Santa Monica is going ahead with legislation that asks developers to pay for the cost of traffic impacts caused by their developments. Last week, the Santa Monica Planning Commission approved a transportation impact mitigation fee--a mandatory fee for developers that could generate $60 million for transportation projects in the next 20 years. The fee, described in Santa Monica Daily Press as the highest in LA County outside of a few other coastal areas, would vary depending on the location and type of development, and most uses would be covered by the fee, including single family residences. The fee would split the city into two zones: Area 1 includes downtown and the proposed Bergamot Transit Village development; Area 2 includes everything else. Here is how the fee breaks down based on the geographic system: "A new single family home built in Area 1 would pay an additional $7,600 as a part of this program. If the same home were built in Area 2, that amount would be $7,800." As for multi-family development, the costs are dependent on the amount of units included, which means the fee total could really pile up: "Multi-family housing would be assessed $2,600 and $3,300 per unit [respectively for Area 1 and Area 2]." And finally, commercial uses: "Non-residential development including retail, office, medical office, hospital, lodging and industrial uses range widely with industrial uses coming in at a low of $1.20 per square foot in Area 1 and retail coming in the highest at $30.10 per square foot in Area 2."
As recent debates about Bergamot Transit Village and the Colorado Esplanade have shown, SaMo residents are wary of the impacts of development on the city's already bad traffic conditions--even for transit-oriented and pedestrian friendly developments. Another solution for mitigating the jobs/housing imbalance causing the whole problem would be to provide incentives for dense residential development, but the city's Land Use and Circulation Element from July 2010 includes a mandate for no net new car tips during peak hours, so the TIF--an amendment to the LUCE--comes down clearly on the disincentive side of regulatory power. The money generated by the new fee would, however, go a long way toward financing the $119 million price tag for the transportation projects in the city's sights and will help the city's position in grant applications for state or federal monies.
Last week's vote approved a staff report (pdf) that breaks down all the price points and even includes a survey of the transportation impact fees of other cities around the state. The fee must still be approved by the Santa Monica City Council.
· Developers facing new fee to fund transit projects [Santa Monica Daily Mirror]
· SaMo Wants to Charge Developers For Creating New Car Trips [Curbed LA]