Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mega Developer Sues Encinitas Over Fees (again)

NCT.com story

Developer Barratt American again sues Encinitas over fees

By: ADAM KAYE - Staff Writer

---- Developer Barratt American Inc. is suing the city for increasing building and plan-checking fees, even as a related case remains unresolved.

Filed this month in Superior Court, Barratt's lawsuit alleges that Encinitas' approval in December of a revised fee schedule would result "in a massive and unjustified increase in the fees for building permits and plan reviews."

Several city officials contacted Monday said they weren't aware of the lawsuit.

"I hope we can talk to (Barratt) and settle it early and get it resolved," Mayor Christy Guerin said.

The city's fees are at about the midpoint of those charged by other cities in the region.

"It's a little frustrating, to say the least," Guerin said of the lawsuit.

In a related lawsuit, lawyers for the Carlsbad-based builder have argued that Encinitas charges more in fees than it spends to provide the inspection services.

It's hard to feel sorry for Barratt American, they posted record multi-million dollar profits last year and they are major proponent of sprawl in north county, but these same fees do effect the little guy. If you want to build a home you gotta pay these fees too.

Are these fees justified? Well, we know that the city is constantly revenue hungry. The city tries to raises taxes and fees whenever and wherever it can. (Short term rental folk, the city doesn't really care about solving your noise problems but they are licking their chops at collecting fines). The city wants to charge you extra streetlight fees, water fees, building fees, they even kick around the idea of parking meters.

Michael D Pattinson, CEO of Barratt American, writes a bi-weekly opinion column for the North County Times. He whines like a little girl often that his company is always getting sued by grumpy NIMBY's, yet Barratt keeps their lawyers busy with full time work. Barratt is constantly suing local governments. A case of the pot calling the kettle black?

In December, the City Council approved the first adjustment to Encinitas' fees in 11 years, which brought increases ranging from 13 percent to 52 percent. The increase would recover the costs of providing building and plan-check services, officials said at the time.

The Barratt lawsuit asks the court to overturn the City Council's approval of the revised fee schedule.

Encinitas employs the private San Diego-based firm of EsGil Corp. to review plans and inspect buildings.

I think EsGil Corp. does a fine job plan checking. It's easy to figure out if the increased fees are necessary. EsGil has overhead just like any other business. It's a little unclear if EsGil had simply raised it's rates or if the city of Encinitas is pocketing the money.

I like this quote,
"It is the first-time, entry-level home buyer that is most challenged by these fees," Pattinson said. "Any time you add $1,000 to the cost of a house, you're eliminating a certain amount of people to the home-buying opportunity."

When is the last time Barratt and Pattinson built anything in Encinitas that wasn't a million dollar+ McMansion?

Pattinson isn't going to pass the savings on to you if you buy a Barratt home but if he wins this lawsuit it will help you save some money on your next project.


  1. I think it is a bit ironic that our Council members didn't know about suit, given that they are such strong supporters of developers.I guess that happens when you get into bed with sleazy characters. Too bad it ends up costing we taxpayers the money.

  2. I have a question, city attorney Glen Sabine is going to defend the city on this right? Does he charge the city an hourly fee or is this kind of stuff part of his salary?

  3. If I was EsGil I would make damn sure all plans from Barratt were perfect. I would reject their plans over the tiniest mistakes. NO mercy.

  4. Are these impact fees? There is no way developers are paying enough inpact fees? If they were we wouldn't need to borrow for ball fields and street improvments needed to accomidate the growth.

  5. I hope that the increase in fees will drive Barratt out of this town. Barratt is no friend of Encinitas. Their bloated McMansions have no character and do not fit in with the community.

  6. Jp if the fees are appropriate and high, no one remodeling should complain. That is the cost, otherwise everyone else is subsidizing your second story addition.

