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L.A. council pulls back plan to hike fees for development appeals

Council members react to pressure from homeowner groups and environmental advocates. They say they will take another look at the proposal.

October 22, 2009|David Zahniser

Bowing to pressure from homeowner groups and environmental advocates, the Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to pull back a plan to hike fees for residents and groups that seek to challenge the city's development decisions.

The council had been planning to impose an array of new fees that would have forced residents to pay as much as $500 to appeal a zoning decision and as much as $3,000 to challenge a permit issued by the Department of Building and Safety. The current fees are $74 and $368, respectively.

After receiving a barrage of e-mails and angry public testimony, council members agreed to take another look at the plan, which is designed to help the city recoup the cost of processing citizen appeals.

"No way do I want to stop community groups from having input," said Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents coastal neighborhoods that stretch from Westchester to Pacific Palisades.

Planning officials contend that the city typically spends $13,000 to process an appeal of a development decision to the Planning Commission and $11,000 to process an appeal of a land-use decision to the City Council.

Councilman Ed Reyes said he hopes to bring back a reworked proposal within 30 days.

The plan that came under fire would have applied to the fees that are charged when residents try to overturn the approval of development projects, such as new recycling centers, nightclubs and condominium towers.

The proposal also would have, in many cases, forced residents who live more than 500 feet from the site of a proposed development project to pay more to file a procedural challenge.

Councilman Greig Smith, who serves on the council's budget committee, said the higher fees would help shore up the planning department, which has more than 100 vacant positions and 80% of its staff taking furloughs every other week.

Smith also argued that the appeals system is being abused by companies that want to keep competing businesses from winning approval of their development projects.

"The easy access to the appeal process . . . is clogging the planning department," he said.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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