(April 8, 2007) -- LBReport.com believes LB taxpayers could fail to collect over $4 million for police and fire infrastructure and hardware (roughly $2.75 million conservatively estimated by city staff last week) if the City Council votes on April 10 to ratify its April 3 vote (8-0 with Gabelich objecting) letting developers of "in the pipeline" projects (some entitlements/approvals but not a building permit) avoid paying fees reflecting Public Safety Impact costs determined by a professionally prepared "nexus" study to be attributable to their new developments.
Using city staff's public statement of 4,476 residential dwelling units "in the pipeline" in planned LB multi-unit developments, and applying the nexus study sum of $915 per dwelling units in multi-unit buildings, we calculate the sum LB taxpayers would fail collect from developers could be as high as $4,095,540 (4,465 x $915 = $4,095,540).
We also note that the nexus study recommended fees of $.709, $.863 and $.35 per sq. foot respectively on new commercial, office and industrial developments. By our rough estimate, the Council's April 3 exemption could let developers of those projects "in the pipeline" avoid about $500,000 more in Public Safety Impact fees.
The City Council's April 3 action is now routinely scheduled to return for a second Council vote on April 10...when it could be revisited.
On September 12, 2006, the Council voted unanimously to direct preparation of an ordinance to collect Public Safety Impact Fees based on a study showing a legally-required nexus [connection] between the fees and the additional costs of infrastructure/equipment on taxpayers. (LBReport.com has learned that the City Hall-funded, professionally prepared study cost LB taxpayers roughly $50,000.)
When the ordinance returned for Council enactment on March 20, 2007, the Public Safety Impact Fee was backed by the LB Police Officers Ass'n and the LB Firefighters Ass'ns and Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich indicated they were both ready to approve the fee as proposed.
However Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal (who with Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal represents the downtown area where many of the proposed developments are located) objected to adopting the Public Safety Impact Fee as proposed, arguing City Hall's process hadn't included sufficient outreach to developers.
Ultimately four Councilmembers -- Suja Lowenthal, Gary DeLong, Gerrie Schipske and Val Lerch -- balked at adopting the fee as proposed and after a few failed motions, a motion carried 6-2 (Gabelich and O'Donnell dissenting) directing management to hold a public meeting at which the public and "stakeholders" (development interests) could be heard.
At that meeting, development and business interests objected to various aspects of the fee...and sought changes including faster processing of projects backed by City Hall.
When the item returned to the Council on April 3, Mayor Bob Foster, Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal and Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal contended that applying the Public Safety Impact fee to "in the pipeline" pending developments would be unfair and inequitable to developers, calling it "retroactive."
The LB Area Chamber of Commerce testified against adopting the fee, urging it be sent back for further Committee proceedings. Downtown LB Associates also cited reasons not to adopt the fee as originally proposed.
Councilman O'Donnell then reversed his position of two weeks earlier (when he'd supported applying the Public Safety fee as proposed) and moved to exempt projects "in the pipeline."
Councilman O'Donnell's exemption for developers of pending projects was supported by Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal, Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal...and LB Mayor Bob Foster. In supporting that exemption, the Lowenthals and the Mayor variously said they supported public safety but backed the Public Safety Fee only on a "go forward" basis.
That left Councilwoman Rae Gabelich as the only LB Councilmember to support applying the Public Safety Impact Fee on all developers of pending projects, which the nexus study supported and the Council recommended in Sept. 2006 (at the time without dissent from the Lowenthals or the Mayor).
In a detailed presentation which included visuals and power points, Councilwoman Gabelich cited what she called years of Council actions that left LB taxpayers with less than adequate police and fire staffing and infrastructure. She repeatedly urged application of the Public Safety Fee in full.
Lacking support from other Councilmembers, and with the conspicuous absence of representatives of the LB Police and Firefighter unions, Councilwoman Gabelich voiced her strong displeasure but went along with the "go forward" version of the fee (the vote was 8-0).
The Council-amended Public Safety Impact Fee -- containing an exemption that we believe would fail to collect over $4 million from developers for public safety impacts determined fairly attributable to their new developments -- is now scheduled to return for a second, implementing Council vote on April 10.
At that time, the Council could approve it with its April 3 exemption, or modify that action to apply all or part of the fee (some sliding scale), or send the issue to a Committee...or force a recorded vote on simply applying the Public Safety Impact Fee to all developers of pending projects as originally proposed.
Related: On April 7 [a day before we posted our Persective above]. 5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske posted comments to her personal blog on the subject. To see her views on this subject, click here.