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Anaheim Boosts the Value of Its Homes

June 01, 2004|Joy Buchanan | Times Staff Writer

Attracted by City Hall's waiver of processing fees, Anaheim property owners have pursued more than 3,000 home improvement projects over the last three months, raising the value of their homes by about $26 million, officials report.

The surge in construction occurred during what the city called a "home improvement holiday" launched March 1 and concluded on Friday.

During that period, the city's building and planning department did not charge the normal processing fees for home improvements, which resulted in the loss of about $700,000 in permit revenue to the city.

Permit costs range from $55 for a water heater replacement to more than $2,000 for room additions and other major structural changes.

But Mayor Curt Pringle said the improvements were worth the loss of revenue, and were successful in encouraging residents to remain in Anaheim rather than move elsewhere in search of bigger and better homes.

"We wanted to encourage reinvestment in Anaheim," Pringle said. "We are getting an unbelievable private investment in people's homes."

Typical among the homeowners taking advantage of the city's offer was Nanette Miotto, who saved about $1,200 because of the waived fees. Miotto, 39, took out permits to renovate her kitchen and garage, and to add a laundry room, a loft and walk-in closets. "If it wasn't for this, we probably wouldn't have as nice a kitchen as we're about to have," she said.

Among the building permits issued during the period were more than 100 for new pools, valued at about $2 million.

The final tally of issued permits was still being calculated late Friday because of a rush of applications during the final week of the program. "People are trying to make the deadline," said Sheri Vander Dussen, the city planning director.

The planning office offered workshops on home improvement issues, such as how to apply for a building permit or how to build a patio.

The city reinforced the planning staff to speed up the approval process, and provided coffee, Danishes and bottled water before steering customers to the appropriate approval lines.

Fred Nelson, a plan checker who has worked for the office for 15 years, said the experience was novel.

"It's fun being Santa Claus up here," said Nelson, who added to the sense of festivity by wearing a tuxedo on the opening day of the program.

Officials expect that the city will recoup the lost fees with increased property tax revenue. But more is at stake, Pringle said.

"Certainly, in the first year it's not going to cover it," he said. "It's a long-term investment in the city. Creating neighborhood pride is a long-term benefit."

Among those praising the program were Dale and Maria Loftis, who were after a permit to build a wood fence.

After learning that the fees were waived, the Loftises expanded their home improvement list to include a patio, patio cover, a stone wall with pillars and a laundry room. They're doing all the work themselves and spending more than $7,000 on supplies.

"It's fantastic," Maria Loftis said of the home improvements. "It looks so different."

"It all started with a fence, and I didn't even know it was free," she said. "I wouldn't have done all of this now if the permits weren't free. It would have taken years."

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