Introducing: The Civic Innovation Permit

The Need

One of the guiding tenets for Yellowbrick Street Team is the notion that the traditional planning and permitting process is inherently undemocratic. The process of obtaining a permit for grassroots projects is too lengthy, too confusing, and too costly for the everyday Wichitan. The work we are doing simply could not be accomplished without the financial means, schedule flexibility, network, and political capital of our members. These are the characteristics most often lacking in the residents of neighborhoods with the greatest need for constructive intervention. 

While we at YST are prone to carry out our interventions often with an "ask for forgiveness rather than permission" ethos, we believe a streamlined, supportive, and accessible permitting process can broaden the impact of grassroots action and catalyze lasting, positive change across all of Wichita.

With that in mind, YST will outline here a first-in-the-nation framework for creating an effective system for creative intervention permitting.

The Civic Innovation Permit

Our proposed solution, the Civic Innovation Permit (CIP), is not so much a typical permit as it is a process for handling unique requests. It should be applied only to projects for which a specific permit does not already exist, or the recommended permit is intended for dissimilar applications. The CIP shall be used primarily in contexts in which a project promoting the public good comes in conflict with existing ordinances.

The framework is as follows:

  • Creation of a "one-stop-shop" and single point of contact
    • The point of contact shall be responsible for working with the applicant to define the parameters of the request and determine which City of Wichita departments need to be advised
  • Defined, short timeline
    • The City shall have one month from the date of formal submission of the application to seek input from relevant departments and require any additional conditions for approval
    • If approval, with or without additional conditions, or outright denial of the application is not enacted by the City within the one-month timeline, the application shall receive de facto approval. 
  • Low cost
    • The cost of the application should not exceed $100 in order to remain accessible to all socioeconomic groups
    • It will almost certainly cost the City more to process such requests than will be received in application fees, however, an accurate evaluation of such a process should be holistic in nature and take into account the positive impact of projects enabled by the CIP

In the coming weeks, Yellowbrick Street Team will present this framework to Wichita City Council members and work with each councilperson to craft an actionable policy. Our goal is to have a Civic Innovation Permit system implemented by the end of Q1 2017.