  7. Pattinson and his crew have been shoving high density down our neck.

    Have you heard Pattinson's BIA radio commercials over the last few years. They have been manipulating our emotional response on the FALSE argument that the rise in housing costs is mainly driven by a lack of supply and plan check fees. This is just wrong. Speculators drove this bubble. see how insane the housing prices are at http://piggington.com/

    Oversupply will come into play after the insanity ends. There are a lot of NEW high density units coming on-line soon AND in the next couple years a large amount of people are going to have their interest rates reset and HAVE to sell. People that have to sell in a slow market lower their prices or die on the vine. At the same time interest rates will have to rise because of poor fiscal policies at the national level, these sellers will be competing with all those new units and drive the market into the ground... making everyone's equity evaporate. No slow leak.

    Housing will be affordable again! Thanks Patty.

    So in reality, Pattinson didn't help you afford to buy a house yet.

    The big question is, if he and the BIA are so altruistic and socially minded would it not be a lot easier if they just sold houses for the cost of construction plus 5% or something like that? Even with Encinitas' new plan check fees he would be selling at many hundreds of thousands less (dare I say a million less).

  8. Yeah, I'm just wondering if the fees are fair for the cost of doing planchecks. Is it gouging or fair market?

  9. Notice:
    Please, please,everyone go to the City Council Meeting this Wednesday night. They are discussing the issue of paying for the capital projects (fire stations, Hall property, public works facility) either with bonds, or on a pay-as-you-go basis. How do you think they are going to vote - cash or credit? I'm telling you, if they get to fund these projects with bonds, the budgets for each of them are going to be astronomical. This will likely not go to a public vote, since the type of bonds they decided to use do not require a public vote. So the Council's vote will be the last word. At least make them think about their upcoming elections when they make their decision. Speak up!

  10. Property owners in the San Dieguito Water District, and the two sewer divisions, formerly know as districts, should be up in arms about the fee hikes the council also place on them. Along with the building fees, the council approved charging departments and the specific funds an increased "internal cost allocation fee" that will be charged beginning July 1. What this means is that there are really only a few funds separate from the general fund that gets outside money. The SD water district gets its money from charging fees for a service. The city will charge the SDWD a fee of at least $300,000 a year for city staff. The $300,000 is in addition to the more than $700,000 the water district pays for management services from the city. The sewer districts will also have to pay a fee back to the city. The landscape and lighting district is also charged a fee. All these fees are calculated to go back into the general fund to increase the amount of money the council can spend on projects. The internal cost allocation fees are utility taxes hidden away. If you're tired of the city council picking your pockets, complain.

  11. J.P. With regard to the City Attorney, Glenn Sabine, he is contracted for 50 hours per month. Beyond that, he gets paid $145.00 per hour. He makes approximately $7,000 per month for the first 50 contracted hours. He is then given, what appears to be, carte blanche for any hours after that. He bills us each month. For example, from July 2005 to April 2006, he was paid, over and above his contracted fee,$61,050. The attorney cited in the NCTimes for this litigation was not Sabine, so I don't know if he will be involved. The City also uses other attorneys besides the designed city attorney, which is Sabine. Hope that gives you the information you wanted.

  12. No wonder bossypants is frustrated by the suit. She has bent over for this developer every time they ask.

  13. Well, I am not a developer fan, at all, and I can't stand Michael Pattinson or his columns.

    However, I did think that the City raised the permit fees excessively, particularly since it was still in court, with an outside attorney, Dunn, re the former Barratt lawsuit. That lawsuit went all the way to the State Supreme Court, so you know that big bucks have been paid out, by the taxpayers, on this one.

  14. Yes, the little guy, the small homeowner who wants to remodel, or someone who wants to add on a second story, say, will be harshly impacted by the big increase in permit fees, water fees, sewer fees. The storm drain fees and landscaping fees had to be voted upon, so those were nixed by us, the voters.

  15. Over spending, overpaidJune 20, 2006 6:58 PM

    When the City Council passed the increased permitting fees, last Dec., I believe, shortly thereafter, or that same night, the fire dept., the City Manager, and the City Attorney were all given a healthy raise in pay and benefits. Kerry Miller's and Glenn Sabine's increases were retroactive to the previous October!

