City Hall's technology upgrades expected to boost efficiency

In the coming year, La Cañada residents will be able to process permit applications and planning documents completely online, and search local properties' municipal history, thanks to a new interdepartmental system being installed at City Hall.

City Council members budgeted $304,500 in fiscal year 2016-17 to purchase a new central server, upgrade the city's geographic information system (GIS) and acquire land management software staffers hope will improve efficiency and increase government transparency.

"It's all about customer service," Mayor Jon Curtis said of the process. "People will be able to go online, look up zoning and other city information in a much more efficient way. Everything will be tracked online."

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Susan Koleda, the city's deputy director of Community Development, said the completed system will make it easier for La Cañada employees to check on processes being handled at the county level and allow for better integration between departments.

For example, a hold could be placed on a property whose owner failed to fully comply with the city's municipal code that would prohibit future permits from being issued until the problem was mitigated, Koleda said.

Under the new system, plan check documents will be submitted online and staff comments can be returned by email, eliminating the need for paper documents and multiple trips to City Hall by residents, architects and contractors. Public records requests can also be handled without clerks having to photocopy multiple sets of documents.

"A lot of efficiencies are going to be gained by implementation of this program," Koleda said.

A newly upgraded GIS will allow staff to use global imaging to map and analyze information relating to a property or location. The city's map of trees, zoning maps and water and sewer district maps can all be overlaid for easy reference.

City officials will soon issue a request for proposals for a company to provide tracking software that can be used to pinpoint a single property and display the permits, code violations or other historical facts associated with that location.

Koleda said the process of figuring out which information the city would eventually want to track could take some time. But when all is said and done, the advantages should be apparent.

"There's an awful lot of work on the front end, inputting all this information, but on the back end this is going to be a huge benefit to the staff and residents," she added. "This is going to make life easier for staff, so I'm really excited about that."

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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