code. Symbium’s in-house team of highly experienced, senior-level planning professionals assume the overwhelming majority of the work. Any code- and data-related questions that the Symbium team has will be batched in emails sent no more than once a week, and which should require no more than 12 hours of staff time to respond to. Symbium is committed to requiring as jurisdiction staff time as possible.
The City of Milpitas participated in the first cohort. “Symbium's unique approach and its team of planners who understand zoning codes allowed Milpitas City staff to spend surprisingly little time on getting Plancheck up and running," said City of Milpitas Planning Director Ned Thomas, AICP. "City staff spent the few hours devoted to onboarding Milpitas onto Plancheck focusing on testing complex project scopes and addressing ambiguities in our code."
Pilot Program Administration
ABAG will hold the contract with Symbium for these licenses and provide log-in credentials to pilot participants, who will then work with Symbium to customize the tool for use on city or county websites. Beyond the pilot, ABAG has negotiated favorable pricing for all ABAG jurisdictions with populations up to 700,000 to subscribe to Plancheck with price increases limited to no more than 3% per year.