SAN FERNANDO : Corner Lot Owners May Get Tax Relief

Under one of several new street-light tax assessment systems under consideration by the city, tax bills could decrease by as much as $65 next year for San Fernando residents who own corner lots, according to a study released last week.

Since 1980, the city has levied taxes to pay for operation of its 1,400 street lights based on the amount of property that fronts the street and the property's classification--residential, commercial or industrial. That system was based on the idea that properties with large street frontage receive a greater benefit from the lights than do others.

Beginning in 1991, however, when the city began mailing notices of proposed rate changes with tax bills, residents began questioning the fairness of the system. They complained that street-corner property owners can be taxed up to four times as much as their neighbors.

Maria Ladas, a 40-year San Fernando resident who lives on the corner of Griswold and De Haven streets, said her most recent street-light tax bill was $106, while her neighbors who own smaller lots paid only $26.

"It's not fair," Ladas said. "I didn't ask the city to put lights on my corner."

City officials said Ladas and others who pay higher rates can expect some relief next year. The City Council is expected to adopt one of three proposed assessment systems at a 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday. All are designed to lessen the burden on owners of corner properties.

The proposed systems would either:

* Assess corner lots based only on footage of the front yard, excluding the side yard.

* Set a new rate for multifamily residences like apartment buildings.

* Set a flat rate for single-family residential, multi-family residential and commercial and industrial properties.

Of those three methods, owners of corner properties would receive the greatest decrease in their street-light tax bills if the city taxed multifamily residences at 80% of the rate for single-family homes.

Under that scenario, the average tax bill for owners of a single-family corner lot would drop from the current $90 to $24.73. Other single-family homes would be assessed the same amount.

The city must raise $267,610 in tax revenue annually to cover the cost of operating street lights.

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