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Council OKs New Construction Fees for Traffic Work


LONG BEACH — The City Council has tacked new fees on all industrial, commercial and residential construction to help the city deal with an expected onslaught of traffic in the future.

The fees, which range from $210 for each new movie theater seat to $1,125 per hotel room or apartment, took effect Tuesday, immediately after the council unanimously took the unusual step of approving an emergency ordinance. Residential developers will also pay $1,125 for each new home built as part of a development. Homes built on a single-family lot will be exempt.

The emergency action "is a seemingly odd process, but several big projects would escape paying the fees if we didn't do it on an emergency basis," Assistant City Manager John Shirey said after the meeting.

Planning Director Robert Paternoster warned the Council that the city could lose $3.5 million if the council followed normal procedure, which would take about three months.

Transportation fees on commercial development range from $2 per foot of office space in most of the city to $3 a foot in the downtown district. City officials say that downtown developers are charged more because they generate more traffic in the area.

The council also approved a 16% increase in the tax on business licenses to about $35 a year.

City officials estimate that the fees will generate about half of the $207 million the city will require for street repairs, bridges, intersections and other improvements to handle traffic growth over the next 20 years. Consultants have predicted that downtown traffic will jump 170% by the year 2010, from about 102,000 cars a day to 276,000.

The rest of the money needed to pay for transportation improvements recommended by a city task force last spring will come from city, county and state redevelopment funds, officials said.

Although city officials expect residential developers to pass the fees on to home buyers, the increases will not be significant enough to affect the real estate market.

The city previously imposed similar fees on developers to help pay for parks, schools, and sanitation systems, which means developers in Long Beach must now pay the city $8,745 in development fees to build a single-family home. Comparable fees in other cities range from $4,100 in Cerritos to $14,947 in Newport Beach.

City officials said they worked on the transportation proposals with developers and Chamber of Commerce representatives, which defused opposition.

During the council discussion Tuesday, Councilman Ray Grabinski said he was concerned that the Walt Disney Co.'s proposal to build a $2-billion theme park downtown would make the transportation plan moot. He also said the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles should pay some of the transportation costs, since trucks from the two ports contribute to the city's traffic congestion.

"The largest impact in the next 25 years will be either Disney or the Port of Long Beach. This plan does not anticipate that," Grabinski said.

City Manager James C. Hankla said the program is necessary regardless of what happens to the Disney project.

Most speakers praised the program, which has been under discussion for more than two years.

"It's time to act," urged Long Beach resident Carla Biersdorff, who said she is tired of getting stuck in traffic. "No offense, gentlemen, but haven't we about talked this thing out?"

FEES COMPARISONExamples of total development fees on homes.

Los Angeles County

Long Beach: $8,745

Pasadena: 6,412

Los Angeles: 6,318

Glendale: 5,100

Santa Monica: 4,100

Cerritos: 4,100

Orange County

Newport Beach: 14,947

Anaheim: 9,786

Source: City of Long Beach.

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