The Coast News Group

Developers to pay tiered fire prevention fee

OCEANSIDE — Developers will be paying a bit more in fees in the New Year.

City Council unanimously adopted a tiered fire prevention processing fee and 5 percent increases in most planning, engineering and building fees Dec. 2.

Development fees were last revised in 2013. At that time a flat rate fire prevention fee of $119 per plan check was added, regardless of project size.

The flat rate has generated less than half the cost to provide inspection services, and will be adjusted per project type and size. This allows fees to better reflect city staff time spent on applications.

A city fire prevention fee account will be set up to ensure transparency of service.

Increases in planning, engineering and building fees will cover the rise in fixed costs to provide services.

Michael McSweeney, San Diego Building Industry Association (BIA) senior public policy advisor, objected to the increases, which he said get passed on to home buyers.

McSweeney said he would like to work with city staff to explore ways to make processes more efficient and reduce time and costs.

One program McSweeney discussed during the meeting was the Self-Certification Program, which San Diego is using in a modified version. The program is based on a city list of registered architects and engineers who take on the responsibility of code compliance.

The city evaluates companies and adds them to the list if they meet city criteria.

Contractors can then hire the firms and have compliance inspections done once, without going through the time and cost of a second city inspection.

“The city lists firms that are acceptable, and if a builder hires the firms engineering is deemed complete,” McSweeney said.

McSweeney said the program saves 20 percent of inspection time, which is important in an industry where everything is done on borrowed money.

He added the BIA recommends 17 additional practices to make homes more affordable, which include reduced parking requirements in inclusionary housing developments, fee deferrals and density bonuses.

McSweeney said he used the opportunity to share information, and will continue discussions with the city engineers and the City                  Council members.