One Stop promises end to labyrinth

Promising that it will be the end of the “mousetrap of government,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Tuesday formally debuted One Stop, the city’s new office for all land-use and permitting issues.

“Walking this building used to be a maze,” said Landrieu, noting that residents and businesses for decades complained about having to travel within City Hall — and sometimes outside of it — to do business. “We heard them; we delivered.”

The City Planning Commission, Historic District Landmarks Commission, department of safety and permits and the Vieux Carre Commission are now housed in the same office on the seventh floor of City Hall. The space was formerly occupied by the Civil Service Commission. That agency traded spaces with the Planning Commission, which used to be housed in an office across Poydras Street from City Hall.

The One Stop office includes a system to track customer flow from arrival to exit, the ability to accept major credit cards as payment for permits and licenses and WiFi access. The office’s website, www.nola.gov/onestop, offers several features, including information on how to get any permit or license and online access to zoning and conditional use maps designed to help spur economic development.

An app is in the beta phase and allows applicants for building permits and occupation licenses to submit and download documents and check the status of applications.

City Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson said the combined office, long discussed but never acted upon until about three years ago, was long overdue.

“I’ve wanted this since 1970, when I entered the business world,” she said.

District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry said she hopes the office will help put an end to residents’ “frustration” when it comes to dealing with City Hall.

One aspect of the One Stop launch that frustrated some residents was the VCC’s move from its longtime home in the French Quarter, the neighborhood it is charged with protecting, to City Hall on the edge of the Central Business District.

Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin described the project, which was funded in part by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, as difficult because it uprooted staff members.

But, he said, the office gives citizens and businesses what they were looking for in regard to easier interactions with City Hall.

Landrieu said that the office will be a work in progress and vowed that it will continue to improve with time.

“I am sure that it’s not perfect,” he said of the office. “It will need to get better.”

Already, the city has said the public should expect several improvements by the end of the summer, including:

Front-line permitting and intake staff who undergo regular customer service and cross-departmental training.

The ability to start, track and pay fees for special event permit and license applications on the office website.

A new special event permit and license application.

Analysis of regular customer surveys to improve office processes.

And consolidation of permit and license types in an effort to simplify the customer experience.