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At SDCAA/IREM meeting

Zapf rebukes linkage fee, proposed energy plan

San Diego Councilwoman Lorie Zapf on Thursday took aim at the city’s linkage fee and a proposal that could mandate the retrofitting of existing homes and apartments with energy- and water-saving measures upon the sale, lease or remodeling of a unit.

Zapf, who spoke at a breakfast jointly sponsored by San Diego County Apartment Association and the local chapter of the Institute for Real Estate Management at the La Jolla Marriott, said that as of Wednesday night, 53,000 signatures had been gathered to overturn the linkage fee -- also known as the housing impact fee -- increase approved on a narrow 5-4 vote by the City Council last November.

Zapf said the linkage fee's opponents need about 33,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the June ballot. She said this is of critical importance since the proposed fees may in some cases be as much as 700 percent higher than those that currently exist.

"Economists are all saying this is a bad idea. You're not only talking about talking about companies like Qualcomm, but Biocom agrees and even hospitals would be caught up in this, as well," Zapf said.

Zapf said the linkage fee, as draconian as she believes it to be, is just one of a number of concerns. Chief among the others is a proposed energy- and plumbing-retrofit measure by city staff that would apply to all single- and multifamily units upon their sale, lease or remodel.

The 70-page document by city staff is known as the Climate Action Plan.

Specifically, the measure could require the installation of energy-efficient windows, new plumbing (possibly requiring gray water systems), and state-of-the-art insulation prior to a sale, lease or remodel.

On the commercial side, the measures would require LEED Silver ratings for existing buildings and operations and maintenance certification for all existing municipal facilities of more than 10,000 square feet by 2020.

Alex Bell, Zapf's communications adviser, said that although these might seem like laudable goals and would be phased in over time, the proposals could have a far-reaching impact.

"It’s something that is pretty easy to overlook, and the phased-in implementation makes it not seem as scary at first. But it’s a pretty big deal, especially for low- or fixed-income residents and individuals who own multi-unit housing," she said.

All new residential and nonresidential properties would be required to be prewired for solar photovoltaics by 2016.

By 2020, the city would adopt a zero net-energy ordinance for all new residential construction. The same requirement for commercial construction would come a decade later under the proposal.

Water consumption data would also be required for all buildings by 2016 at the time of a sale or a lease.

Bell and Zapf contend that although the proposals don't mention the word “lien” for noncompliance, this is what would happen with city's proposed Climate Action Plan.

"To enforce the mandatory retrofits, liens would be placed on the properties. I can't imagine the burden that would be on business," Zapf said. "Government should be a bridge -- not a barrier -- to your business."

Zapf, who heads the city's Land Use & Housing Committee, said a case in point on the positive side is council approval last May of a measure allowing restaurants to extend their footprints to include sidewalk cafes.

"That permit that could cost more than $12,000 to $15,000 is now $300," Zapf said. "That allows the restaurant to hire more people. … If you create one job and then do that thousands of times, then you're really doing something."

While Zapf is clearly a fiscal hawk, she doesn't hate all spending. Earlier this month, with Zapf's help, the council unanimously approved a $120 million infrastructure bond measure that will pay for road resurfacing as well as for libraries in Skyline, San Ysidro and San Carlos; and fire stations in Skyline, on Home Avenue, Point Loma and Hillcrest.

Zapf said there is considerably more infrastructure that needs to be funded somehow.

"We've got 100-year-old pipes that are 40 or 50 years past their expected shelf life," Zapf said.

The city of San Diego is faced with a deferred capital projects backlog of at least $898 million. The city previously issued three bonds to help address the needs of streets, storm drains and facilities.

Looking long term, Zapf said, some way must be found to house the estimated additional 600,000 people projected to come to the area by 2050.

"That's unless they are discouraged from coming here because of the policies," Zapf said.

In the immediate future, Zapf said, there needs to be an increase in micro-community plan updates (also known as focused plan amendments) to address particular areas while they are waiting for the completion of full community plans.

"We have a trolley that will go along Morena Boulevard, but up until now we haven't had planning there," Zapf said. "We need to look at a plan with more height and density and less parking than we see there today."

Bill Fulton, San Diego Planning director, said his office is developing an updated land use and mobility plan for Morena Boulevard between the Linda Vista station on the Green Line and the planned Tecolote and Clairemont stations on the Mid-Coast Line.

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