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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Thursday, May 12, 2011

City of Portland jacking up permit fees

A reader sends along what he or she says is an e-mail message just in from the City of Prtland:

The Bureau of Development Services (BDS) collects fees under various fee schedules to fund inspections, plan review, permit issuance, land use review, customer assistance, and other functions. Since 1988, construction-related programs operated by BDS (approximately 90% of bureau functions) have been primarily self-supporting. BDS achieves this through a combination of strategies that allow the bureau to respond to increasing costs while being innovative and proactive in meeting changing customer needs.

Fee Increase Overview

BDS is proposing to increase most fees (except for Environmental Soils) by 8%, beginning July 1, 2011. Due to significant historical funding issues, Environmental Soils (subsurface sewage) fees will increase by 70%.

Building permits (8%)
Mechanical permits (8%)
Electrical permits (8%)
Plumbing permits (8%)
Facilities Permit Program (8%)
Site Development permits (5%)
Environmental Soils (subsurface sewage) Program (70%)
Signs Program (8%)
Zoning Program (5%)
Noise Control Program (8%)
Neighborhood Inspections (8%)
Land Use Services (8%)
Field Issued Remodel (FIR) Program hourly rate (8%)

If Fees are NOT Increased…

While BDS recognizes the impact that fee increases have on its customers, particularly in the current economic climate, moderate fee increases will be necessary in order to provide financial stability for BDS and ensure an acceptable level of services to bureau customers. Not increasing fees would have significant impact on both the bureau and our customers and stakeholders:

Service levels would remain at unacceptably low levels, hindering development at a time when it’s desperately needed.
Bureau reserves would remain at critically low levels.
Cost recovery efforts would slip.

Next Steps / For Further Information

The Portland City Council will review and listen to public testimony regarding the proposed fee increases at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18, 2011 in City Council chambers. The Council will vote on the changes on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. If the ordinance is passed the fee increases will go into effect on July 1, 2011.

Multnomah County fees will also be affected, since the County contracts with the City of Portland for inspection and plan review services in the unincorporated areas within the Portland urban services boundary. The County Board of Commissioners will review the proposed fee increases on Thursday, June 2, 2011 in the County Board Room, 501 SE Hawthorne, first floor.

The proposed fee schedules are available online at http://www.portlandonline.com/bds/index.cfm?c=44589.

If you have questions about the fee increases, please contact Denise Kleim, BDS Administrative Services Manager, at (503) 823-7338 or denise.kleim@portlandoregon.gov.

Comments (20)

I am confused. I thought the city of Portland had a budget surplus?

In February 2011, Mayor Adams said: "We start next year’s budget with a one-time $22 million surplus."


Running into the ground we are by financial misfits!!!

Homer will still get a full refund via air rights, correct?

Look, my last remark out of sheer frustration, but here is an example.

Thousands and thousands of dollars it costs to just get to only the point of where the city would be able to say yes or no as to whether the project would be allowed!
Heavens knows how much they would ask after that initial point!

Wonder if the city is in such financial skids to bankruptcy already, that they are desperate to do anything, cover up anything, go for anything, try anything, make any deals behind our backs to cover up their grave financial situation, which in turn is really our grave financial matter!!

"Service levels would remain at unacceptably low levels...
Bureau reserves would remain at critically low levels.
Cost recovery efforts would slip."

Yes, that says that they need more money to pay for cost recovery.

Of course the permit prices are going up. How else is Portland supposed to pay for streetcars and hipster bike lanes?

If staffing is at such a dangerously low level perhaps plan review should be contracted out on an as needed basis. Thus eliminating the need for public employees to sit around and do nothing for the bulk of the time. A lot of smaller muncipalities have these arrangements.

Realizing that they have already cut a lot of positions; in this climate not a lot are needed. If you look on line with OCCB (contractor's board); it is amazing that so many contractors/specialty subs are NO LONGER IN BUSINESS. Most of the specialty permits (plumbing, mechanical, etc..) can be handled on line. So one has to question why this extravagent increase is necessary.

Recently we decided to create
an apartment in a storage area of a small 4 unit apartment building. This would be all interior work , that we figured would cost 5k and create a unit of modest 'workforce housing' on a bus line [something the COP says it wants].
We got drawings and filed for a permit. After the intake staff decided we needed to be reviewed by seven [yes 7] agencies [which allowed each of them to nail us for $$$ ] ,we got to 13k in proposed fees!
Then the last reviewer said he needed a separate permit that would cost an unknown amount more. Well we walked away from the 1,000 + in $$$ down payment. This is absurd
and frankly , I will never build or recommend to my customers that they build or improve ANY property in the City of Portland.
The rub is that the more you raise fees to this disgusting level , the fewer people will improve their properties , and thus buy permits , so then you have to raise fees , and then fewer people buy permits ....
A progressive way to get the Portland economy going and create jobs , Mr Mayor and Councilors is to have a Free Permit Year. Instead of buying 'park land' which no one can build on , why not help actual Portlanders improve their property , create jobs and make the city economy jump to life !

