Tag Archives: New Urban Partners Chico Ca

Why would we want to do anything the way Portland – a “planning nightmare” – does it?

28 Nov

Portland, the home of Portland Loo, is having a serious bum problem.


The headline says it all,  but go ahead and read the article – like the bony hand of Christmas Future, Portland points out the fate of Chico. 

Portland sucks, that’s why they have one of the funniest online shows around, making fun of themselves:


Portland is also “the hub of smart urban planning,” while at the same time “a planning nightmare.”


Why would we imitate this town? Our council needs a Post-it note right in front of them – “Do the OPPOSITE of anything Portland tells you….”

But tomorrow, the city Finance Committee – made up of Mayor Sean Morgan, and council members Mark Sorensen and Randy Stone – will discuss giving new urban high density developers lower fees than traditional developers. $taff is trying to say, high density development has lower impacts than lower density development. 

I know, what a crock – but it’s happening, look down your street.

Here’s another story of interest:



Consultant report: if we stopped subsidizing new development, we could get a whole ‘nother cop!

14 Nov

Next Wednesday the city has scheduled two concurrent meetings – a Finance Committee workshop starting at 8:30 am and an Internal Affairs Commission meeting starting at 9am.



You might recall councilwoman Tami Ritter changed the time of the IA meeting from 8am to 9am because she can’t get her big ass out of bed, through the shower and coffee shop drive-thru before 8:45 am. 

Both of these meetings hold items of interest to me. I question their scheduling these meetings concurrently but where’s that going to get me?  At the Finance Committee workshop they will discuss how developers have been getting away without paying fees for years, putting the Development Fund as much as  $9 million in the red for years. I had to print that figure in red, I mean, $9 million dollar deficit? How does that happen? 

Well, it happens when you don’t collect the fees, but you continue to pay city employees to do work for developers. There’s a whole department full of salaries up in that building devoted to for-profit developers. 

This problem was highlighted about 10 years ago when Cal Trans threatened a lawsuit against the city for not “dedicating” funds for widening of Hwy’s 99 and 32 while they permitted subdivisions all over town that were obviously going to strain our roadways. Tom Lando, then city manager, argued that the state should  pay for the widening, but Cal Trans showed without effort that the strain was coming from five specific subdivisions the city had approved, including Meriam Park – “a city within a city…”

I sat in a meeting where former city employees told us  these “planned communities,” like Westside Green over on Nord, were going to take the quality of life in our town on a one way ride. At that time most of our major roads had an ‘A’ or ‘B’ rating for travelability,   $taff said they were moving quickly toward ‘C’ and would never return. 

Ultimately Chico was ordered to dedicate funds, but in a conversation I had with Mark Sorensen about a year ago, he said the city had never collected the funds from any of the developers named in the suit. It looks like they still haven’t. Read the report I cut-and-paste from the agenda:

Specific Fee Category Results.   The analysis revealed that 70% (412 I 590) of the current fees for New Construction (a count of plan check and inspection fees combined) are less than the full cost of providing the services, thus providing a subsidy to fee payers. The remaining fees (30 %) are currently set equal to or higher than full cost. In other words, if the City elects to set all fees to recover full cost (and no more), some of the current fees would increase, and others would be reduced.

Read on – “new construction” means new homes and commercial buildings – 70 % of building activity going without paying fees!  “The remaining fees” are homeowners doing remodels, etc to their existing homes – we’ve been paying fees “set equal to or higher than full cost…”  It says there, “some of the current fees would increase, and others would be reduced.”  

Well, let me add a suggestion – they ought to have to give us our fucking money back, homeowners have been ripped off to pay for the big boys.

Read on:

Overall, since the annual volume of new construction permit activity applies more heavily to those fees that are currently under-charged (subsidized), the City would experience an overall increase in annual revenue in New Construction fees of approximately $ 260,000. A pattern of over- and under-charging for individual fees is very common for building studies. Wohlford Consulting normally finds that New Construction fees under-recover the cost of services for smaller project sizes and over-recover for larger project sizesparticularly at the extremes of the range. The existence of an overall deficit or surplus in New Construction fees depends on the mix of projects among sizes, but it most commonly results in an overall deficit or potential increase in revenues if fees are set at full cost for all project types and sizes. This latter result is evident in the Chico Building analysis. The results for the Miscellaneous Commercial fee category also show a mix of subsidized and surplus fees, but the overall revenue result is different. Although a large majority of fees by tally (71% or 132/185) are currently under-charged and subsidized, enough volume of activity occurs in the over-charged fees that the net result is an annual surplus of $48,000 and a cost-recovery rate of 114%. In particular, overcharges in the group of fees for small remodels or renovations (Fees# 12-17 in the Building results) offset all of the subsidized fees in the Miscellaneous Commercial fee category. In other words, the fees for small remodels and renovations are partially funding a variety of other fee services. As a result, if the City sets fees at 100% of full cost in this category, some fees would increase and others would decrease, but the net revenue would decrease by approximately $48,000 per year. A slight majority (53% or 45/85) of fees in the Miscellaneous Residential fee categories are currently set at or above full cost. The annual fee activity volumes for those categories result in a net surplus of $ 44,000 and a cost-recovery rate of 131% when compared to full-cost-recovery fee levels. Even though two of the three general Building fee categories present a revenue surplus, the funding deficit in New Construction is large enough that the net effect of all of the categories combined (New Construction, Miscellaneous Commercial, and Miscellaneous Residential) is an overall subsidy of $169,000. This subsidy also represents a potential annual revenue increase of $169,000 if the City sets fees at the full-cost-recovery levels. 

