Street Impact Fees Draft Resolution

As mentioned previously in this forum, the city has largely decided to adopt a “street impact fee”, which would exact a fee on new development and use the funds for automobile infrastructure “improvements” (not maintenance).

Note that the funds cannot go to transit, bike, or pedestrian infrastructure; they are dedicated to automobile infrastructure. Thus the name “street impact fee” is misleading; a more accurate term might be “automobile impact fee”.

The current proposal divides the city into 17 service areas and assigns each area a maximum aggregate impact fee based on projected growth and capacity needs. For any individual development project in a service area, the city would largely base the fee for that development on either square footage (commercial projects) or the number of units (residential projects).

Some aspects of the “formula” will have effects contrary to the FAN vision. For example:

  1. Replacing a single family home with a duplex will incur a fee, but tearing down the same single family home and replacing it with a single family home twice the size will not.
  2. A downtown high-rise apartment complex with 300 residential units and zero parking would incur the same fee as one with 300 parking spaces.
  3. The funds go only to automobile infrastructure expansion and can benefit other modes only incidentally.
  4. The formula has some of the service areas on the periphery of the city paying less than some of the interior zones.
  5. The formulas use ITE trip count estimates, which a growing consensus of planners believe are inaccurate and do not take into consideration factors (nearby transit, bike lanes, mixed use) that can cause people to take fewer automobile trips.

Since the impact fee is supposed to be for automobile impacts, it should be based on factors that more accurately reflect the actual impacts on automobile infrastructure. The number of parking spaces (or the square footage of parking) is a proxy for the extent to which visitors and occupants of a development will impact nearby streets with automobiles and potentially require automobile infrastructure upgrades.

Accordingly, I propose that FAN vote on a resolution that enumerates the above-listed flaws in the existing proposal and calls for the following changes:

  1. The “street impact fee” should be renamed “automobile impact fee”.
  2. Base automobile impact fees for an individual project on the amount of parking provided in the project.
  3. Eliminate minimum parking requirements citywide (a position FAN has previously adopted).
  4. The maximum impact fee for a service area should be based on automobile-oriented growth projections and capacity needs.
  5. Consider incorporating the number of added curb cuts in the fee calculations for individual projects.

The FAN vision calls for “a diverse, abundant, and affordable choice of housing options” in our neighborhoods. Impact fees based on the number of residential units discourage housing abundance and diversity. Moreover, automobile orientation works against FAN’s vision for greater transit accessibility.

Here is an example of a trip generation model that is both more accurate and more goals-oriented than the ITE suburban greenfield model: https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/mixed-use-trip-generation-model

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I’d like to also consider adding a curb cut fee to the new street/automotive impact fee This would recognize that the driveway (even on single family homes) privatizes the curb space and adds danger for others (pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles dealing with cars coming and out. It would probably have to grandfather in existing curb cuts, but would be good going forward.

The size of the curb cut should factor in, which would make it more expensive for a large development, but more expensive per unit for smaller developments.

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Can you clarify how the curb cuts create (or indicate the need for) additional automobile infrastructure in a manner that parking doesn’t already create?

The city’s argument thus far has been that, via street impact fees, new development should pay for at least some the costs of the new automobile infrastructure that supports it. We can embrace this argument and point out that it justifies fees only insofar as those new developments actually create the (supposed) need for additional automobile infrastructure. The amount of parking is a strong indicator of the extent to which a development will add more cars to the nearby roads.

I can certainly see that curb cuts are an indicator of development adding more cars to nearby roads, because they directly facilitate cars going in and out of the property and using the public road system. I also recognize that curb cuts have other negative impacts, such as the safety impacts you mentioned. But with curb cuts, come onsite parking spaces. Do we need to complicate the formula with curb cuts when, perhaps, parking already accounts for it?

I should mention that the ITE and other trip generation models are complex, and that a formula based on the amount of parking greatly simplifies things, and makes things more predictable, for developers trying to understand what the city will charge them in street impact fees. Simplicity is not the end goal, but it is a desirable feature.

Thoughts?

New developments often have multiple curb cuts to support the garage, and if it contributes to the fee, it will encourage more sustainable designs (less curb lost). Many commercial developments take over street lanes to allow their drivers to easily exit the garage during rush hour. This is a further reduction in public benefits.

