Resistance Builds to Proposed Hikes in County Fees


Building interests are facing off with the county’s planning department over a proposal to raise permit fees by as much as 800 percent.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors delayed consideration of the fee hikes after the local chapter of the Building Industry Association demanded justification for the increases.

The county planning department is proposing to raise fees for permit applications, appeals and other department services. The goal is to get an additional $1.7 million to recover costs of reviewing permits and applications.

The largest fee increase would be for an appeal on an aviation-related matter to the Airport Land Use Committee. That fee would soar from $1,016 to $8,039.

Some other examples of hikes under the proposal: The fee for a coastal development permit involving a public hearing would rise from $6,195 to $9,474, while the fee for a site plan review for large commercial and industrial sites would rise from $732 to $1,293.

A handful of fees would be reduced, including a one-year extension for a tentative tract map, which would fall from $479 to $280.

The proposed increases drew opposition from the building association’s L.A. chapter. Holly Schroeder, the chapter’s chief executive, said in testimony before the board April 27 that there was not enough justification for the fee increases.

“Under state law, the fees have to be related to the work that they are paying for and we’re not sure if that real analysis has been completed,” Schroeder said.

Two board members, Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe, agreed and inserted a motion to order the planning department to give clear justification. The supervisors adopted the motion and ordered the department to report back to the board later this month.

Faster Filming

In an attempt to prevent production companies from filming outside Los Angeles, the city’s Board of Public Works has instituted a “real-time paperless permitting” system to process film permit applications for street closures. The aim is to reduce the turnaround time to 24 hours from a current three to seven days.

Instead of the current system of manually processing street closure requests and presenting them to the public works board at its weekly meeting, the new system will designate one board member to review street closure applications submitted online from FilmLA – the organization that oversees film permitting in the county.

If residents – who have to be notified of the plans to film in advance – call with objections to the proposed street closures, then the request could go to the full board. That would happen if the designated board member couldn’t resolve any issues.

The move was greeted with enthusiasm from one commercial production house.

“Streamlining the process will only help keep work in Los Angeles,” said Rick Fishbein, managing partner at Green Dot Films, a television commercial and advertising production company in Santa Monica.

Fishbein, who is also co-chairman of the community relations committee for the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, said that reduced turnaround time is key for commercial productions.

“Many advertisers want – and need – the flexibility to be able to call on Monday with storyboards and shoot by the end of the week,” he said.

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon said the move to online processing “is another strong step forward by our city to make it easier and cheaper to film in Los Angeles.”

Cooling Rule

The state Water Resources Control Board last week approved a rule requiring power plants near the coast to begin reducing the amount of ocean water used as coolant.

The unanimous vote May 4 came after a nine-hour hearing that featured testimony by environmental advocates pushing for the rule and power plant operators who said the regulation would impose significant financial burdens on them.

The rule, which calls for reducing the amount of ocean water sucked into power plants by 90 percent during the next 14 years, covers 19 power plants along California’s coastline, including six in Los Angeles County. Also included is San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in northern San Diego County, which is owned and operated by Southern California Edison, a subsidiary of Rosemead-based Edison International.

All 19 power plants covered by the regulation draw an estimated total of 15 billion gallons of seawater to use as coolant. But the cooling water intakes also suck in small marine life, including fish, larvae and plankton. The water board drafted the regulation to comply with the federal Clean Water Act, which requires updating of technology to reduce industrial impacts on marine life.

To meet the 90 percent seawater intake reduction target, some of the plants will likely have to switch to using cooled air.

At the hearing, Michael Hertel, director of corporate environmental policy for Southern California Edison, said his company has invested more than $400 million toward protecting marine life around its San Onofre facility. But he said that there was no room at the site to build a cooling tower.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached at [email protected] or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227.

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Howard Fine
Howard Fine is a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles Business Journal. He covers stories pertaining to healthcare, biomedicine, energy, engineering, construction, and infrastructure. He has won several awards, including Best Body of Work for a single reporter from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers and Distinguished Journalist of the Year from the Society of Professional Journalists.

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