And let me remind you, Franklin Paving, one of the “big boys”, was probably the biggest single contributor to Mark Sorensen’s recent campaign. Look at the reports for Mike Maloney’s PAC, I ain’t got time to school you again on that.

Meanwhile, in the room next door, the Internal Affairs committee will be discussing an ordinance written almost specifically for the protection of our adorable City Clerk, Badge Bunny, and Best Pinner Ever!, Debbie Presson – a new Code of Conduct Policy that does not allow council members to go to the public with their concerns about staff. 

So there you are, I know you can’t make it. I’ll keep you posted.

Hwy 32 widening: Will CalTRANS carry out their threat to sue us because we didn’t collect developer fees? ANSWER – probably so!

22 Aug

NOTE: This is an old blog, I’m not posting comments here anymore. I posted a comment received recently on a new blog. Thanks!

This morning I sent the following e-mail to Mark Sorensen, at msorense@ci.chico.ca.us. No, that address is not a typo, he leaves that last letter off his name for whatever reason.  I’ll keep you posted as to his response, if I get any.

Hi Mark,

I was not able to stay for  the Hwy 32 widening conversation – that first item was pretty badly agendized, and the discussion was poorly handled. One thing Scott will need to learn to do is SHUT UP. He rambles too much. Maybe you councilors ought to be held to 3 minutes a piece?
Anyway, I had wanted to ask – I sat in on a meeting years ago with Wayne from CalTRANS. He told us they were poised to sue the city of Chico  because of those subdivisions – including, by name, Meriam Park, Westside Green, Barber Yard, among others – that had been approved without dedicating funds to widen 32. At that time Lando opted NOT to collect the fees from Tom DiGiovanni and the other developers, but to take the money from the RDA.
So, did DiGiovanni or Giampoli or Greening or any of the other developers/project owners named specifically in that lawsuit demand ever pay any road impact fees? At that time, we attended a charette at which Varga told us Meriam Park was going to take our traffic rating on that side of town from “A-B to D”, regardless of road improvements. I also remember, Tom DiGiovanni got $7 million in RDA funding for the sale of the low-income part of Meriam Park to a Fresno Developer – the city paid with RDA funds. So, did ANYBODY ever pay road impact funds on Meriam Park? 
And, finally, how are we going to avoid the lawsuit from CalTRANS? 

thanks, at your convenience, for your anticipated cooperation – Juanita

UPDATE: Mark got back to me pretty quickly:

the city matching funds for the project are expected to be 100% development impact fee supported. The problem is an old one, in that development impact fees are not collected until construction begins (or is completed) on actual structures. Whereas there are some advantages to fixing the traffic problem before it becomes really bad. 


At this point in time that particular development impact fee fund is in a deficit position. 


The low income project should have paid their development impact fees, but that is just a tiny portion of the Meriam Park project. 

“And, finally, how are we going to avoid the lawsuit from CalTRANS? “


Its might not be a lawsuit, per se. But CalTrans could oppose projects if the impacts on their roadways will be too severe and un-mitigated. This was a portion of the discussion on Tuesday night. 


But, when we come right down to it, the city can not continue to spend money that it does not have. Some sort of a reasonable funding source must be found. That might include developers developing a solution, and it might include holding off on the project for a period of time (EG: one or more years) until a reasonable method of funding is found. …. 

But I had to ask him to explain, you know I’m pretty thick:

Thanks for responding Mark,


I’m not sure what you mean, let me run this by you:


The developer (Ashcroft? of Fresno)  has paid the impact fees for the low-income portion of Meriam Park, but no road impact fees have been paid for Meriam Park, is that correct? What about Forgarty? Any of the others named in that lawsuit threat? I realize the fund is empty now – did they ever pay? 


Also, could you give me an example of what you mean by “reasonable funding”?  


