Effort to change Muni development fees rejected

S.F. Examiner File PhotoSupervisor Carmen Chu backed Supervisor Scott Wiener's charge to try to lift the nonprofit exemption on development impact fees

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declined to eliminate the nonprofit exemption for Muni’s impact fee charged on development, stalled a proposal for a seafood restaurant to open in Marina Green and allocated $2.2 million to help high school students graduate on time.

Supervisor Scott Wiener led the charge to try to lift the nonprofit exemption on development impact fees, which would have net Muni millions of dollars more a year. But an aggressive effort led by an unusual coalition of the Chamber of Commerce and nonprofits was able to help kill the proposal by a 9-2 board vote Tuesday. Wiener was backed by Supervisor Carmen Chu.

The Transit Impact Development Fee is what developers are charged on construction and major remodeling work; it helps pay for the increased pressures placed on the Muni system by new developments. Nonprofits such as museums, private schools, hospitals and churches have long been exempt from the fee. The board was voting on the fee because it has to be renewed every five years.

Chamber of Commerce head Steve Falk sent a letter to the board on behalf of the coalition saying the fee would be “detrimental to the financial sustainability of organizations already struggling to provide services to those most in need.”

Falk also said it would “open the door to other taxes and fees on nonprofits.”

The supervisors who voted against eliminating the exemption said it might make sense, but such a change should instead be debated as part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s broader ongoing effort on impact fee changes, known as the Transportation Sustainability Program, planned for a rollout in January 2014.

But Wiener cast doubt on whether the political will would be there to lift the exemption then.

“Everyone is, at least theoretically, committed to supporting Muni funding,” Wiener said. “It’s like mom and apple pie.”

Yet Wiener wondered: “Can we make the hard political choices to actually show that commitment?”

Time will tell. The agency had supported Wiener’s proposal.

Also Tuesday, Supervisor Jane Kim survived a tough political battle to allocate $2.225 million to fund San Francisco Unified School District programs that help high school students catch up and graduate on time.

And Supervisor Mark Farrell put the brakes on the Recreation and Park Department’s 10-year lease deal, with two five-year options, with Woodhouse Fish Company to run a counter-service seafood restaurant after nearby residents on Marina Boulevard complained about the lack of outreach and objected to the project. Farrell sent the lease back to a board committee for a hearing at an unspecified date to allow the department more time to work with the neighbors.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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