    Glenn Sabine gets $155.00 per the first 50 hours and $145.00 for every hour, with no limits, after that. He works for several cities, so he's racking in the dough, and has no incentive to settle, ever.

  16. No Checks and BalancesJune 20, 2006 7:02 PM

    Christy Guerin right away says, in the NCT article, that she wants to settle this lawsuit. Settling has not been her tactic in the past. Why should she? She wants to control, and she does not want checks and balances, either by a public vote on the upcoming bond issue, or by honoring the City's promise to the Coastal Commission re withdrawing the ordinance for a complete ban on all new vacation rentals.

    But previous poster is correct. Bossypants Guerin has a very cozy, almost incestuous relationship with developers, who help to finance her, and open the doors for her political and social ambitions.

    The Coast News article about her defiance to the Coastal Commission was great this past Friday.

  17. Encinitas, we, just hired at least two new planners, as far as I know. Also, I was told by Planning that EsGil "employees" get benefits through the City. This is not equitable if they are contracted, not employed by the City.

    I wish to high heaven that we could do our own planchecks through our ever growing Planning and Building Dept. If we cannot, then that dept. needs to be cut back, not expanded.

  18. Council Meeting 6/21/06June 20, 2006 7:08 PM

    Yes, we've got plenty to talk about at tomorrow's Council Meeting, starting at 6:00 P.M.

    Council put off the Budget stuff, said that would be first on the agenda tomorrow.

    Be there, or we won't be spared from domination by the forces of greed, corruption.

  19. Not evil developer!!June 20, 2006 9:42 PM

    Many years ago I built a house for my family to live in, I paid plan check fees, half way throught the project there was problem with the plans and they had to be redrawn and then planchecked again. I got to pay twice. When I complained, the city said it was out of their hands and if I didn't want to pay the project would be shelved indefinately. What choice did I have but to pay. Plan check means very little, it's done by outside help that often don't know the rules for a city or community. IMHO plan check is a rip off of the developer. BTW I built 1 house on an empty lot. NOt 6 or 8 houses and my family still lives there today!! So I am not an evil developer!!

  20. Not evil developer!!,

    No one said you were evil, unless your last name starts with a P or E. In that case a blogger might have written that you were evil.

    We all live in houses (except RSPB) and some of us build them for a living. I don't think anyone wants plan check fees to rachet up like all the rest of the fees in this City if the fees are excessive.

    Your double payment thing seems wrong. Which Councilmembers did you petition for assistance?

  21. Why is our City Barratt's big target?

    Is it because we have a terrible attorney and that makes a suit easier for them?

    Does our Council deserves these suits because they can't act properly?

    Is it because Barratt has super cozy relations with most of our Council? Who do you think those Councilmembers are going to protect, us or their campaign finance? Think about it, Barratt supports the majority of this Council. Why would they do that when this Council makes decisions that bring Barratt to sue the City. In a normal situation the plaintiff would not turn around and give those same decision makers contributions. Fishy.

  22. I've been out of town for a week. It took me an hour to read all the blogs I missed. Great job to all. RSPB have a beer on me. Dr. Lorri, hope you get new customers after thsi weekend blogs. Gil, good info for a person that lives in Elfin Forrest. JP, great work but I would censor all the profanity from some of the bloggers that can't control themselves. At least one of the bloggers for sure has Taret's syndrome. Where is Alejandro? Did he get deported in the recent INS sweeps?

    Weekly rental ordinance bad.
    Leucadia RDA bad.
    Leucadia street improvements good.
    Dump the city council and city manager.
    Enforce exisitng sign ordinances and remove realtor signs from the public right of way.

    These are my opinions for now.

  23. I don't want to edit or censore post, some of these topics get 50+ comments, whew!

  24. The Barratt suit will allow the city to postpone the increased building fees. The "fees" that the council is charging to the sanitary divisions, the water district, and the other income funds will not be postponed. Who comes out ahead? The developers. The ratepayers in the water and sewer districts and the lighting and landscape district zones will be paying the exorbitant ICA fees council approved last December.


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