City Council Updates Developer Impact Fees


First published in the June 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council decided this week to substantially raise fees the city charges to developers for the impact their projects have on public infrastructure.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the fee increases, which will go into effect starting Aug. 21. The last major fee increases were in the 1990s.
The development-impact fees, or DIFs, account for projects’ strain on local police, fire, library and transportation services, with the city using the money to upgrade or build new infrastructure to address that burden.
As the item was part of the meeting’s consent calendar, the entirety of which is passed with a single vote, the council members did not discuss the matter further this week. They held a discussion on the policy, and voted to move it forward, during a meeting earlier this month.
The update will increase fees from about $3,100 to $13,200 per single-family residential unit and $2,300 to $7,300 per multi-family residential unit. DIFs for office buildings will rise from roughly $9.30 to $17.70 per square foot of an office building, from $8.40 to $9.90 per square foot of a retail business and from $4,170 to $4,910 per square foot of a hotel or other lodging.
City staff members said they generally placed the new fees at 80% of the maximum allowable amounts to avoid discouraging development, though they set lower ranges for affordable housing, retail and lodging. Developers who build more affordable housing units than applicable laws require will face even lower fees.
The higher DIFs will help pay for some, though not all, of the costs of a new dog park, fire and police department vehicles, and an expanded library, among other projects.
Some residents, particularly those in the local Save Burbank Neighborhoods advocacy group, have pushed for higher DIFs for years. City staff members said earlier this month that some major development projects could have brought in substantially more funds under the new fees.
For example, the luxury apartments Talaria project, whose developer paid roughly $210,000 in DIFs, would have provided the city an estimated $1.3 million in funds, according to a staff presentation, which also show that the Avion business park near the Hollywood Burbank Airport might have given the city $8.6 million in DIFs rather than the $820,000 it did under the current fees.
City development officials attributed some of the difference in those estimated fees to a change in Burbank’s DIF credit policy, which is included in the update. And, they added during the June 7 City Council meeting, those projects also involved a number of public benefits or infrastructure upgrades as part of the city’s negotiations with the developers.
But with pro-housing development state legislation limiting cities’ power to deny and adjust projects, the council and its department heads have argued that the higher DIFs will help Burbank maintain its public infrastructure.