October 16, 2021
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Sebastopol Increased development impact fees proposed

By: Brandon McCapes
January 29, 2021

The planning commission voted to recommend the city council adopt updated development impact fees at their regular meeting Jan. 27. If adopted by the council, the draft fees developers are required to pay the city to offset the costs of infrastructure projects necessary to accommodate the developments would increase across the board.

The planning commission first discussed drafting new developer impact fees at their August 25, 2020 meeting, and city staff has worked with outside consultant Harris & Associates in determining the fee schedule.

Per California law AB1600, cities are allowed to charge impact fees on developments based on their added cost to infrastructure, and impact fees can fund only new infrastructure projects or upgrades of existing infrastructure that increase utility.

The prior impact fee schedule included traffic, park, water, wastewater retrofit, annexation fees and affordable housing fees. The draft impact fees recommended to city council also include fees for general government (city buildings), fire facilities and equipment such as fire engines and stormwater facilities.

Kari Svanstrom, city planning director, said the revenue from fees will help pay for things like additional living space for firefighters and potentially larger public meetings spaces that can host more participants.

Svanstrom said city staff and the outside consultant decided not to include library impact fees or administrative cost impact fees because the additions could make costs prohibitive to developers, who may instead choose to take their projects to Santa Rosa or other localities in Sonoma County.

The fees are assessed based on the type of property, with six different fees for the following types of development: single family residential, multifamily residential, commercial, office, industrial and hotel. Fees for single family and multifamily residential developments are determined with a flat rate per unit, however, the proposal includes a discounted fee for single family units with square footage less than the 1,750 square foot median in the city. 

“I appreciate the inclusion of the discounts for the smaller units. I think that will encourage people to build smaller, more efficient units,” said Vice Chair Paul Fritz.

Impact fees for single family homes at or above the median will rise $32,395 to $45,484, with a near doubling of park, traffic and water impact fees, the introduction of general government and fire and storm water facility fees and a 73-percent reduction in sewage fees. Multifamily homes will increase from $31,356 to $33,889.

According to Nick Kral of Harriss & Associates, the new impact fees will put Sebastopol at slightly above average when compared to other Sonoma County cities. Healdsburg has the lowest impact fees—around $10,000 less than the proposed Sebastopol fee schedule—however, Healdsburg’s low fees are possible because its transient occupancy taxes fund the parks department.

“Sebastopol’s current fees, which have not been updated for some time, are relatively low compared to other area communities. The proposed fees for Sebastopol are in line with other cities, which range from approximately $28,700 in Healdsburg to $48,700 in Cotati,” according to the staff report.

Non-residential impact fees are determined based on a function of square footage, with a notable increase in traffic impact fees.