2019 Government Innovation Awards

Saving time, money and trees

The Interactive Zoning Information System was the District of Columbia Office of Zoning’s first automated system for online filing, processing and management of zoning-related cases. But that system still relied heavily on paper. Then Director Sara Bardin and her team added two new features: the Zoning Wizard and ZDOCS.

Zoning Wizard and ZDOCS

District of Columbia Office of Zoning

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The Zoning Wizard guides users through the zoning-change application process so that they can file cases themselves rather than paying attorneys to do it for them using a paper form. The tool walks applicants through the process, asking for details such as the location of the project, square footage and certifications for carrying it out. The redesigned application eliminated redundant fields and consolidated the entered information automatically, reducing the data entry process by 50%.

“It was saving time for the public, [and] it was making it a lot more user-friendly than filling out a generic form,” Bardin said.

ZDOCS is a mobile application that zoning commissioners and board members use to access up-to-date case information and documents for hearings.

“Since the start of this office, we would have to copy all of the documents in a case file and courier it to each one of the board commissions or zoning commission commissioners each week for them to review all the files before the hearing date,” Bardin said. “The commissioners would have to lug these packages back and forth, and I can’t tell you the amount of paper that we had stacked up here. Every week you would have hundreds of pages that, once they were done with them, there was nothing to do but throw them away.”

Built with open-source software, ZDOCS has allowed the small zoning office to transform operations, save money and free workers to focus on more important tasks.

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