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Orange County

Anaheim Residents Get a Break on Fees

To encourage home upgrades, city declares a three-month moratorium on charges for building permits and licenses.

March 02, 2004|Jean-Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writer

People who walked through the sliding glass doors of Anaheim's City Hall on Monday with major home improvements on their mind heard some good news: Permits -- potentially costing thousands of dollars -- were free of charge. And so are most city building licenses for the next 92 days.

The fee moratorium, the brainchild of Mayor Curt Pringle, is meant to encourage residents to improve older homes rather than move.

"This is the right time," said Pringle, standing in the City Hall lobby, surrounded by yellow and blue balloons commemorating the program's launch. "Home values in Orange County are increasing dramatically. We'd rather [residents] invest in their homes than move out."

Although officials estimate the city will lose nearly $500,000 in revenue during the three-month period, they say the loss is well worth what the city will receive in return.

"In the big scheme of things, it's a relatively small amount of money ... and it'll create large improvements in the neighborhoods," said Councilman Tom Tait. "We want to see a revitalization of the neighborhoods. We want people to invest in their homes and their properties. As people improve their property, you'll see [a] property tax increase."

Permits cost as little as $55 for water-heater replacements and as much as $2,500 for a room addition, according to John Nicoletti, a city spokesman. During the same three-month period last year, 1,500 permits were issued.

The city also pledged to take no more than five days to process the free permits, which will be issued for roofing, plumbing, electrical work and room additions. Waivers are not being issued for permits on some other major work, such as site grading.

The mostly untapped idea has already grabbed the attention of two other cities in the region: Garden Grove and Riverside.

"For older cities to sustain and enhance neighborhoods, you have to encourage remodeling to existing homes," said Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge of Riverside. "We need to give equal attention to older neighborhoods and sustain them and enhance them."

Among the first Monday to take advantage of Anaheim fee waiver was Halette Patea, who arrived with two of her four children to get plumbing and electrical permits.

Patea, 38, said she's almost doubling the size of her home, adding a master bedroom, bathroom and family room. She said she had already spent nearly $1,200 on permits.

"I would've waited a couple of months if I would've known," she said. "It's an awesome idea, especially with the cost of houses now; you can't afford to move."

Home improvement retailers in the area, who say spring and summer are the busiest seasons for remodeling, said they hoped the fee waiver would motivate residents who had resisted the idea of home improvement. "I think it's going to help create some awareness among people that are hesitant to do anything," said James Taft, general manager of Ganahl Lumber in Anaheim. "They'll be more inclined to take on bigger projects."

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