Cal City to slash cost of plan reviews
CALIFORNIA CITY — In the hopes of helping to spur housing construction and to ensure charges reflect the actual costs of providing services, the City Council on Jan. 14 agreed to reduce the fee it charges to review plans for housing developments in which a single floor plan design is used over multiple individual homes.
These master residential plan sets have been charged at 65% of the building permit fee. But because so many pages of the plans are identical, they take as much as 75% less staff time to inspect and review, Senior Building Official Joe Barragan said.
During the building boom in the early 2000s, the city was charging 50% of the building permit fees, although the fee was not in
writing anywhere in the city records, he said.
To bring the costs better in line with the staff time dedicated to the process, staff proposed reducing the plan review fee for these master plan sets to 16.25% of the building permit fee.
In the past decade or so, the fee was not an issue because the city has not had housing developments to review as building has been very limited. However, the city is now starting to receive master plans for review, Barragan said.
Mayor Chuck McGuire wanted to hold off on changing any fees until the Council addresses revisions to the city’s master fee schedule. The master fee schedule is a listing of all fees the city charges for services across departments.
“I think the master fee schedule should lead before we do any reductions.
It hasn’t been addressed and it doesn’t seem right to me,” he said.
Barragan said those revisions to the master fee schedule are expected to be presented to the Council for the Jan. 28 meeting.
“Right now, we don’t have any large developments that are concrete… but I think if we can legally do this, this would spur an interest in large development in our community,” Councilmember Ron Smith said.
“Where I’m a conservative, I believe we need to be progressive in pursuing every legitimate revenue stream we have,” he said. “I think it would be good for our community if we could legally do that.”
The Council may legally reduce fees without holding a public hearing, City Manager Anna Linn said.
Businessman D.J. Twohig said there are many impediments to development in Cal City and that steps the city has taken already to accommodate the building industry are seeing results.
While this move alone would not remove all obstacles, Twohig said it would help make development within the city more attractive.
Planning Commission Chairman Jim Creighton agreed with McGuire in that it should wait for the master fee schedule review, because two weeks would not make any real difference in terms of the fee reduction’s effects.
With ambivalence from the other two Council members, Smith moved to go ahead and approve the reduction right away, rather than wait two weeks.
“I don’t see it negatively affecting and the master fee schedule can address this,” he said.
The fee reduction passed unanimously, although McGuire made note he reluctantly voted in its favor.