HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting is making some changes, starting next month, all commercial plans will need to be submitted online and will no longer accept paper permit applications.

The DPP Deputy Director Jiro Sumada said there could be some delays as folks get used to the system, but the change should eventually speed up the process. 

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Reviewing paper building permit applications means every page needs to be stamped manually, and people are required to go in person for any corrections or changes. 

“All these plans on these shelves are permits that actually have already been reviewed by our staff with review comments and they’re waiting for the applicants to come and pick it up,” Sumada said. “We’re hoping that this transition to electronic plans will allow ease in processing and more efficient processing where we can actually do it simultaneously and send it out to different agencies instead of sequentially.”

The DPP made the switch to online permit application reviews for residential projects back in 2021. 

On July 1, commercial building plans will only be submitted online. 

The DPP staff is currently reviewing fewer than a thousand commercial plans.

They are counting on the online software “ePlans” to speed up the process by no longer having to drive the paper applications from agency to agency, which sometimes could get lost or picked up by the wrong person. They said space to store the paper permits has also been an issue. 

But adjusting to the change could take time. More than 1,600 paper permit applications were submitted last year. This is compared to about 350 applications submitted online. 

Sumada said, “We anticipate that it may take a little longer time as people adjust to this change.”

Understanding a new artificial intelligence software for pre-screening applications could also be a learning curve for applicants. The software is sensitive and could bounce back plans for minor formatting issues. Applicants then go to the back of the line for another review. 

Gilda M. has her own company helping clients expedite the permit process. She has experienced a backlog in the pre-screening phase of the applications. 

She said, “The pre-screening has a lot to do with the delay because if it’s not meeting the criteria for example maybe the dimensions or the lack of information then you’re still waiting.”

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The DPP is recommending for applicants start familiarizing themselves with the ePlans software before July’s launch.