Raised fees for a number of city services were agreed on Tuesday night by the City Council with relatively little debate and no public comments. Dog licenses will at least double: from $7.50 to $15 for a one-year altered dog licence and from $18 to $40 for a three-year altered dog license. Fees for animal adoptions from the city shelter are also going up.
Kate O’Connor, manager, Animal Care Services, said that her department estimated there were about 40,000 dogs in Berkeley. In FY12, 1,722 animal permits were issued (virtually all for dogs — she said only two cat licenses were issued). O’Connor’s estimate was that 20-25% of Berkeley’s dogs are licensed, which Councilmember Laurie Capitelli pointed out is probably an overestimate given the number of issued licenses.
The current annual cost of processing animal licenses is $56,000. Even with the fee increases, the revenue from licenses will fall short of the cost by around $8,000.
A number of environmental health services fees were also agreed. Tattoo artists will face a $44 fee in FY13 rising to $85 in FY14. The city estimates $1,025 revenues from the fee. Home food businesses will face fees in FY14 of $170 for businesses that sell directly to the public and $425 for those that sell indirectly to the public. The two fees combines are estimated to produce $8,075 in revenues.
Marina boat berth fees are going up 6% for FY14. The special event parking fee at the marina will increase from $10 to $15.
A range of new development-related service fees was also agreed.
Parking in-lieu fees for the Downtown Plan Area did spark some discussion among council members. The fees are payable by developers if they do not provide the required number of parking places in their project. The fees will be $15,000 per space for the first five spaces, $20,000 per space for spaces 6-15, $25,000 per space for spaces 16-25, and $30,000 per space over that.
Council discussion focused on the need for more parking structures downtown. A number of council members expressed concern about the loss of hundreds of parking spaces near the downtown when the university begins construction on their new aquatic center.
“If we’re going to grow the downtown, we have to grow the parking to some extent,” Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said.
Mayor Tom Bates estimated that the cost of a new parking structure on Center St. would be $19.5 million.
Councilmember Jesse Arreguín initiated a discussion about ways in which the city could encourage retailers to Berkeley’s downtown. Arreguín hoped some kind of pilot program might be included in the city’s work plan for the coming fiscal year.
“There are things we can do as a city that send signals to these retailers that we’re open to business,” Arreguín said.
He said certain types of retailers — furniture, electronics, clothing, sporting goods, books, and department stores — needed to be targeted to get a good mix downtown. Among his suggestions were having expedited priority processing of zoning, permits and design review for retailers in the target areas. The city could also assign a staff member in the permit office to shepherd through new retailers. Finally, Arreguín said the city should consider deferring permit fees for one year for targeted retailers.
Councilmember Darryl Moore supported Arreguín’s ideas, but questioned whether advantages should be confined to downtown.
“If we’re going to give out those kind of freebies to businesses we want to attract to downtown,” he said, “we should give them to businesses that we want on Adeline or Sacramento, too.”
Arreguín agreed that any program to attract new kinds of retailers should be available in any part of the city where there were too many vacant stores. Mayor Bates said the proposals were something city staff could look at with a view to having considering a pilot program next year.
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