Office Review Oakland Planning and Building Department

Judging by all the negative Yelp reviews, it looks like the Oakland Planning and Building Department has some real problems. To give a sense of how negative the reviews are, out of the 18 total reviews the building department has received so far, 15 are 1-star.

Reviewers consistently complain about long wait times for permits and general lack of helpfulness from staff. Beyond unhelpfulness, several reviewers characterize staff as rude and uncaring, with the terms "incompetent" and "unfair" used several times as well. I get the sense that some reviewers' negativity is probably tied to permitting or code enforcement decisions that didn't go their way, but there's so much frustration expressed in these reviews that it's undeniable that the problems lie more with the department than the other way around.

Multiple reviewers seemed exasperated at having received different directions from different staff, i.e., the requirements weren't being applied consistently and staff didn't seem knowledgeable and/or weren't able to communicate requirements clearly. This was the experience of Cynthia S. of San Jose who described her experience as follows:
The building department is a joke. You submit plans to get them reviewed and they pass them through with no mark ups. You build per the APPROVED PLANS and you get told no you can't do that. Then you have to pay to get the work done twice. Then they tell you that you need to have PSL permit pulled... basically so they get more money from you for nothing... throughout the entire project, the inspection team doesn't agree/communicate with building and plan review. Such a joke.

It's disappointing to see so much negativity expressed toward a building department. Hopefully management at the Oakland Planning and Building Department is taking this feedback to heart and adjusting their approach accordingly.
The reviews of the Oakland Department of Building and Planning paint a concerning picture. Many individuals express frustration with inefficiency, a lack of coordination between departments, and a disregard for their time and concerns. Some highlight instances of inconsistent information and a general lack of professionalism among staff.

There are also allegations of corruption, arrogance, and insensitivity, which is deeply troubling. It appears that there is a significant need for improvement in transparency, accountability, and customer service within the department, as well as addressing the reported issues with permit approvals and inspections. The reviews suggest that reform and oversight may be necessary to ensure fair and effective services for Oakland residents and builders.
There were also a couple comments that blamed the Oakland's 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire on lack of proper oversight by the Oakland Planning and Building Department. However, as far as I can tell, those comments are unwarranted. Based on the information that's out there, it's unclear to me whether more could have been done by the Planning & Building Department vs. the Oakland Fire Department to prevent the fire. According to the Wikipedia article linked above, Planning & Building had opened an investigation and appeared to have done their due diligence to investigate the warehouse. A 2020 audit assigned blame more to the Oakland Fire Department, which had failed to adequately inspect and enforce fire code for buildings throughout the city (and continues to fail at this responsibility).
Most people who reviewed the Oakland Department of Building and Planning seem to have had a pretty bad experience. They have said that the working process in the department is terribly slow, the staff are communicating well, and they are also inconsistent with how they handled applications and inspections. Some people, for instance, Cynthia S. and Ray B, even said that the information they got when their plans were approved didn't match what inspectors later said. Some reviewers, for example, Molly M. and Noel L., said that the staff were rude or not helpful. Some even said the entire permitting process was too complicated and took too long.

For further information on this GPT, visit the U.S. National/Federal GPT page.