As its name suggests, the new transportation fee is intended to defray the costs to maintain and improve the city's network of streets, bikeways and similar infrastructure. Mountain View has an exhaustive list of more than 85 transportation improvement projects, which together are expected to cost about $450 million to complete. This list includes some long-awaited projects, such as a $190 million rebuild of the downtown transit center, and a $150 million grade-separation project to bring Rengstorff Avenue under the Caltrain tracks.
To help pay those costs, any new developments across the city are now expected to chip in. Developers of any new housing and hotels will have pay a per-unit fee — about $4,700 per single family home, $2,600 per apartment and $2,900 for each hotel room. Affordable housing projects and accessory dwelling units will be exempt from these costs.
Meanwhile, the new fees also put one more new expense on office and retail projects. Future commercial office developments will now be required to pay just under $5 per square foot. New retail space was originally going to be charged more than twice that amount — about $13 per square foot. The logic goes that because shopping centers and restaurants tend to generate much higher traffic, they should be expected to pay higher transportation fees, explained City Transportation Planner Eric Anderson.
"If you think about a grocery store, that's generating trip after trip all day long, and the fees have to be proportionate to the impacts on the roadway," he said. "But then the council said they really want to make sure our neighborhoods have retail and they didn't want it to be harder to build."
At the council's direction, fees for commercial retail space were lowered to match the office rate of approximately $5 per square foot.
The new costs are Mountain View's first citywide fees on new developments for transportation, although the concept has been used previously for specific areas of town. In particular, North Bayshore office projects already must pay $23.61 per square foot, and retail spaces and hotels also face smaller fees. Under the new fee system, a developer looking to build in North Bayshore would have to pay the new citywide fees in addition to the older fees laid out in the precise plan.
The new fees come at a delicate time for the city's long-term plans to transform the North Bayshore area into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood. At recent public meetings, developers have complained that the city's mounting fees are making it cost-prohibitive to build new housing. Each North Bayshore apartment that is built is currently expected to generate about $120,000 in fees for schools, parks, utilities and transportation costs. City officials are investigating ways to reduce those costs out of concern that developers could walk away from building housing.
The city's new transportation fees will not affect any projects currently in the city's planning pipeline. The transportation impact fees will only affect projects submitted after July 1, 2018. Proposed developments face a deadline of June 2021 to obtain building permits or else the fees will be imposed, Anderson said.
This story contains 593 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.