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City Council to deliberate FBA fees increase in North University City

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Major increases in facilities benefit assessment (FBA) fees in North University City are scheduled to be considered by the City Council on Monday, and others could be in the works in other communities in the city.

The city has identified about $30.19 million in needs in the North University City area over and above the $159.9 million already budgeted for community infrastructure.

The FBA fees are typically revised upward year to year, but this appears to be the largest jump in a long time.

"These increases are a result of unprecedented rises in construction costs, material costs, and project delays," a city staff report states. "The increases necessitated a revision in the rate of assessment, resulting in an increase of 51 percent."

To fund the projects, the city is proposing to raise the community's single-family FBA fee from $10,748 to $16,229, the multifamily assessment from $7,524 to $11,361 and the average daily trip fee from $724 to $1,094.

"The proposed Public Facilities Financing Plan details the public facilities that will be needed through the ultimate development of the North University City area, which is presently estimated to be in the year 2015," the report continued.

As explained in a city staff report, the costs of these facilities are apportioned equitably among the undeveloped parcels within the Area of Benefit. The collected funds are then placed in an interest-bearing account specified for North University City.

"The objective of the FBA program is to ensure that sufficient funds will be available to construct community facilities as the community develops," the report states.

But are developers, who already are saddled with a wide range of developer impact fees, paying more than their fair share?

At the end of the 1980s, in North University City, which had undergone explosive growth, there was a major furor during a roughly two-year period when more than $100 million in FBA funds were collected, but weren't being spent in a timely fashion.

"From the building industry's perspective, our biggest concern is when those monies get spent," said Steve Doyle, Brookfield Homes president and a past president of the California Building Industry Association. "The city is diligent about collecting the money. It's not so diligent about getting it back out."

Doyle said the slow turn-around wasn't only a problem at the end of the 1980s, but also in the mid-1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s.

"Also what happens if a community is dead set against a project, but the monies for continue to be collected? What happens then?" Doyle asked.

Jerry Livingston, Building Industry Association of San Diego County staff counsel, expressed similar concerns.

Livingston expressed surprise not over the fact the FBA funds went up -- they always do -- but over the amount.

"They have known what the cost of construction has been doing for the past couple of years," Livingston said.

Jennifer Carroll, San Diego facilities financing project manager, said a total of about $12.5 million was spent and about another $20.5 million was encumbered for projects in North University City between the beginning of July and the end of March.

"That's more than I've ever seen," Carroll said.

Carroll also said delays can occur because of the need to deal with a number of agencies, ranging from UC-San Diego to Miramar to Caltrans.

"Not everything is under our control," Carroll said. "It's not like we don't want things to move forward."

Nearly all of the money is for transportation projects, but some of the funds would be set aside to finish up the Nobel Athletic Area, which is now nearing completion.

The Nobel Athletic Area incorporates a 15,000-square-foot library, a 10,000-square-foot recreation building, two softball fields, three soccer fields, a multiuse hard court, new playgrounds, picnic areas and a fenced-off dog park.

The extra funds will help pay for an array of highway projects that include: the Regents Road Bridge over the AT&SF Railway line; the widening of the Genesee Avenue overcrossing; the widening of Genesee Avenue from Interstate 5 to Regents Road to a modified six-lane major street; the widening of Genesee Avenue from Nobel Drive to state Route 52; the conversion of the full clover-leaf to a half clover-leaf ramp plus the addition of auxiliary lanes at the La Jolla Village Drive/Interstate 805 interchange; and the widening of La Jolla Village Drive from Towne Centre Drive to the I-805 southbound to eight lanes plus an auxiliary eastbound lane.

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