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Saturday, April 12, 2014

City Looks at Increasing Impact Fees

Emeryville's Anemic Impact Fees
Existing Residents/Business Subsidize New Business

News Analysis
Last week, the Emeryville City Council engaged in some very unusual behavior when they conducted a study session with an eye to possibly raise the City's fee schedule on new business and development, known as impact fees.  The April 1st meeting was the first time since 1998 the Council has looked critically at its compliment of impact fees, a turn of events brought on by the demise of the Emeryville  Redevelopment Agency and the resultant hit the City has taken on its finances.
Any rise in these impact fees would bring Emeryville closer to closing the considerable gap that's grown between what's charged here versus neighboring cities.  Every city in the Bay Area charges impact fees and the study session revealed that Emeryville as it stands now, is the cheapest place around to do business... by far.

Paid at the time of development by the developers, impact fees offset costs associated with providing public services to new development and paying for capital improvement expenditures due to population growth (for residential projects).  These fees provide a way for municipalities to ensure new comers not financially burden those here already.
As with so many other of its other business generated revenue streams, business friendly Emeryville has the lowest impact fees around; putting existing businesses and residents on the hook for helping provide public services for these new arrivals.  The result is a depleted capital improvement fund, making it more difficult for Emeryville to pay for existing services let alone provide new services citizens (and businesses) want.
The services impact fees pay for in Emeryville are earmarked for transportation, parks & recreation and affordable housing.

Ultra Low
Emeryville's ultra low Impact Fees are not a accident.  They're the conjoined work of the the Emeryville City Council majority and the Chamber of Commerce.
A manifestation of the Council's pro-business, pro-developer ideology, the impact fee schedule at City Hall falls behind neighbors Oakland and Berkeley in every single category.  Not just behind in most cases but far behind.
The staff presented the Council at the April 1st study session, with information that was revelatory.
Among the findings are the following impact fee comparisons with our neighbors:

Existing Emeryville Impact Fees*
(dollars behind average of Berkeley, Richmond and Alameda based on per unit/square feet/or room)

Housing Blocks:
-Multi Family  $13,543 per unit less than neighboring cities
-Town Homes  $22,668 per unit less

-$2,377 per room less

Office Space:
-$7.50 per square foot less

Research & Development:
-$5.34 per sq ft less

Retail/Mixed Use:
-$5.80 per sq ft less

Of course impact fees are just one way in which Emeryville charges business far less than what neighboring cities charge.  When it comes time to leave Emeryville, businesses get a nice parting gift from City Hall with its business friendly real estate transfer tax.  At $.55 per $1000 of value of real estate, the anemic transfer tax, paid primarily by business, falls far below all the neighboring cities including Oakland and Berkeley who charge $15 per $1000; some 2700% more than Emeryville, enabling those cities to pay for public amenities such as sidewalk repair and new parks.

The April 1st presentation is found HERE
 *page 13 of introductory staff report to City Manger Sabrina Landreth from Director of Economic Development Helen Bean and head of Planning Department Charlie Bryant


  1. Your link to: "*page 13 of introductory staff report to City Manger" doesn't work.

    1. Uh- oh. Thanks for alerting me. The City of Emeryville pdf file isn't meshing with the Tattler blog architecture. Try the other link (April 1st presentation) and click on the Helen Bean impact fees link. Then click on the top entry on the column on the right called "Supporting Material" Scroll down to page 13.

      Thanks again, I'll see if I can fix the problematic link in the meantime.

  2. it worked for me. click on "here" which takes you to the agenda. click on report to city manager. there are several links to supporting documents. I clicked on the top link and it took me to the report.

  3. I disagree. Emeryville has enough money to operate quite nicely. It is the lack of hard nosed, financial administration that is the problem. Every day I see my tax money going right down the drain on the unnecessary. And our fellow citizens who might not be otherwise enterprising enough to earn a living in the economy, rely of this "Free Ride" from the City.
    There are 2 sides to every argument, and I don't believe the Emeryville needs to
    be compared to what other Cities steal from their citizens. We're OK like we are!
    Down with the "Charter City" movement.

    1. How about democracy? Down with that too?

  4. Brian: is this "impact fee" the same as "traffic impact fees" which don't seem to be enforced anyway?

    1. Yes, there are several categories of impact fees.

  5. It's not true that "every city in the Bay Area charges impact fees." Some cities only collect impact fees charged by other agencies, such as school districts and special districts.