The city of Tracy’s building department stayed active through the month of March, and city Development Services Director Andrew Malik said his department is doing all it can to keep construction and development busy in town.

“We’re in an office over at City Hall, and I can tell you, you can count on one hand how many people are in City Hall … from the permit counters to engineering, planning, building, that kind of stuff, and yet operations are still functioning,” he said.

Malik said that among the services outlined on the city’s COVID-19 information web page, a section devoted to the Development Services Department has seen plenty of traffic.

“Even before this happened, the city was putting in a lot of technology and things to do a lot to of online and virtual, electronic plan review,” Malik said. “We’re doing about 500 building inspections, averaging, a week. That’s pretty much been sustained from the beginning of this in mid- to early March.”

The total number of new building permits is down, with 198 issued in March compared with 256 a year earlier, but Malik said that permits related to new businesses or upgrades to existing businesses, including projects in the Prologis International Park of Commerce on the west side of town, continue to be issued.

Meanwhile, activity on existing building permits is up. During the month of March, the city’s building department did 2,248 inspections, up from 1,537 in February and up from 1,933 in March 2019.

Residential projects continue as well, with online conferencing apps such as FaceTime helping city employees to do permit-related inspections.

“Our inspectors are not walking into homes, but yet the contractor that’s doing the replacement of the water heater or other types things are going through with their phone and doing a virtual walk-through so they can inspect.”

By the end of March, the city was on the same pace for development as the year before. The city issued 595 building permits for new homes from July 2018 through March 2019, plus 13 permits for new commercial buildings. Similarly, from July 2019 to March 2020, the city issued 548 permits for new homes and 16 permits for new commercial projects.

The city’s goal is to continue that pace.

“If people want to entitle and kind of get ready, we’re seeing that as a real positive for when we slowly come out of this,” Malik said. “In the 2009 timeline when we had the recession, the city did the same thing. The council said, ‘We want to prepare ourselves, so when we emerge, we’re stronger.’”

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227.

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