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Council to consider upping appeal fees

Submitted by on 1, March 17, 2009 – 6:45 am6 Comments

On the city council’s agenda tonight is a plan to more than quadruple the amount it will charge people to appeal planning decisions.

The city currently charges people $100 to appeal planning decisions to either the planning board or the city council. Tonight, the council will talk about changing that amount to $400 plus time and materials up to $1,500 for residential projects and $5,000 for commercial projects.

“The proposed increase in appeals fees is to recover the costs to process the appeal,” Planning and Building Director Cathy Woodbury said, adding that the planning department does not get money from the city’s general fund and must be financially self-sufficient.

The charge for lodging a planning appeal has seesawed over the years, from $250 to appeal something to the planning board and $350 to the city council in 1993-94 to $100 plus time and materials in 2005-06 to the current charge, which is a flat fee of $100. The average cost to the city over the past two years was $1,759, according to a staff report.

Staff surveyed 10 Bay Area cities, whose charges ranged from $35-$50 plus time and materials in Fremont to $500 in San Mateo. Time and materials costs in cities ranged into the thousands of dollars. (Just for the heck of it, I did a quick check on a few more cities here in the East Bay: Albany charges $340, Livermore charges $350 and Union City charges $509.)

The fees caused controversy a few years back when opponents of the Alameda Theatre got a monester bill for their appeal of the project. In the years since the fees were lowered, the city has collected $2,400 on appeals to the city council and planning board that cost a total of $38,691.

On a separate note, we’ll see if the third time’s the charm for a plan to charge fees for non-emergency calls to the fire department. More on that here.


  • Jayne Smythe says:

    A case of bureaucracy getting paid twice for the work. The bureaucracy defines and creates its paper hell, and it gets paid to do this work (i.e., that is what its purpose is).

    This is an assault on democratic action.

    If you can afford to buy your decision, you'll get it. If not, you are forced into silence.

    Cute. And not far off from the ancient Chinese petitioning system: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7d13197e-09bc-11de-add8

  • Planner in Emeryvill says:

    This sounds like a consequence of separating out the Building and Planning activities from the general fund. It's about time that Alameda complies with California Government Code Section 66014 and the State Attorney

    General’s opinion 92-506 which requires that fees collected for building and planning stay within that Department and not be used to fund other City projects. This enhanced analytical approach is consistent with industry

    trends for Building fees and is intended to improve accuracy and to ensure compliance with state


    You get what you pay for.

  • Tony Daysog says:

    My two cents: this item shouldn't come up before Council tonight because, more than likely, this will be rejected by City Council. So, why go through the motions? Staff should save the Council the trouble (and any possible embarassment) by taking the initiative to pull this off the agenda. That just my two cents.

  • eyes open and watching says:

    Dear Ms. Woodbury,

    Sell one of your new trucks. Take a refresher course in civil rights. And, the money you have in your budget to take the Carnegie Library away from the Museum and away from the citizens so you can grow your staff?…tell the citizens how you accumulated it first. Until you provide full disclosure of your assests and liabilities, quit whining.

  • eyes open and watchi says:

    Well they are discussing it. And the discussion is beyond belief. "The Loser Pays" like in court is what Johnson is proposing…let's see, in a courtroom there is a judge who is not one of the people who can lose. In the city there is the council or the planning board who is the decision maker AND who profits from winning. Johnson doesn't see any due process problems with THAT?

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