On May 7, 2014 the BIA attended the City Council meeting for Norco. Our concern going into the meeting was the proposed $14,000 Development Impact Fee (DIF) increase applied to Single Family Residential (SFR) building. The current DIF is approximately $24,000 which includes water and drainage and reigns as the highest DIF in the County. The City is now proposing a $38,000 fee also including water and drainage. This will amount to a $14,000 increase.
The BIA questioned the cost of the study to taxpayers and the necessity of the study applied to SFR, noting that there has been no building activity since before and after they had raised their fee the last time in 2010. The BIA also noted flaws in the study which included using 2000 census demographic data and not 2010 census data which is out of compliance with the City’s Housing Element. It was also noted that the study population count included Norco’s Prison’s population which accounted for 18% of the City’s population and was unjustified for inclusion.
For these reasons and other concerns raised by the members of the Council, all five council members unanimously voted to table the study that was presented by the consultant and City Staff. The BIA will continue to work with the City Manager who also expressed his thought that the SFR component recommended increase was unnecessary. This item will be brought back at a later time TBD. While there is currently no building activity in Norco we feel this is a principled victory.
Val Verde Unified School District Unjustifiable Level II Fee
Soundly Rejected by Trustees, Board President Removed and Replaced
For nearly three months, the BIA had remained vigilant in monitoring and engagement with the Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD), its staff, consultant and board members. Initially Val Verde proposed a $5.76 school fee which would have potentially crippled some projects and select future development. The BIA made a case to the board in February for postponement as a result of the last minute communication we were getting from the district staff. The majority of the board agreed to allow us for time to work with their staff and hopefully come to a consensus on the study’s school fee assumptions.
The VVUSD staff proved to be a challenging entity and throughout the process it became clear to the BIA that we were indeed given a seat at the table as a stakeholder, but our data and input was either flatly disregarded or given very little if any consideration. Following a letter to the District and their consultant documenting our concerns after our last meeting, the VVUSD SFNA final draft for notice of Public Hearing was released on April 4th showing a negligible decrease of $.019 and recommended a proposed fee of $5.59 which would still make it the highest fee in the County. It seemed to be the case that those that were driving the fee increase were determined to achieve a certain numerical threshold as opposed to considering relevant data that would promote a fee that would be fair to the industry as well as benefit the District.
The Government Affairs Team reached out to individual board members having opportunities to meet with all save for one, the President of the Board. Our concerns, particularly the fact that the average unit size of projects under construction, approved and planned (real as opposed to theoretical data) was omitted intentionally by their consultant and staff under the pretense that they had complied with the code and that same code would not allow our builder data to be included with the study. This response was misleading on many levels and we had ample opportunity to meet with the Board leadership and provide some context to the complexity of our issues and concerns with the study.
Last evening a Val Verde Unified School District Board Meeting convened for regular business and for public hearing on consideration of accepting or rejecting the VVUSD SFNA proposed fee increase. A significant amount of pressure was placed on the members of the board as the district staff, their consultants, attorney, Superintendent and teachers gave testimony and a presentation for over an hour combined that was at times misleading, to a complete misunderstanding of the fundamentals of determining school fees and the procedure of their application in the district. The BIA had three people to present on the industry’s behalf including our consultant from Jeanette Justus Associates, Olga Tsiba. We were given a total of 9 minutes, 3 minutes apiece to present our concerns and arguments.
After all arguments had been heard, all questions asked and all board members were given an ample opportunity to weigh in a vote was finally called. I am pleased to announce that by a vote of 3-2 the recommended excessive fee increase was soundly defeated.
I would like to make it a point to mention the three board members that chose fairness over intense district pressure; Shelly Yarbrough, Wraymond Sawyerr and Marla Kirkland. They all three showed leadership and courage and particularly Shelly and Wraymond on many levels went to bat as friends of the BIA. All three are good friends to our industry and recognize the mutually beneficial partnership our industry and development plays in Val Verde.
This is a victory that we all can share. Val Verde accepted a statutory minimum Level I fee of $3.36 which will take effect in 60 days, until then the fee remains at the 2012 Level I rate of $3.20. Val Verde’s Agenda’s will remain on our watch list but we won the war.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, May 21st, the Val Verde Unified School District Board of Trustees met for a Special Meeting for the purpose of Board leadership review. Specifically, at the close of the previous meeting when VVUSD Trustees rejected staff’s proposed fee increase, Trustee Shellie Yarbrough requested a special meeting to discuss removal of the Board President due to consistent unprofessional conduct. During the previous Board meeting, President Vargas was openly and relentlessly hostile towards BIA fee opposition and committed quite a few conduct and Brown Act abuses. The staff presentation, a requirement in advance of a Public Hearing for obvious transparency reasons was moved to be heard after the public hearing. This was also done following the Boards acceptance of the agenda and without Board consent. In addition he disallowed any communication between the Board and BIA representatives during the agendized public hearing which defeats the purpose of an agendized public hearing.
For these and many reasons prior to this meeting the VVUSD Board of Trustees summarily met and on a 3-2 vote removed former Board President Vargas and he was summarily replaced by Marla Kirkland, now President of the VVUSD Board of Trustees. Please Join the BIA in congratulating President Kirkland on her recent honor and an additional display of leadership and courage by the VVUSD Board of Trustees. This wasn’t an easy meeting by any stretch of the imagination is it is understood that supportive Trustees had to be escorted out by security under perceived threat from Mr. Vargas family and the Employees Association.
For more information on the Western Riverside County School Fees, CLICK HERE