Cost of home-improvement permits to soar

San Francisco is set to increase permit fees for commercial building and for homeowners who remodel or rebuild their residences — a plan that city officials say will improve customer service at the Department of Building Inspection and close the agency’s projected $14.8 million deficit for next fiscal year.

The increased fees, approved Monday by the Building Inspection Commission, are expected to take effect by October if the proposal is approved by the Board of Supervisors, according to department director Isam Hasenin.

The fees were last overhauled in 1992, Hasenin said.

Under the new fee proposal, the price for a basic electrical-permit fee for a bathroom or kitchen remodel would nearly double to $160. The maximum fee for a permit for up to $50,000 worth of home improvements would increase 29 percent to $1,600.

The proposed fees are basedon an hourly charge of $170 for work by an inspector — more than double the current rate of $80, which was set in 2002.

The commission also voted to adopt a 188-point action plan to improve service and speed up turnaround times for permit applications, including new online services. The plan helped secure support for the fee increase from industry representatives who attended Monday’s meeting.

“Our members have to spend an hour on the phone scheduling two or three inspections, which is something that should be done very quickly,” Residential Builders Association of San Francisco President Sean Keighran told The Examiner. “Plans are continuously getting lost in that place.”

The San Francisco Apartment Association, which represents roughly 3,000 landlords, property owners and housing providers, told commissioners in a letter that “San Francisco’s fees are significantly lower than San Jose and Oakland,” and “fair and reasonable adjustments are required” to help the department meet its own costs.

Commissioner Vahid Sattary cast the only vote opposing the proposal. He said the fee increase was excessive because it was based on a projected budget that was greater than this fiscal year’s actual deficit.

Department staff forecast a budget deficit of $14.8 million next year if fees aren’t raised.

jupton@examiner.com

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