Thanks for your help understanding this issue – and, I’d also like to invite you to our next CTA meeting, Sept. 1, 9am, library. I can get the room earlier if you’d like,  for some discussion of these latest developments Downtown – thanks, Juanita

He resent my e-mail with his responses in red:

The developer (Ashcroft? of Fresno)  has paid the impact fees for the low-income portion of Meriam Park, but no road impact fees have been paid for Meriam Park, is that correct? What about Forgarty? Any of the others named in that lawsuit threat? I realize the fund is empty now – did they ever pay? 


The low income housing project should have paid the appropriate development impact fees before or during the construction of that housing project. I’ll ask city staff to provide the calculation and indicate what was paid in the way of development impacts fees. (digressing for a moment) Fees that were probably paid with RDA, State and/or Federal grants or loans. And of course, the property is now off of the property tax rolls. 


Development impact fees are usually not collected until construction begins (or is completed) on actual structures (homes, buildings, etc). The vast majority of Meriam Park is still vacant land. Same is true of the Oak Valley Subdivision (Fogarty) it is vacant land on which impact fees would not yet normally have been assessed or paid. 


Also, could you give me an example of what you mean by “reasonable funding”?  

A GREAT example would be to use development impact fee surpluses on hand at the city. The problem is that the fund is already in a deep deficit position. See Fund 308 on page 87 of the following PDF: 

Clearly the Council did not find any of the 3 alternatives presented on Tuesday to be “reasonable”. 


If and when the State Department of Finance actually allows the City to use the remaining (approx) $6 million in RDA bond proceeds for projects, the HWY 32 project could be a candidate for consideration. 


Thanks for your help understanding this issue – and, I’d also like to invite you to our next CTA meeting, Sept. 1, 9am, library. I can get the room earlier if you’d like, and probably get at least Stephanie and Sue to show up for some discussion of these latest developments Downtown – thanks, Juanita


At this moment, I don’t know if I’ll be in town for the Labor Day weekend….

I thanked Mark, for responding.  But the whole thing really pisses me off. Developers don’t pay their way, they never have. But, try being a developer, dealing with the City of Chico! It’s a meeting of nasty dogs, don’t get too close, you will get bit.  

New urban builder wants high-density housing on public-owned Downtown parking lots – you pay! Sounds like Chico!

12 Feb


This week I will hit the ground running in my attempt to keep my New Year’s resolutions – two meetings in two days.  

Tonight at dinnertime I will go to the Airport Commission meeting. I had so much trouble getting on the notification list for this committee, I just have to find out why. These meetings are only held four times a year, which I find odd, for something as important to the economic vitality of your town as an airport. I’ve heard bad things about how our airport is run, I’ve heard the airports at O-ville, Willows and Redding are fun far better, and I’ve read reports about the workings of those airports that leave me wondering, “why not Chico?”

While Redding is looking into providing more aircraft parking for private jet owners who are able and willing to pay, Chico looks into raising car parking fees for people who have to leave their cars at the airport while they fly out of town. 

Are you tired of being treated like a cash cow? Poke, prod, yank, squuuueeeeezzzze!” Me too. I’m going to try to find out what the heck is going wrong at the airport. 

And then, the next morning, I’m going Downtown to the 8am Internal Affairs meeting. There’s an item on that agenda that I have been watching float around town like a bad turd for years – Tom DiGiovanni wants a “public/private partnership,” which he managed to worm into the General Plan, to develop Downtown parking lots into high-density “live-work units.”  This guy is a leech – he doesn’t really build anything, he just goes about getting the plans approved and selling them to other developers. He got Meriam Park, a “city within a city” approved, then sold the low-income portion to a Fresno based developer for $7 million. The $7 million came from our RDA fund, given to the Fresno developer to route to DiGiovanni. 

Have you seen a shovel of dirt turned over at Merriam Park? No, but you’re looking at a gazillion dollar freeway widening that was necessitated by the approval of Meriam Park, forced by the threat of a lawsuit from CalTrans.  That freeway widening was also paid for out of the RDA – it was part of the lawsuit, Cal Trans demanded that Chico “dedicate” money for that widening, so Tom Lando handed them some cookies out of his RDA cookie jar.  Now we, well, really, our grandchildren, will pay $3 for every dollar spent on that low-income housing and on that freeway widening.

Not to mention, DiGiovanni and his high-density new urban spree have bottomed out the new housing and rental markets, and you see the results. And now DiGiovanni wants public money again, so he can sell the plans and walk away with his pockets full of money? 

Oh, and by the way, whatever happened to that parking crisis that caused a $1 million…oh, excuse me, $3 million Downtown makeover? This whole thing just stinks to high heaven.

So, I will be there at 8:00 in the morning, and I’ll keep you posted.