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Threatens to Drop Thousand Oaks Projects : Builder Fights School-Fees Increase

November 25, 1986|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

The developer of two so-called "affordable housing" projects that would add 408 apartments to Thousand Oaks has threatened to drop the projects unless the local school board gives the company a break on sharply escalating school-construction fees.

George Taylor of the development firm Bibo Inc. of Camarillo said his company may not be able to afford to continue the projects if the Conejo Valley Unified School District Board of Education insists on collecting fees that will more than triple after Jan. 1.

Bibo has found an ally in Thousand Oaks Mayor Frank Schillo, who has asked the school board to let these projects and two others on the drawing boards proceed under the old fee schedule. The board is expected to act on the request at its meeting tonight.

Rentals in Short Supply

Schillo, acting as an individual and not on behalf of the City Council, told the school board at a recent meeting that more than 600 "affordable" apartments could be scuttled in a city where rental housing is in very short supply.

"We are seriously short of low-income housing and that means apartments," Schillo said in an interview Monday. "The city's policy is to try to provide apartments in the community."

The school district, faced with a growing student population, took advantage of a state law enabling local districts to charge developers of new homes up to $1.50 a square foot to pay for new schools to accommodate the families who move into the houses and apartments.

Under the old fee schedule, Bibo figured its costs in fees to the district would be a little less than $35,000 for the 408 units. But, in adopting the new fee formula on Nov. 12, the school board automatically raised Bibo's bill to just over $130,000.

Taylor said it is unlikely that the firm will be ready to build before the new fee schedule takes effect the first of the year, and that is why Schillo is asking the district to apply the old fee schedule for these and two other affordable-housing projects.

"There comes a point where you just can't build," Taylor said.

Up to $50 Million Needed

But school board President Ellyn Wilkins said she is reluctant to make any exception from the new fee schedule because the district will need $40 million to $50 million for expansion in the next five to 10 years.

"I'm not sure that it's the district's responsibility to concern itself with the global growth of the city," Wilkins said. "Our responsibility is to educate the children of this community."

Besides, Wilkins said, low-income housing attracts children who need extra counseling and academic help in school, which puts "a larger drain on the district."

"The reality is that the people who are barely making it have other problems and their children bring those problems to school," Wilkins said. "Those problems cost dollars."

The two other projects in the works also are apartment buildings, one with 168 units and another with 24.

The boundaries of the school district lie almost entirely within the city of Thousand Oaks, which is experiencing its first expansion in the school-age population since the mid-1970s.

Mel Roop, the district's director of planning and facilities, said enrollment had been declining for several years from a 1977-78 peak of 19,800 kindergarten through 12th-grade students, Roop said. It dropped below 17,000 but started climbing again in the 1984-85 school year. Enrollment now stands at 17,800, and the district expects more than 21,000 students by the end of the century, he said.

"We will be needing new facilities by the 1990s," Roop said.

The school district expects to collect about $41 million in construction fees over the next 15 to 30 years, which will be used to build new schools and refurbish existing schools, Roop said. The district estimates that it will need to build two new elementary schools and one high school as well as add portable classrooms to several existing schools, he said. Even without the exemptions, the amount collected from developers is not expected to keep pace with the need for facilities, Roop said.

Bibo has city approval to build a 148-unit building, all apartments of which are to be rented for below the prevailing market rates. The firm also plans to build a 260-unit building, with 104 of its apartments set aside for lower-income renters, Taylor said.

Under the old fee schedule, charges to developers were calculated according to area of the city and type and size of the housing planned. The average schools fee for a single-family home was $700. But now the fees will be calculated strictly according to square feet; thus, at $1.50 a square foot, a 2,000-square-foot home will mean $3,000 for school coffers.

Schillo, one of the affordable-housing advocates on City Council, said the city should encourage more apartments if it wants to eliminate the need for its controversial rent-control ordinance. City officials estimate that there is a less than 3% vacancy rate in the city's approximately 3,600 apartments.

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