Supervisors hike permit and review fees

Fees for building permits, plan reviews, and other permits related to land use in unincorporated San Diego County will be increased as of April 10.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 last week to approve the fee increases totaling about 8 percent over two years. Because an  ordinance amendment is involved, a second reading and adoption is scheduled for Jan. 28.  

Supervisors Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox, and Pam Slater-Price voted in favor of the increases while Supervisors Ron Roberts and Bill Horn opposed the hikes.

“I understand the building industry’s concerns about this, but I do not think it’s going to break the back of the camel,”

Jacob said.  “The downside of not approving it is far greater.”

County staff indicated that the implementation of cutbacks rather than fee increases would likely result in increased wait and processing time.  

“The time is probably far more valuable to these applicants,” Cox said.  “For right now, I believe this is a reasonable proposal.”

Roberts and Horn fear that additional fees will cripple the building industry even further, although Horn understood the need to retain the county’s full cost recovery policy and its general management system.  

“I don’t want to see us day after day tinkering with the general management system,” Horn said.  “I think it’s worked well.”

The fee increases are expected to raise an additional $200,000 for the portion of Fiscal Year 2008-09 in which they would be in effect and an additional $1.59 million for Fiscal Year 2009-10.  

“The fee package before us today is not an effort to replace revenue to previous levels,” said county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) Director Eric Gibson.

Staff at DPLU’s building division has been reduced from 105 to 64, and Jacob noted that her support was based on the fact that the department has already cut expenses due to lower revenues.  During 2004-05, approximately 8,000 permits were processed, and about 2,000 of those were for single-family tracts while the rest covered items such as swimming pools and spas, building additions, and various other construction or grading.  The current annual estimate is 5,000 permits, with approximately 550 of those being single-family tracts.

The fees are normally adjusted annually, and the most recent adjustments also improve coordination for fees and deposits collected by DPLU and the county’s Department of Public Works and Department of Parks and Recreation.

The average building permit fee will increase by $129, or 3.9 percent, for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2008-09 and by $145, or 4.7 percent, for Fiscal Year 2009-10.  The average discretionary fee will increase $20, or 4.6 percent, for 2008-09 and $17, or 3.8 percent, for 2009-10.  

Many projects require deposits to cover staff time, and the average deposit will increase $125, or 4.7 percent, for 2008-09 and $115, or 4.1 percent, for 2009-10.

Because county expenses include fuel and staff driving time for inspections, the actual county cost to service unincorporated communities exceeds similar costs for most incorporated cities. However, the increase would bring the building permit fee for a four-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family home with 2,700 square feet of living space, a 600 square foot garage, and a 240 square foot patio to $3,966.61, not including the Traffic Impact Fee and other mitigation costs.  That figure for the permit is lower than 12 of the 18 incorporated cities, county staff reported.



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