I would also make the argument that the curb space is a productive public resource, and a curb cut is a reduction in public benefits & tax revenue. The curb is a very limited shared resource that provides space for auto storage, seating, bike storage, delivery space, loading zone - all of which contribute to the city revenues directly (parking fee) or indirectly (supporting businesses that generate sales taxes). The privatization of that space is necessary for development, and shouldn’t be banned, but the cost should be recognized. This might get too wonky, but it recognizes the opportunity cost of that curb space.

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You’ve described a lot of costs, both financial and on quality of life, associated with curb cuts. I’m not sure those costs align with the ones the street impact fee, by law, is supposed to fund. A separate fee might make more sense to address those costs and concerns.

However, it remains true that curb cuts do indicate a project will add to the usage of nearby public roads by automobiles. I am updating the draft with a bullet to “consider” incorporating curb cuts in the fee calculations.

It might be a stretch, but I think it’s worth considering. You could also assigned fees for any curb cut space over XX ft. and/or starting on the second curb cut (assuming they will need at least one that’s wide enough for two vehicles). And maybe there’s room for a bonus if there is no curb cut (like at new hotels with no parking).

There is a sense of safety and pleasure when walking or biking on a street with no curb cuts. It’s hard to describe and not always recognized by the cyclists and pedestrians, but once you notice it, you realize how much driveways add stress to getting around an urban area.

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Here is a cleaned up draft of the resolution:

FAN calls for the following changes to the city’s proposed street impact fee:

  1. The “street impact fee” should be renamed “automobile impact fee”.
  2. Base automobile impact fees for an individual project on the amount of parking in the project.
  3. Eliminate minimum parking requirements citywide (a position FAN has previously adopted).
  4. Base the maximum impact fee for a service area on automobile-oriented growth projections and capacity needs.
  5. Consider incorporating the number of added curb cuts in the fee calculations for individual projects.

FAN is concerned that some aspects of the current proposal will have effects contrary to FAN’s vision for “a diverse, abundant, and affordable choice of housing options” and greater transit accessibility. For example, under the city’s current proposal:

● Replacing a single family home with a duplex will incur a fee, but tearing down the same single family home and replacing it with a single family home twice the size will not.
● A downtown high-rise apartment complex with 300 residential units and zero parking would incur the same fee as one with 300 parking spaces.
● The formula has some of the service areas on the periphery of the city paying less than some of the interior zones.
● The formulas use ITE trip count estimates, which a growing consensus of planners believe are inaccurate and do not take into consideration factors (nearby transit, bike lanes, mixed use) that can cause people to take fewer automobile trips.

Since the impact fee is supposed to be for automobile impacts, the city should base it on factors that more accurately reflect the impacts on automobile infrastructure. The number of parking spaces (or the square footage of parking) is a proxy for the extent to which visitors and occupants of a development will impact nearby streets with automobiles and potentially require automobile infrastructure upgrades.

Hi All - Long time no post but I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! Throwing my two cents in on the curb cuts - was actually planning on removing one of mine and replacing with curb. Wouldn’t a curb cut/driveway be a greater legal/administrative burden for the city when dealing with right of way issues related to the street?

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Good to hear from you, @marmstrong18, and thanks for chiming in!

I wouldn’t be surprised if curb cuts are, indeed, a greater legal/administrative burden on the city than parking spaces are. However, keep in mind that the street impact fee, by law, only funds automobile infrastructure “improvements”, not administrative costs. The strength of the argument for changing the impact fee depends on linking the method of determining the fee (e.g. parking) and where the fee actually goes (automobile infrastructure).

@jcrossley brought to my attention that this claim in the resolution is not entirely accurate:

A downtown high-rise apartment complex with 300 residential units and zero parking would incur the same fee as one with 300 parking spaces.

Under the currrent proposal, it is possible for developers to incorporate transportation demand management (TDM) strategies and negotiate with the city to reduce the fees. Reduced parking is among the TDM strategies that the city would consider.

However, I believe the claim is true with that “asterisk”. And having to go through the negotiation with the city when reduced parking “speaks for itself” doesn’t make much sense.

Also, if a developer pursues other TDM strategies besides parking, then reduced parking provides “proof” that they do not expect as much automobile usage (and, therefore, impacts).

This is very well thought out. I was hesitant at first voting. With full enthusiasm for the more known Project Connect question; but first reading unsure of this resolution. Even after being in a smallish audience COA public zoom meeting on Street Impact Fees… Conclusion - the FAN direction is spot on. although I’m not certain curb cuts is an equally good argument across zoning entitlement categories - but it’s a COA please look at recommendation. Well done!

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