Builder Fees Vote Left Hanging as City Council Shrinks


Lacking enough members to take a vote, the San Diego City Council on Tuesday was unable to finish debating a controversial proposal to enact fees on new developments to raise millions of dollars for sorely needed public projects and improvements.

Council members were expected to discuss a lengthy study of the impact fees by an accounting firm hired by the city in April.

According to city officials, the fees could raise about $911 million in new revenue over the next 20 years. Under the plan, the cost of a new 2,000-square-foot single-family home sold in San Diego could rise more than $5,000 because of the added fees. Fees for commercial and industrial projects are expected to go even higher.

The nine-person council met for most of the day, despite the absence of members Abbe Wolfsheimer, who is on vacation, and Bob Filner, who was absent most of the afternoon. But when the council began hearing testimony on the fee proposal, Mayor Maureen O'Connor left suddenly due to a family emergency; she was followed later by members Bruce Henderson and Linda Bernhardt.

The absences left four members at the meeting, fewer than the five needed for a quorum. Councilwoman Judy McCarty, who was leading the meeting, postponed further debate until 2 p.m. next Tuesday.

According to the Coopers & Lybrand report, the increased fees could be borne by landowners, developers or consumers. However, Eric Anderson, who provided the council with an oral presentation of the report, conceded that the added costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Anderson said the proposed fees would require a consumer to have an annual income between $68,000 and $71,000 in order to qualify to buy a 2,000-square-foot home. He also noted that the cost of living in San Diego is already higher than in many areas of the United States.

The report acknowledges that the proposed fees could raise the quality of life and public services in San Diego. It also warns that if no action is taken to upgrade the city's infrastructure, the level of public service and quality of life will deteriorate, eroding the city's economic base and forcing many residents to relocate.

The report also warns of the negative effect higher fees would have on the city's businesses. The higher fees could cause businesses to think twice before locating or expanding in San Diego, it says. If that happens, city employment, income and population levels could decline.

City officials said the fees are necessary to improve library and police services and operations stations that serve various departments, including parks and waste management.

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