With a few clicks of a button a developer can request a permit, track and review inspections and even pay any fees without ever having to step inside City Hall.

It is all done through the newly launched Web-based program Accelarate, which aims to do three things for the city’s land planning: new and improved permit process system, to enhance customer service aand speed up the staff’s processing of what can be a very tedious paper trail.

On the first day of the launch, June 2, there were about 100 people signed up to use the site. Since the launch of the website, a total of 200 users signed up. Officials said they are more than impressed with the response, given their goal was to have 200 people signed up for the program by the end of the year.

“People are ready for something like this. I think the public is so used to looking at their phones, iPads for information that it was only logical that we gravitate to something that is online,” said Jeff Bloom, the city’s planning director..

One of the biggest undertakings of the 18-month project was to improve staff efficiency but also bring the city’s technology up-to-date. The goal was to transition away from Tidemark, the previous mainframe used by the city to log records for planning purposes, to one that is easily accessible for developers and residents. The result was a program that can be used online.

“Tidemark was a 1990s solution for how to manage land planning information in building, grading, zoning,” Bloom said.

To sign up for the system a user needs to provide their email and then create a password. Once in the system, they can start inputting any necessary information related to their project. But the program is not just for developers, residents who are seeking building permits can also create an account.

Rancho Cucamonga has set up two computer stations in the rotunda area of City Hall so that anyone with questions can get assistance.

The old process was not only cumbersome for the users but city staff. Planning, building and engineering departments as well as the fire district are now all on the same land management system “that talks to each other,” said Annette Feliciani the city’s manager on the project.

A developer or resident can track the progress – and different levels of approval – through their personal account. Once their permit is approved, they can even pay for the fees online, Bloom said.

“They can get information in real-time but so can staff at the counter. The office staff doesn’t have to wait until the next day,” he said.

For staff, streamlining the process frees up the counter staff to provide “concierge assistance” to developers and residents.

“It really is upping the bar on customer service,” Feliciani said.

In order to customize the program to meet the city’s needs, there was a core team – made up staff from various other departments – to help provide input on the formation of the web-based program, Feliciani said.

In addition, existing records dating back to 2000 have been uploaded, Feliciani said.

“There are thousands upon thousands of records that have been uploaded. Potentially, 50,000 records,” Felciani said.

Both Bloom and Feliciani said they are still busy making improvements on the second phase of the program, which will allow developers to electronically submit plans.

They plan to start with a selected group in the fall and roll out the second phase to the public by the end of the year.

For assistance on setting up an Accelerate user account, call 909-477-2700 during business hours and ask to be transferred to the counter staff.

©2014 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)