by Jay Goldstein

Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections launched its long-delayed system for accepting online permit applications on March 16. Let’s see how this new system, eCLISPE, is working with the construction industry essentially halted due to Covid-19

  • The eCLIPSE launch was timely with the coronavirus pandemic shutting down the City. Prior to the online system, all permit applications had to be submitted, paid for, and picked up in person. Without eCLISPE, “the permitting process in Philadelphia would have ground to a halt,” Karen Guss, spokesperson for L&I, said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Permitting is ongoing during the pandemic, but the pace in granting permits is frustrating local builders. Guss defended the rollout, “There have been, and will continue to be, bumps in the road. It was expected that online permitting would grow over time, with many people continuing to rely on in-person processes. Now the transition has happened very suddenly. That increases the impact of the inevitable bugs and technological hiccups that arise in deploying a brand-new system.”
  • Since March 16, L&I has reviewed more than 900 online permit applications and more than 800 permit applications filed in person before the shutdown. Payments are being accepted and permits are being issued online. Permits requiring approvals from other departments that are not functioning during the pandemic are not being issued.
  • L&I also launched an automated phone system, so contractors can request inspections at any time, without having to reach the specific inspector assigned to their projects.
  • There are other issues that L&I is dealing with: L&I is focusing on enforcing the governor’s stop-work order; it continues to inspect and monitor dangerous properties and demolitions; it responds to hundreds of requests per week for construction inspection which is hampered by the department having trouble recruiting and retaining inspectors.

Kleinbard’s Jay Goldstein is the author of this blog. Our firm’s real estate attorneys are available to discuss online permitting matters and any other construction related challenges faced during COVID-19.