Huntington Beach is planning a major upgrade of its land management software system, the first in 14 years. The update will affect city departments such as planning, building and public works.

The Huntington Beach City Council voted unanimously this month, to allocate $3.2 million to invest in the software upgrade, which includes a lot of automation and new online services for prospective homebuyers, real estate agents and developers.

The contractor for the software upgrade will be Accela Inc., a software outfit based in San Ramon. Richard Chenette, president of Go Live Technology, was brought on by the city to oversee the project and choose the vendor. Chenette says that Huntington Beach has reached a crossroads with its IT systems and had to decide whether to put bandages on an old and outdated system or to go ahead with a larger and more expensive conversion that many critics say is well-overdue.

According to city staff, the proposed new system upgrades are at least six years overdue and will link the planning, building, code enforcement, public work, business and fire departments. Staff hope that the new system will enable the city to process it’s $10 million worth of development projects, permit requests and business licensing that Huntington Beach receives more rapidly each year. Users will be able to renew business licenses and report possible code violations online to a variety of different departments, something never possible before. The software is already in use by more than 2,100 cities across the country.

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Proponents of the new system say that it will allow residents to get building permits more efficiently as well as follow the progress of projects through plan reviews and building inspections online. Residents and developers will also be able to track and review inspection reports and pay fees online via home computers or smartphones, according to city staff. Reducing vehicle trips to deliver applications is another boasted boon of the new software.

On the city side, inspectors will be able to use the system to submit reports via mobile devices and share reviews between the many, now disconnected, departments. The online land management system is called an Enterprise Land Management System and will be custom-fit to meet the particular needs of Huntington Beach. The city estimates that it will take about two years to fully implement the new software. But high maintenance costs of the new system is drawing criticism. A few members of the Huntington Beach City Council say that the cost of keeping the proposed system up and running, which account for nearly a third of the total estimated project budget, is too high.

The city, however, is not bearing the majority of the costs. The project is to be funded from a number of different sources, including a $2 million grant from the state, $300,000 from the Air Quality Management District fund and another $900,000 from General Fund reserves.

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