Public Comment

Commentary: Illegal Fee Deferral, Immoral Demolition

By Gale Garcia
Tuesday December 18, 2007

On tonight’s City Council agenda is a very interesting request from Councilmembers Maio and Capitelli to “defer” permit fees. It is Item 36 on the agenda and I encourage all to read it. 

The subject property is a 51-unit condo box to be built by Mr. Said Adeli, who claims he can’t afford to pay the building permit fees. So he has asked for the deferral of $315,588 ($99,990 of which are sewer connection fees) which will supposedly be paid to the city when he completes the project. The Maio/Capitelli letter makes it look like a loan, but unless the terms are revealed, this means little—City of Berkeley loans to developers are often subordinated or forgivable. 

The letter mentions that fees for sewer connections “are not normally deferred per BMC” (Berkeley Municipal code). Chapter 19.62 of the BMC actually says that the city manager can, “defer the payment until a later date, of any permit fees, except for new connection sewer fees, for any housing project in which at least twenty-five percent of its units are low and/or moderate income housing….”  

The applicant isn’t bothering to provide any of that pesky low income housing, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that the maneuver used to skirt the terms of BMC Chapter 19.62 for fee deferrals would be setting an unwholesome precedent. 

Mr. Adeli seems very confident that he’s going to get his illegal fee “deferral” even though the City Council won’t vote on the matter until tonight. He is quoted in the Dec. 14 Planet as saying: “We got all the permits from the city. . .” (except, of course, the ones he doesn’t plan to pay for). Furthermore, on Saturday, he demolished the charming building at the site, a pre-war Japanese florist shop that should have been preserved. 

Who has promised Mr. Adeli that he’ll get his illegal “deferral”? And why? The mortgage industry is imploding, and the condo market tanking, both at a stunning pace. Breaking ground on a whole slew of new condos at this site, just as 34 units (2700 San Pablo) are about to land on a stalled sales market—is our City Council so out of touch as to believe that this is really a good idea? 

A condo project that doesn’t have enough money to pay its bills is very likely to fail. Then we might not get the “deferred” fees after all. And we Berkeley taxpayers will be paying for a shiny new sewer hook-up for a failed project, while the sewers of the rest of town continue to crumble. It’s your tax dollars (and the Bates regime) at work!  


Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident.