If you think your own building is the most important one in a new construction project, think again. This is the Muni of Anchorage’s complex at 4700 Elmore, and it’s here that builders have to apply for building permits. If you get a permit you can build. If you don’t, you can’t.


Before a home is permitted it has to pass through a gauntlet of reviews from many different departments, including traffic, zoning, storm water, fire, structural, and more. A project’s progress can be tracked online at the muni’s website. If a project fails to make it through a review, the relevant department provides notes about what needs to be corrected, and the builder (or designer, or engineer) has to respond accordingly.

It’s very common to hear complaints about permitting. For sure, there are many opportunities to get hung up here. My own home faced some long, frustrating delays. But overall I felt that most employees here were trying to do their best with a difficult and often thankless task. Applying rigid codes to the complexity of a living city is hard, especially in the face of decades of inconsistent (or nonexistent) city planning. Despite the setbacks I do appreciate the effort that goes into making sure we have safe homes in a not-totally-chaotic city. And several people at the muni (shoutout to Tony at Zoning!) were especially considerate and went the extra mile to help me learn the process and get issues resolved.

Permitting Permitting

Photo taken July 18-August 8, 2019. Posted October 6, 2019.