The bigger the lie, the more often you repeat it, the more people will believe you – repeat after me – high density residential produces less impacts than low density residential…

26 Nov

Today I was walking my dog along the street in front of my house, and as we crossed the tattered asphalt from one corner to another I found myself in a minefield of potholes. The street was wet, cars were approaching in both directions, and as I stepped on a piece of loose asphalt my ankle turned sideways –  the pain was instant.   I was afraid I’d sprained it, and hobbled off to my house, dog in tow.

After I’d rubbed it out, the pain was gone, but it still makes me mad – in the past 15 years, the city has allowed a lot of development and sewer hook-ups along our street without doing any maintenance to the street. Crews come around occasionally with “slobbers” – leftover asphalt from other jobs – and make patches that just end up on the tires of the first cars to come along.  

There is a particular pothole at the corner of Filbert and Bryant that voided the warranty on my right front tire – excessive road hazard, according to the fellow at Big O Tires. This particular pothole is hard to miss – you’d have to go into oncoming traffic, or into the rut that passes for the “pedestrian right-of-way”  – and has been repeatedly filled with slobbers, only to return. Ever since it ruined my tire I call it “Jaws,” and yeah, as long as there isn’t a southbound car in the way, I cross the center line to avoid it.

Whenever you build a new house or add any square footage to an old house you are supposed to pay fees of all kinds toward the “impacts” you are creating – to the sewer, sidewalks, streets and other infrastructure directly surrounding your project. That stuff is for everybody’s benefit, and everybody is supposed to share in the cost of maintaining it. 

Unfortunately the city of Chico has not been very fair in who pays what over the last 20 or so years. If you build a house yourself, as my family did, they demand all the fees right up front or they will shut you down. But developers get “deferred” fees – they don’t have to pay their street fees, for example, until their project is fully built out. Some of these subdivisions take 20 or 30 years to build out. Look at West Side Place over on Nord Avenue, it’s been sold by the original developer, who never paid any street fees on it, and there it sits, unfinished. 

Cal Trans threatened to sue the city of Chico years back, because the city had approved all these new subdivisions without dedicating any of the fees toward needed improvements of Hwy 99 and 32. Five developers were named in that lawsuit. The city rolled over and gave the money – but as of two years ago when Cal Trans began work on Hwy 32 there between 99 and Del Monte, city council member and Mayor Mark Sorensen admitted to me that none of the developers named in the lawsuit had paid any fees.

Those widenings not only cost the city millions but those of us in the surrounding older neighborhoods put up with three years of earsplitting noise running right through the night, five to six nights a week. Those highways went right into people’s back yards. 

So I was very interested two or so years ago when I heard the city was talking about raising developer fees. I knew they hadn’t updated the “nexus” for years and the sewer fund was tanked from hook-ups. I also knew – existing homeowners were being charged far more for hook-ups than developers – anywhere from $10-20,000 in fees for  the homeowner  as compared to $3500 per house for developers.

But I also know, city management has been pilfering the development fund to pay unrelated salaries and benefits for years.  Back in 2002 several local developers forced the city of Chico to return fees that had not been spent on the subdivisions for which they’d been collected.

The article leaves out the fact that one of the developers had actually installed sewer  trunk lines at his own cost, and others had installed sidewalks and other infrastructure – all that is supposed to be done by the city with development fees. So the  city had to  give the money back. Why would the developers refund the home buyers when they paid for the stuff the fees were supposed to provide? 

I believe developer fees need to be updated on a regular basis to reflect the true costs of city infrastructure – that’s labor and materials, period. Instead developer fees are being hi-jacked to reflect the cost of city management salary and benefits. 

But here’s the really distressing part of the discussion – this Wednesday, staff is trying to convince members of the Finance Committee to make a recommendation to essentially force new urban development. They want to lower fees for new urban, with traditional builders picking up the difference.  Staff says new urban developments – which are at much higher density levels than traditional development – create fewer impacts on roads and other infrastructure. 

I hope you’re asking yourself, what kind of Kook Aide are they drinking? 

Well, they’re not crazy. They know – the fees are lower at the get-go – but who cares – developer fees don’t even make a blip on the budget radar. What they are doing, is cramming in more houses, which will generate more and more and more property taxes forever.

And no, they’re not going to fix the street in front of my house.





2 Responses to “The bigger the lie, the more often you repeat it, the more people will believe you – repeat after me – high density residential produces less impacts than low density residential…”

  1. Jim November 28, 2017 at 7:25 am #

    High density housing actually puts more impact on the city resources since it generates less property tax revenue per person. Low income housing is even worse. Police get more calls to low income apartments than other areas. Not only that, these people still drive on our crowded roads.

    • Juanita Sumner November 28, 2017 at 7:27 am #

      You’re right Jim, and we have to keep repeating the truth as often as they repeat the lie. Write to the papers, tell your neighbors and friends – this kind of development is the last nail in Chico’s coffin.

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