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It's in the blueprint!: How San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department save funds and staff time by efficiently engaging in the blueprint review process

After a series of costly repairs in newly renovated park facilities, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department knew it had to change how it reviews blueprints and building plans. Partners in Public Innovation's (PPI) Ryan Hunter, along with his continuous improvement team at the San Francisco Controller's Office, engaged in a partnership project to help bring the stakeholders of this process together. The improvement team took a close look at the current state in order to answer the questions:

Why was Recreation and Parks spending so much money and staff time having to repair a park facility that was just renovated?

Shouldn't these misses have been noted and addressed during the construction project, and the facilities be left in a better state than they started?

A man wearing a blue shirt is standing in front of the project team and showing an online excel spreadsheet for the current review process
Jake Gilchrist from the Capital Division presents the future state map for the blueprint review process.


The Structural Maintenance Yard (SMY) and Capital Divisions, both responsible for different pieces of the review process, came together for a joint Lean Rapid Improvement Event. During the event, the project team mapped the process and used tools like the "fishbone" diagram to determine the root causes for the gaps in review. Historically, each division operated on their own processes, and accountability for misses in the review was often assumed on the other party. By collaborating in this way, the team was able to understand perspectives from both sides, which also helped strengthen the partnership between both sides of the house. Through this exercise, the team found that:

  1. Feedback was not consistently incorporated: The SMY feedback was not consistently captured or incorporated due to the lack of a follow-up process for comments, ambiguous comments, and a lack of diligence in SMY blue print review.

  2. Adequate time for review and discussion was not provided: SMY staff had difficulty conducting a thorough review because of the lack of time provided to review plans, little advance notice, and not much time to discuss all comments during the plan review meetings.

  3. Standards were not standardized: What both parties were using as "standards" were not aligned, and therefore misapplied due to confusion about which standards were appropriate for certain parks. There was lack of a process for referencing those standards as well, and the current manual was complex and difficult to use.


After collaborating for three days, the project team brainstormed and executed on a few solutions to immediately implement that tied to the root causes identified:

  • Future state process map: The team developed a future state process map for comprehensive and regular plan reviews, including plan review timelines and a clear mechanism to ensure that all feedback was thoroughly addressed. Going forward, all reviews would follow this new process.

  • Visual management tracking board: The team created a tracking board (visual management!) that allowed Structural Maintenance supervisors and management to see clearly which shops have not yet completed plan review. They placed this board in the entryway of the main office, a central location that everyone walked by at least once a day, so that it was always in plain sight and easy to update.

  • Standard templates: The team developed standard templates for meeting agendas and note-taking during meetings, ensuring consistency in how the notes were captured, regardless of notetaker.

Two people from the improvement team show their new tracking board, a while large square paper with statuses for each review, to the team
Jones Cao and John Cunha from the Structural Maintenance Division present their visual management board for plan review to the team.


In the few months that followed the improvement event, the team tracked against their metric for the percentage of time plans were sufficiently reviewed and marked up by SMY staff:

The Structural Maintenance Yard and Capital division staff reported greater confidence with the improved plan review process effectively flagging potential maintenance issues in new construction. Since then, these improvements have helped to increase the life of San Francisco's parks by keeping the parks and facilities in the best condition possible.

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