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“DCRA is hopeful that the site will eventually be restored, but the data issues must be resolved before it is.”

by Prince Of Petworth March 1, 2016 at 3:45 pm 23 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

From DCRA:

“DCRA has removed its permit status check page also known as Online Building Permit Application Tracking (OBPAT) application from its website.

DCRA recognizes that some constituents are disappointed about this decision. In short, DCRA found that-the information was too often unreliable and resulted in misinformation to constituents. This is totally unacceptable, DCRA is hopeful that the site will eventually be restored, but the data issues must be resolved before it is. DCRA is committed to transparency, but transparency is helpful when accurate information is available. It is DCRA’s goal to have truthful, accurate communication from staff, and the public access sites need to reflect that as well.”

  • dat

    WOW. Whould would have thought DCRA could actually get worse??

  • Cassie

    Free for all! Either we’ll call in every single construction project we see, or none at all. So the inspectors will either be run ragged inspecting perfectly permitted sites, or sit idly by as illegal construction brings down even more row houses.

  • Gene

    This is embarrassing.

    Fairfax County has had the same online system in place and perfectly functional since 1999 and yet here we are in DC, a city that has collected more than 2 billion in budget surpluses the past 13 years can’t figure out how to make an online permit tracking system work in 2016.


  • Pathetic. The DCRA’s incompetence has killed an incredibly useful data sources for the public… so much for open government.

  • Aidan

    Going to DCRA makes going to the DMV feel like a day at the spa. We spent well over a month trying to get permits to build a simple wooden fence (all within height and spacing regulations) around our house. When my wife first went to the DCRA, she dealt with some older gentlemen (I used that term loosely) who, when she corrected him about the proposed fence specification, decided to throw the book at us just because he could. Although he had already approved the permit, he took it back, went into the back, and then came out telling us that we now needed three permits – structural, zoning, and a DDOT public space permit (I think those were the three – can’t remember for sure). When I found out, I used their search tool combined with google maps street view and could not find a single fence within a 10 block radius that had been required to get a DDOT permit. I pointed this out to them, but to no avail. They just don’t care. Have been told since that if you just want to get your permits approved without all the hoops to jump through, best and only option is to hire a permit expediter. If I had to guess, many of these expediters are just retired DCRA guys who I’m sure are providing kick-backs. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but it’s a fact that DCRA is the worst.

    • Anonymous

      I think you’re wrong about that. Some of the expediters providing kickbacks haven’t worked for DCRA before.

    • anon5

      If he’s the guy at the structural review desk, then I know exactly who you’re talking about. Similar thing happened to me. I was waiting patiently in the main seating area for my number to be called. When it was called, I started walking to his desk, but while I was walking there, he punched the call button two more times in a span of maybe 10 seconds. Then he punched the next number as I was sitting down. He told me to go get another number and start over. I said no, I’m sitting down now because you just called my number 15 seconds ago. Argument ensued. He agreed to look at my documents, but then threw the book at me with all of the “errors”, and as a result I had to pay my architect an extra $500-$1000 to label all the things that he wanted on the drawings. I should have taken a new number and waited another hour.

      And you are absolutely correct about the permit expediters. I hate to say it, but the best permit expediters are attractive women who ask butter up the DCRA employees with questions about their families, children, and other unrelated nonsense before handing them the drawings and permit applications.

      Now, for what it’s worth, many of the other employees at the other desks were very accommodating and friendly, and the process moved smoothly. But the structural review guy….grrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  • Adrian

    I was hoping to hear about this because I use that several times a day to see what’s going on with different projects. It’s been very frustrating with it down as my wife and I are in the middle of a project.

  • ace

    perfect! now’s my chance to build an illegal pop-up with fake permits posted and nobody is the wiser!

  • Anon

    My favorite experience was when the DCRA inspector came to my house to approve a properly permitted project. He spent 30 seconds looking at the work, but spent 15 minutes talking about how this city is too expensive for him to live in as he only makes $XXK/year. As I started to reach for my wallet he finally signed the approval… Of course I didn’t hand over any cash, but it was pretty funny that’s what appeared to get him to put pen to paper.

    • AngelaGirken

      Out of curiosity, do you remember the number? I’m sure it’s public information, but good luck with us finding it with these systems being as unreliable as they are.

    • anon

      Ha – I had a similar experience with a DCRA inspector. Looked at the work for 30 seconds, said fine, and then spent 15 minutes complaining about how incompetent DCRA is :)

  • Aninymous

    What a cluster. And I didn’t think it could possibly get worse!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, what a giveaway to flippers and developers. Just when you think DCRA couldn’t get anymore corrupt or less transparent….
    Folks, please be in touch with your ANC and council reps. There needs to be an outcry, otherwise you won’t get the system back for a decade.

    • j

      it was already a giveaway. they took it down because the information up there was both incomplete and inaccurate to a ridiculous degree.

  • ERD

    You can still see if there are issued permits using the PIVS system:

    If I’m not mistaken, this page only tracks the status of a permit as it is going through the review process.

  • David

    At some point this becomes the responsibility of the Councilmember who has presided over the agency. And he’s up for reelection.

    • textdoc

      Which councilmember is this, and how is he “presiding” over DCRA (given that DCRA is part of the executive branch, and the Council is the legislative branch)? Does he have oversight authority or something?

      • Evan Tupac Grooter

        It’s Vincent Orange or at least it was the last time I reached out to my councilmember’s constituent services about the incompetence at DCRA. Though I have said many, many terrible things about VO in the past, his office was great at getting my DCRA complaint taken care of.

    • j

      they’re already on it, though more outcry will certainly help. there was a hearing the other day. that’s how this all came about – it’s because of the house collapse on truxton circle

  • Curious

    There’s a HUGE amount of open source software that can be configured to any type of workflow management. Is the Online Building Permit Application Tracking (OBPAT) software Government Off the Shelf Software (GOTS)? Who is the software vendor? Where is the source code? Who owns the copyright?

  • Trinidaddy

    Ha, now you don’t have the tool to see your permit status stay stagnant for two months in a row…GREAT! Thanks DCRA.

    Forreals, most miserable agency to deal with ever.

  • blindbible

    “DCRA is hopeful that the site will eventually be restored…” But let me guess, they refuse to give an “arbitrary” deadline as to when it would be operational much like the arbitrary deadlines for the streetcar. I might be confused, but aren’t deadlines equal to goals and without setting goals, things just sort of putt-putt along without any regard?


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