Developers could be paying just under 7 cents more per square foot for new developments under proposed fire protection fee increase
Higher fees for fire protection for new developments and an ordinance for sidewalk vending are on the agenda for Tuesday’s Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting will see the board hear reports on multiple items, including an increase of just under 7 cents per square foot — to a new total of just more than $1.60 per square foot — for developers looking to build in the Santa Clarita Valley. That increased fee would go to the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire protection services.
The Santa Clarita Valley is one of three areas in the county to see a proposed increase for that fee, though the other two would only increase by around 4 cents per square foot.
These fees would go into effect for unincorporated areas of the county starting April 1, followed by the city of Santa Clarita adopting a resolution updating the fee amounts, according to a letter from Fire Department Chief Anthony Marrone to the board.
The proposed fee is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act as “it involves the collection of fees for capital projects necessary to maintain services,” according to the letter.
The letter goes on to state that property tax revenue is the primary source of revenue when it comes to fire protection and that increasing the fee for developers “provides an additional revenue source to fund essential fire station facilities and equipment.” Increased revenue could also lead to the development of new fire stations for areas experiencing population growth, the letter added.
The fee typically generates about $3.5 million in revenue annually, though that is dependent on the abundance of homes being constructed, according to the letter.
The board is also set to hear a report on an ordinance that would allow sidewalk vending in unincorporated communities in the county.
Senate Bill 946 went into effect in 2019 and decriminalized sidewalk vending in California. Essentially, the ordinance would allow for vendors to set up shop and be regulated by the county, codifying the current state law.
According to a letter from Kelly LoBianco, director of the county Department of Economic Opportunity, which was put in charge of the sidewalk vending program, each vendor would be required to pay a $604 registration fee as an initial payment. That fee would then be reduced to $100 in each subsequent year.
But, for the first year of the program, the registration fee would be subsidized by the DEO, effectively making it a free registration “to ensure participation in the sidewalk vending program is affordable.”
No person would be allowed to operate as a sidewalk vendor without first registering as an official business, passing any and all inspections and gathering the required permits depending on the type of business.
The sidewalk vending ordinance goes hand-in-hand with another ordinance being heard on Tuesday regarding health and safety for retail food facilities, as signed into law via SB 972. The new code that is on the table would authorize the county Department of Public Health to “perform mandated public health services” with regard to sidewalk vendors.
According to a letter from Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, the agency would have no net cost as the fees for permits and inspections, as well as fines for vendors skirting the rules, would offset any expenditures.
In the public comments provided with the agenda for Tuesday, Michael VanLancker said that sidewalk vending is already a problem in the county and that regulating it will only make it worse.
“The proposed amendment is clearly designed to promote more street vending, and street vending has already exploded to an uncontrollable volume and needs no further assistance,” VanLancker said.
Daria Brooks didn’t disagree with VanLancker in her public comment, but did say that sidewalk vendors should be treated and regulated like any other business.
“Though I certainly do not agree with waiving the fees for one year, I am all for better regulation of street vendors, who should long ago have been charged to operate,” Brooks said.
AJ Jackson, who identified himself as someone who works with Public Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice and works using a pro bono legal model, said the new ordinances would provide multiple contributions to the community, including: “Supporting economic vitality of neglected areas, encouraging foot traffic in urban spaces, and being visible pillars of culture that distinguish local neighborhoods.”
“Most vendors make less than $15,000 per year and this work is their primary means to feed their families, often after layoffs, medical emergencies, or other unforeseen challenges restrict prior avenues of employment,” Jackson said.