LA County May Charge $83,478 Per Acre For Building Permits In SM Mountains

Written by on March 18, 2023

LA County is proposing a 539 percent increase in building permit fees in the local mountains, to pay for parks agencies to buy habitat.

Want to build a house?  Add a corral?  Widen a driveway to meet fire department standards?  Prepare to pay $83,478 dollars per acre of development for an agency — presumably the MRCA — to buy it.  That’s more than five times the current habitat impact fee.

L A County’s Department of Regional Planning has been charging $15,500 per acre for Coastal Development Permits for several years.   Under a proposal released Thursday, the $15,500 fee would rise to $83,478 in the unincorporated county areas of the Santa Monica Mountains.

That’s an increase of nearly 539 percent, and the county says it would bring the fee up to the cost of acquiring undeveloped habitat in the area on a one-to-one basis

The fee increase was announced Thursday, and employees at the Department of Regional Planning do not work Fridays.  It is not clear from the county’s published notice, how the fee would be computed.   It does not state if the “acreage” would be computed on the size of the lot, including untouched land, or just the size of the proposed project.

If there is an exemption for Coastal Development Permits at fire-damaged property, it is not mentioned.  Unlike the City of Malibu, LA County has been charging full fees for fire casualties in unincorporated areas.

The county has published a legal notice … saying its consultants have attached a price tag to charges that were okayed by the Coastal Commission in 2014, when it first approved the new regional plans for the mountains.

The proposed 539 percent fee increase would be in the habitat impact fee for the Santa Monica Mountains Local Coastal Plan … which covers the southern part of the mountains.  Also … the Santa Monica Mountains North Area Community Standards District … which covers the northern half of the mountains.

What has happened here … is that landowners in the mountains would be hit with huge fees to enable unnamed conservation agencies – most like the MRCA, the Mountain Resource Conservation Authority – to buy more public land, the county says.

It would “compensate for impact to these resources by development and related projects permitted by the county in the coastal zone.”

In other words, landowners in the mountains would pay for the MRCA to replace disturbed habitat on 1-to-1 basis.  A consultant hired by the county says the Coastal Commission and L A County reached an understanding in 2014, that the fee would be updated by the county at some later date.

Even cutting a fire break … to comply with fire department fuel hazard removal … would cost $20,870 per acre … a 535 percent increase.

Part of the $83,478 per acre for development would go to MRCA and the county to administer the new animal habitat.

The Regional Planning Commission will consider the whopping fee … at a public hearing April 19th in Los Angeles.

[There are no radio stations in the database]