New building chief lays out ambitious reform plan

With less than two months on the job, the new head of The City’s Department of Building Inspection laid out plans to reform the beleaguered agency Monday, and received a promise from Mayor Gavin Newsom that he will have the resources to do it.

“It’s a new day at DBI,” Isam Hasenin told the Building Inspection Commission Monday morning.

A vice chairman of the California Building Standards Commission, Hasenin came to San Francisco in mid-March from The San Diego, where he was the chief building official.

The Department of Building Inspection, which issues permits for construction projects in The City, has struggled under reports that the department is rife with favoritism and inefficiency. It has been a hotbed for accusations of impropriety, and in the last five years, two employees have been arrested for charges related to corruption.

In 2001, an audit by Controller’s Office cited a culture of preferential treatment and called for reforms to overhaul the agency. In 2003, a grand jury report also slammed the department’s favoritism, calling it “deeply ingrained.”

In his presentation Monday, Hasenin said he spent the first 50 days “aggressively examining the nuts and bolts” of the department and found widespread deficiencies and weaknesses that included poor management and customer service, an atmosphere of mistrust and fear, lack of decision making and insufficient spending, among other problems.

As a result, customers were subjected to an inconsistent fee structure and a complex bureaucratic process that sometimes included conflicting requirements from different divisions.

Hasenin also outlined a list of specific “action steps” — more than 50 in all — including internal audit systems, revamping policies and procedures, more staff training, creating a single permit application form and bolstering a one-stop permit center.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on a platform that included cleaning up the DBI, made an appearance at Monday’s commission meeting to express support for Hasenin’s reforms and promised that “the resources are going to be there for the effort that you need to make to get DBI back to where we all know it should be.

The mayor also said one of the problems plaguing the department was a culture where decisions were micromanaged — sometimes by special interests or for special privileges — which prevented permits from moving forward efficiently and equitably.

beslinger@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lowell High School is considered an academically elite public school. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Students denounce ‘rampant, unchecked racism’ at Lowell after slurs flood anti-racism lesson

A lesson on anti-racism at Lowell High School on Wednesday was bombarded… Continue reading

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23), shown here against the San Antonio Spurs at Chase Center on January 20, was ejected from Thursday night’s game on a technical foul after he yelled at a teammate during a play. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors 119-101 loss to Knicks highlights Draymond Green’s value

Team struggles with fouls, lack of discipline in play

Scooter companies have expanded their distribution in neighborhoods such as the Richmond and Sunset districts. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board signs off on changes to scooter permit program

Companies will gete longer permits, but higher stakes

A health care worker receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
City sets ambitious goal to vaccinate residents by June

Limited supply slows distribution of doses as health officials seek to expand access

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at Biden's inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2021, in Washington, DC.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
Joe Biden issues call for ‘unity’ amidst extreme partisan rancor

‘I will be a president for all Americans,’ he says in inauguration speech

Most Read