Ok, sigh. When Randy took over the Building Bureau the first thing he did was promise the builders that they would have no fee increases for 5 years. (Yes this was just before the National Home builders named Randy elected official of the year and took him down to Vegas for a good time.) The green eye shade folks at the Bureau said "But costs are going up and the fees won't cover our costs." Randy said take it out of reserves and shut up.

The reserve fund then had $30 million in it to cover things like if the home market collapsed. Five years later all $30 million was gone. Then the market collapsed. So without money Randy went to Council and asked for General Fund money. Council said no. So Randy laid off a bunch of employees and then said to his bud Sammy, "I think it's time to give the Building Bureau to Saltzman". SO this is Saltzman knowing Council won't give him any money, rebuilding the Bureau.

Put this down as the least surprising news item today. They'll kill all development yet.

Wasn't Sam just bragging how much extra they have in the budget for projects next year?

I am losing total respect for the collective IQ that is Portland.

Reminds me of events at my previous house: we had a creek running through the back yard. I left that bit at the end of the property to itself. It was excellent wildlife habitat; beavers even moved in and built a small pond down there.

Enter CoPo: their BES slapped an "environmental overlay" on the entire property, and told me I could plant no non-native plants within 50 feet of this ecosystem. A vegetable garden, it happens, is not a permitted use.

The back deck was rotting away from the house, so I decided to replace it - but CoPo wanted a complete set of drawings and $1200 to review them, after which they would decide whether or not I could replace the deck.

Everybody has a limit, and they hit mine.

I replaced the deck anyway, then sold the place.

In Portland, it's rare to actually own property, although you do get to pay the mortgage.

I’ll try that line on the wife, “Due to significant historical funding issues,” we cannot repaint the dining room, nor can we repair that leaky faucet and reseal the toilet, however, we can afford to buy a new toilet brush!

My guess: Portland's MAIN STREAM MEDIA will cover this issue in a light favorable to the elected officials and their hired help.

A jurisidiction puts forward outsize fee increases for regulation/licensing of development and land use activities? Proper solution is to downsize the staffing and consolidate the bureaucracy that was built during the real estate bubble.

Re: "In Portland, it's rare to actually own property, although you do get to pay the mortgage."

Max, Forbes suggests it's not just Portland but the entire West Coast that is currently undesirable for home buying:

"The best places to purchase a home in America are mostly in the heartland, reflecting the coastal nature of the housing boom and bust. None of the best places to purchase a home are located on the West Coast in states like California, Oregon and Washington, not to mention Nevada and Arizona."

"In order to figure out the best places to purchase a home in the country, Zillow looked at four statistical measures in 125 metro areas as of the end of February. These factors included affordability, as measured by home price to income ratios; the unemployment picture (both the absolute figure and how it's trending over time); the foreclosure situation; and year-over-year housing price trends."

City government is not a primary factor in the Zillow survey, although it would seem to influence the measures employed. Perhaps its effect should be made statistically explicit.

How about city staff, downsize to 3/4 or part time at least? Why does Mayor Adams have so many on staff? Saw their salaries recently and do not see why they could not "make do" with less!

List of staff and salaries:

It is not that I am advocating to make life miserable for others, but take a look. When people throughout our city are having to downsize, or worse yet hanging on with a thread and wondering what next - why this staff, and where is there a list of their education and experience to warrant these positions and salaries?

One of the previous comments hit the issue right on the head, raise the permit fees to outrageous levels and people ignore getting permits and do the work anyway.
In some cases this won't be a problem since people want their home to be sound and safe. But you can end up with unsafe or substandard construction.

...or the city coming around and a huge fine!

Can't be independent anymore, we can't have the spirit of that as we are now to be under the thumb of "control!"

Huge money grabs, one way or another. $$ for permits, or $$ for fines!!

Without these fee increases we won't have a planning department, etc? I say let them go away.

Most people will be pleasantly surprised just how little these "departments" are needed as currently structured.

Britt Storkson,
I say we need a relief from this constant planning and involvement to be up on what is next regarding our livability?

It is this plan and that plan and this meeting and that meeting until just plain crazy making. If there isn't enough to do for now, then they have a series of meetings to plan for 2040. I am all for planning for a future, but not at the expense of taking our attention away from our current critical matters. The world we live in, how can we know what to plan for 2040, or to know that what is "planned for us" is the way to go. I don't see what we have here as a moderate kind of planning, I see that planning has turned into a "control" bureau with way more control than actual needed planning.

You can be sure that those with vested interests go to all of these meetings, the general public could not possibly attend them all and yet critical directions are made.

We just need a moratorium, STOP already with the bombardment. A citizen cannot keep up with all of this. A full time job it would be and even with staff could not keep up with all of this!!

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