Administration and Finance Subcommittee addresses architects’ permitting fees

During the brief Administration and Finance Subcommittee meeting on April 11, Interim Assistant City Manager and City Treasurer Ruthie Quinto presented the proposed schedule of fees for the fiscal year for 2022- 2023. The committee also addressed code violators.

Senior Administrative Analyst Patricia Salazar said the department is proposing to recuperate and ensure their cost and the cost for staff time spent on each rebuilding project.

Councilmember Steve Uhring said the architects who violate a code should be penalized and asked the committee what the revisions fee is. Salazar said the minor fee is $374 and the major substantial conformance fee is $1,134. 

Uhring asked how many times engineers get to make revisions after something wrong is found with the architect’s permits. He said he feels the revisions slow the rebuilding process. 

“We are trying to rebuild houses in Malibu, that’s our goal … and everytime they delay or make us go back through this, we’re not only impacting them, we’re impacting other people who also have project’s on the table trying to get approved,” Uhring said. “I’d be a little tighter in terms of saying you know what, we’re going to do what’s right, and the people who are giving us this stuff, are doing this right … and figure out how we can do it better.”

Uhring said there’s a perception that the city gets with the delay in approving permits but that’s not always the case when the architects are asked to return a project with a correction.

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Planning Director Richard Mollica said in certain cases, some architects that work for the homeowners don’t want to turn down their idea when it comes to revisions.

“They don’t want to tell the homeowner no, they’d rather play the innocent guy and have the planner be the bad guy,” Mollica said. 

Mollica suggests telling the architect they have three reviews on their project; after that, they move forward with the application or start over with a new application and pay the fees. 

The city has steps to rebuilding, such as coding approvals, construction and inspections fee waivers and deadlines. 

“Prior to obtaining permits, review your project with City departments and outside agencies,” the city website says. “All proposed work must be permitted by the City through a two-step process to comply with the City’s zoning and building codes. Start with Planning for zoning approval, then move onto Building Safety for project review. City staff is available to assist residents before and during project review.”

According to the rebuild status for single-family residence, there are 24 projects that have been submitted to Planning, and are currently being reviewed; 53 projects that have been approved by Planning, but have not been submitted for plan check; 56 projects that have been submitted for plan check, and are currently being reviewed by all city departments; and 155 projects that have been issued building permits, and can begin construction. Seventy-five homes have been completed as of April 2022. 

“I’m trying to change the perception in the community as to who is the responsible party for making all this stuff slow down, and right now we’re bearing the brunt of that argument and I’d like to see that as we move forward,” Uhring said. 

Councilmember Mikke Pierson said he knows the frustration with code violations and project permits and said it tends to be someone who isn’t familiar with the area.

“Anyone who brings in someone outside (of Malibu) tends to run into that trouble a lot more it seems, maybe they don’t know the coastal zone, but that’s where it seems like they run into trouble,” Pierson said. “So hopefully some of our new software will help address some of that.”

In response, Environmental Sustainability Director Yolanda Bundy said public safety makes an impact in the delay in permitting and she’s firm with projects without permits but said it continues to happen.

“I can honestly tell you that there have been multiple times, not just one, in which I have asked people who do work without permits that they need to destroy it and come back and redo again for the code,” Bundy said. “As a building official and as an engineer, it’s not okay to build without following the minimum code requirements.”

Uhring said they need to start looking into solutions and stricter penalties. 

“I think it’s important as we move forward that we begin to change the perception in the community about what’s going on and why things are not working,” Uhring said. 

To watch the meeting, visit malibucity.org.primegov.com.

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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