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To Fee or Not to Fee: Crying All the Way to the Bank

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
May 6, 1999


"The developers and entrepreneurs must somehow be taught a new vocabulary of values." — Edward Abbey

Can someone please tell me why developers think that their business is sacrosanct, and should thereby granted special protections. More important could someone please tell me why the rest of the population has bought into this scheme, hook, line, and sinker. To be fair I must admit that things are slowly changing. The operative word here is slowly.

Last week I was moved to question the editor of this paper in regards to some of her editorial choices. My problem, was the placement of a story about the County Board of Supervisor's decision to reduce fees on 80 percent of building permits granted by San Diego County. Chandra, being a friend and someone use to "Bobness," took it all in stride and said, "Perhaps this would make a fitting topic for your column."

Split between pages 3 and 22, this story was, in news lingo, buried. On the front page however, was a story that the cost of homes is on the rise. So let's get this straight, the cost of a single family home has risen 16 percent, and developers are asking for reduced fees for building permits. Also buried on Page 22 is mention that this reduction is related to the Building Industry Association threatening litigation. Isn't odd how developers interests only support laissez-faire capitalism when it favors them.

The BIA claims they are being overcharged, which would be funny if it wasn't so damned absurd. I'm being overcharged for a Cafe Mocha, do I have the option of suing Starbucks? Of course not. My options are, pay the price, seek a more reasonably priced cup of caffeine, or go with out. In the world of economics this falls under the heading of Supply and Demand. Supply, meaning "The amount of a commodity available for purchase at a given price." and demand, "the desire for a commodity together with the ability to pay for it."

On the front page, of the same issue of The Coast News, there was a story on a survey, done by Market Profiles, that states  more houses are selling than last year, and that the selling price of a home has risen 16 percent. Of note, the highest price homes on average were sold in Olivehain. And for those of you not in the know, Olivehain is the bailiwick of Encinitas City Councilman Chuck DuVivier. I wonder if he belongs to the Building Industry Association.

To review, the County Board of Supervisors has voted to reduce building permit fees at a time when more houses are selling at 16 percent more than last year. I'm sorry, but the next time I hear anyone start to mention "Smart Growth" I am going to laugh in their face. Excuse me, giving away the farm is not smart. Not only are we giving it away, we are also paying for it to be destroyed, yet the County Board of Supervisors continues to do just that. Smart growth is a oxymoron.

Here's a thought, why don't we make developers pay through the nose for the privilege of subjecting us to nightmare traffic, severe over-crowding, and a decline in our environmental quality of life. In fact I think it is high time that developers be responsible for 100 percent of all infrastructure costs resulting from their projects. This includes roads, school construction, park acquisition, sewage, undergrounding utilities, and native revegetation. No subsidizes, no tax breaks, no loans, nothing. Harsh? Not really when you consider the impacts resulting from their shortsighted greed.

To show that I'm not the only one who thinks developers have been asking for the world even as they destroy it, in a very uncharacteristic move, the Carlsbad City Council has declared a building moratorium along the Palomar Airport Road industrial corridor. Affecting any project currently without development and building permits, the moratorium is designed to require developers to pay for improving congested roads. The moratorium only applies to a third of Carlsbad, but the fact that it is a step in the right direction is reason enough to cheer.

Here in Southern California the majority is so myopic, they can't see past their own self interest. Considering that quails are a community oriented species, I think the California State bird should be the game hen, due to our unwillingness to the stand up to the marauding foxes of "hit and run" development. Perhaps the official bird of the Building Industry Association can be the screech owl. Silent but deadly, their prey usually doesn't know what's hit them until it's too late. Another trait developers have in common with the owl, is a cry that terrifies the timid.

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