School board members adopt developer fees of $1.84 per square foot
Starting July 20, people making additions to their homes or building commercial projects within the Palo Alto school district will have to pay a fee of $1.84 a square foot.
Over the objections of real estate agents and housing developers, the Palo Alto school board voted 4-0 to enact the fees Tuesday night with no exceptions.
The fees are expected to have a quick impact.
Marlene Prendergast, executive director of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, a nonprofit housing developer, said the fees are unfair for housing projects meant for low-income workers.
The Housing Corporation is planning a 106-unit complex on Alma Street with apartments of about 250 square feet each. "They are intended for low-income wage earners," Prendergast said. Rent will be set at about $375 a month.
"It is not designed or intended to accommodate any children," although children will not be prohibited from living there, she said. "Our funding is set. We are not able to merely raise the rent. We calculate our (developer) fee at $128,000."
Board members had said they would consider exemptions for senior housing, low-income housing, or even single-family homes. But attorneys have advised the board that the state law that allows the developer fees is written narrowly and any exemptions may invite legal challenges.
The law will take effect in 60 days. This means that residents planning remodeling projects can escape paying the fees if they get their building permits before July 20.
The fees will affect homeowners adding 500 or more square feet of "habitable space," such as bedrooms, family rooms or bathrooms. Decks, garages, enclosed patios, or other such additions would not require a fee. Additions below 500 square feet would not be subject to fees.
State law allows school districts to collect a maximum of $1.84 per square foot of new residential space and 30 cents of new commercial space. The school district plans to assess the maximum amount.
The fees are designed to help school districts pay for building more classroom space to house the increase in children that a new building or home theoretically brings in.
Over the next few weeks, the board will discuss policies and procedures for collecting the fees, and they could include some exemptions.
"I'd like some statement to say we would listen to exemptions," said board member Susie Richardson.
"I don't want to be in a situation where a single family is building a mother-in-law unit (meant for seniors to live in) . . . that if they move, it would be an extra bedroom (for children)," said board President Julie Jerome.
"Essentially what we're doing is adopting a resolution that has already been adopted in Sacramento," said board member Don Way.
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