The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer

The Berkeley School Board is set to vote Wednesday night on whether to collect new fees from building projects in Berkeley to raise money for facilities needs.

School districts are allowed under state law to collect those fees, though Berkeley Unified has not done so in the past.

The board announced its intention to investigate what kind of fees it could levy back in October 2015.

Tonight, Nov. 16, it is set to vote on whether to put those fees in place.

If approved, the fees would go into effect Jan. 16, said BUSD spokesman Charles Burress. Projects that have submitted an application to the city before then would not be subject to the fees.

According to the agenda item on the impact fees, “The Berkeley Unified School District has a strong program to build and renovate its facilities to meet the challenges of educating our students. Ongoing development in the city continues to impact the district’s facilities. In order to meet these challenges, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education approved the preparation of the study development fee study to address impacts on the District’s facilities.”

Wednesday night’s public hearing is required by law before the district can adopt the fees.

According to the resolution, the fees would be “levied against all new residential development and additions resulting in an increase of assessable space in excess of five hundred (500) square feet.”

According to the 29-page impact fee analysis that’s part of Wednesday night’s agenda, the board may consider a fee “not to exceed $4.49 per square foot of residential development,” and “$0.56 per square foot on all categories of commercial/industrial development except rental self-storage,” which is the the maximum fee authorized by the state.

Local parent Michael Fretz, writing an op-ed in favor of the impact fees in Berkeleyside last year, said “Most school districts in the state collect these fees. Berkeley does not.”

According to Fretz last year, “If a developer fee had been assessed in Berkeley, it would have generated between $8 and $9 million over the past fifteen years.”

The board voted in March to allocate up to $19,000 for the study, to be completed by an independent contractor, from the BUSD General Fund.

One developer, who asked not to be named because the political process remains underway, said he is concerned the new fees, in conjunction with the fees already assessed by the city, could render housing development in Berkeley infeasible.

Mayor Tom Bates told Berkeleyside earlier this week he was not aware the School Board was considering putting the fees into place, and others in the planning world have said they too were unaware.

Berkeleyside will attend Wednesday night’s meeting and continue to follow the issue.

See the complete agenda, which includes meeting details. The regular School Board meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at 1231 Addison St.

Read the fee study undertaken by the district for more information. See the resolution prepared for Wednesday night’s meeting. 

Berkeley School Board primer: Impact fees, class sizes (10.28.15)
Op-ed: School board — Take action now on developer fees (10.04.15)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...