Permit fees on the rise in Calabasas

Application for a home renovation project will jump from $150 to $850
By Sylvie Belmond

Property owners in Calabasas soon will have to pay higher fees to the city’s planning division for permission to build new structures or improve existing ones.

The City Council voted to increase the permit fees at its June 13 meeting.

The city’s fees for planning applications have not changed in 21 years. But the cost to process the construction requests has increased, said Maureen Tamuri, community development director for Calabasas.

The fee increases will allow the city to recoup labor costs for administrative and site reviews, environmental documents, planning commission meetings, attorney time, public notices and other services.

Developers of commercial projects will pay 100 percent of the cost for their project reviews. Individual homeowners will pay 50 percent of expenses incurred by the city because officials don’t want to discourage residents from making improvements on their properties, Tamuri said.

“We want people to take good care of their properties,” she said, pointing out that most planning applications in Calabasas involve residential projects.

Currently, applicants pay $150 for an administrative plan review. With the new fees, the price will be $1,700 for commercial projects and new home developments and $850 for residential improvements.

Costs to change zoning on a property will increase from $1,050 to $1,912 for small, individual parcels and up to $3,820 for larger properties slated for commercial or multi-home development.

Officials estimate the updated fees will provide an extra $75,000 per year in revenues to the city.

The city’s 2030 General Plan requires developers to pay for the infrastructure, public facilities and service costs that they create. The new fees will recover about 60 percent of the planning division’s labor costs, up from the existing 40 percent.

While substantially higher, the new fees are within reason compared to the regional average, Councilmember Fred Gaines said.

“Cost recovery is the mantra of government these days,” said Mayor Mary Sue Maurer.

Councilmember Lucy Martin said the city should establish a regular schedule for fee reviews to prevent sudden price surges for services. She said the large price increases have been a pattern in recent months.

“It’s a big cost to the residents even though it’s a necessary one,” Martin said.

Not everyone is in favor of the new fees.

“Residents are being put at a financial disadvantage,” said Jodi Thomas, president of the Old Topanga Homeowners Association.

During the debate the council also set a flat fee of $150 for appeals.

There will be no charge for appeals initiated by council members.

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