Government Affairs Update | Jun 2019

Damian Fusell, Deputy Director of Gov Affairs

Damian Fusell, Deputy Director of Gov Affairs

Summer solstice is nigh, and the fees are getting high. In the lead up to this summer season the BIA has been working hard to combat fee increases in both Riverside and Imperial Counties. To aid in these fights, the Riverside County Chapter of the BIA is pleased to welcome Damian Fussel to the Government Affairs team. Damian serves as our Deputy Director of Government Affairs and brings with him a strong background in policy and campaign work and he has hit the ground running. Previous employers include the California Legislature, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and most recently the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Siloed Fee Logic

While the housing affordability crisis is well understood to be impacting all of California, local jurisdictions are often of the mind that the high cost of housing is the result of other factors, not the fees that they impose on new development. The refrain that we often hear from local elected officials is that the “small” increase that they are considering implementing can easily be absorbed into the cost of a new home. The problem occurs when overlapping jurisdictions engage in siloed fee logic, focusing only on their piece of the pie, where they do not take into consideration that they are part of a much larger whole. With jurisdictions failing to think holistically, the industry finds itself faced with collectively outrageous fees. We have seen this sort of siloed thinking emerge in many of our recent fee fights. Some of these included increases to fees in the cities of Norco, El Centro, and Rancho Mirage. The School Districts of Moreno Valley Unified, Imperial Unified, and Perris Unified all passed Level II charges unanimously, despite strong protest from the BIA. There were however a couple of jurisdictions that showed a willingness to work with the Industry by phasing in their fee increases. This was the case with Palm Springs’ User Fees, and with Valley Sanitary District’s Connection Fees and Sewer Charges.

Fees on the Horizon

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The swarm of jurisdictions looking to increase their fees prior to the start of the fiscal year seems to have subsided. While the cities of Banning, and Jurupa Valley have fee studies out for review, the number of proposed fees on the horizon are substantially less than they were just a few weeks ago. For both Banning and Jurupa Valley, the BIA has provided comments to City Staff, indicating areas of concern uncovered during our review of the studies provided.

Toward the end of this year, the cities of San Jacinto and Coachella have indicated that they plan to introduce updated DIF Studies for adoption. The City of Coachella already has the highest fees in the Coachella Valley, which makes us question why they feel the need to update their fees, particularly with such low permit activity in the City. The BIA is looking forward to working closely with both cities to ensure a fair and equitable update of their fees.

City of Riverside Elections

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The City of Riverside held an election on June 4, 2019. None of the candidates in the four wards received the 50% + 1 threshold to win the election out-right, hence, all Wards will see a runoff on November 5, 2019. The BIA supported Mike Gardner from Ward 1 and Steven Hemenway from Ward 7; both candidates will progress to the November Election. Gardner received 37% and will face Erin Edwards who received 43% of the vote. Hemenway won 45% of the vote and will face William Pearce who received 31%. In Ward 3 Ronaldo Fierro and Warren Avery will face off in November. In Ward 5 Sean Mill will face Gaby Plascencia. Your Government Affairs team continues to engage with the candidates in each of the Wards.