City of Los Angeles Fee Hike
The City Administrative Officer (CAO) proposed to raise L.A. City Planning fees by nearly 40 percent. Such a fee hike would have greatly increased historic preservation costs and reduced the potential for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the future.
Issues that may have resulted in imperfect outcomes, but still display significant progress
Development Approval Process
On October 19, 2020, the Los Angeles City Council adopted its new fee schedule as proposed by the City Planning Department. With the adopted ordinance, fees have now increased by 20% rather than the full cost recovery ordinance proposed by the City Administrative Officer.
On September 21, 2021, the Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee voted to recommend the new fee ordinance to the full City Council after a a canceled meeting in April. The action recommended the Department of City Planning’s fee hikes rather than the proposed full cost recovery hikes by the City Administrative Officer (CAO). The hikes are an attempt to recover costs associated with various planning services that include historic preservation, appeals, commissions, zoning, and many others.
Presently, the total sum of these fees have a 61percent cost recovery rate. Two plans were proposed, one by the CAO at a 100 percent cost recovery and another by the Department of City Planning at 82 percent. Both proposals represent a fee increase, at a minimum 20 percent higher than current levels.
If passed, the CAO fee hike would have created a cost-prohibitive planning system raising overall fees by nearly 40 percent. We believe an increase in fees at this level would have greatly hindered City Planning’s diversity, equity, and inclusion goals overall and for the City’s historic preservation program.
Additionally, appeal fees would increase 16 percent, impacting the ability of those with limited means and underrepresented communities to appeal harmful projects.
The City initiated the comprehensive fee update in response to budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the current proposal, the Department of City Planning completed a fee study in 2016 that was adopted by City Council in 2018.
The Department of City Planning’s approach to the fee study utilized a cost-based analytical approach to calculate the full cost of providing processing services “to ensure fees are fair, equitable and represent the estimated and reasonable cost of services.” The department has also stated that the proposed cost recovery assessed the degree to which certain planning services benefit the community as a whole or specific groups or individuals. The department recommended the City assess whether lower fees would 1) encourage participation in community-driven regulatory processes; 2) enable participation of individuals or groups that may not be able to afford services, and 3) provide benefits to both the individual and community at large.
The same can not be said for the CAO’s office which sought to recover 100 percent of all costs incurred. If adopted as proposed, the CAO proposal would have limit public participation, harm the preservation program, and undermine efforts to effectively engage communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
About This Issue
Fighting for equitable fee increases.