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Local building industry adapting to COVID-19 restrictions

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 21:39:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - California's stay at home order may be in effect, but you can still hear the sounds of heavy machinery and hammers banging across San Diego County.

Construction was deemed essential, allowing builders to continue working.

"Not only have we been able to pull permits, but we can call our inspections," said Gregg Cantor with Murray Lampert Design, Build, Remodel.

Companies like Cantor's business have changed, but it keeps moving.

He said employees who can are working from home, client calls are happening remotely, and inspections are taking place at a distance or in some cases through videos and pictures.

"We're conscious of social distancing as well as making sure we don't have more than five or six people at any given time on the job site," Cantor said.

Local companies aren't the only ones changing how they operate.

The City of San Diego's Development Services Department (DSD) laid out a series of changes to protect city staff and customers.

"The city is taking necessary preventative safety measures while being responsive to the business needs of our customers," said DSD Director Elyse W. Lowe. "DSD employees will continue to work with customers to limit delays to project approvals and keep the city moving forward. We are quickly leveraging available technology to increase our options and continuously implementing new safety measures in response to this unprecedented global pandemic."

Changes include revamping the residential inspection process by now allowing for photos to be submitted instead of in-person physical inspections for qualified residential project, granting all qualifying building permit applications and issued building permits an automatic 180-day extension, and establishing an unstaffed document drop-off area for customers to submit project files and documents in the first floor of the Development Services Center.

"We're still very grateful that we are able to send our crews out every day," said Borre Winckel, president and chief executive officer of the Building Industry Association of San Diego County.

Winckel said there were some early hiccups with building inspections across the county, but things have smoothed out.

"We were promised they would send the inspectors out as long as the conditions were safe," he said. "So it was very important for us since we're an outdoor activity that we created this safe and healthy environment for our workforce and the inspectors."

Winckel said right now building is a business and plans are getting reviewed, but he pointed to New York and Washington where some construction is either blocked or building is only approved for projects deemed essential.

Winckel said in California some have asked the governor to stop in office reviewing of plans.

"If we don't go beyond current construction and can't be processing plans anymore, that would just create a disaster for us and housing in the future," he said. "So there's a bit of tension there."

For now, the show goes on.

"Most of the people want to keep moving forward," Cantor said. "There are some people that just want to pause for a second, but they are not canceling out on doing the work."