Estimating that it will deliver more than $100 million a year for street repairs and resurfacing, the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday approved an updated fee which allows the city to recover more for the cuts and excavations utility companies make to streets.
The Street Damage Restoration Fee has not been updated since 2006, according to an audit of the fee by City Controller Ron Galperin, which concluded the city was vastly undercharging utilities for street repairs.
The updated fees are projected to increase funds for street repairs to $114.8 million next fiscal year, compared to $8.3 million in the 2017-18 adopted budget.
“From potholes to pavement failure, Angelenos and their auto mechanics know too well the high cost of driving on L.A.’s streets,” Galperin said. “I am pleased the council supported this common-sense approach so we can reinvest in our infrastructure. The changes made to the Street Damage Restoration Fee — a direct result of my audit — are a great deal for taxpayers and ensures the city will be adequately compensated and use that money to repair and upgrade our streets.”
The updated ordinance increasing the fee was approved on a 13-1 vote, with Councilman Mitchell Englander dissenting, and must be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become official.
Englander, who estimated there are about 200 different utilities and contractors that cut into city streets, said he was against the fee update because it could also impact affordable housing developers and discourage them from pursuing projects.
“That part of it is enough to give me pause,” Englander said before the vote.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who chairs the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, responded that he thought the council could work on addressing Englander’s concerns but that it should not hold up the entire updated ordinance.
“I am proud that the City Council, for the first time in over a decade, has adjusted and increased the SDRF fees to make sure that Angelenos aren’t footing the bill for utility companies,” Blumenfield said. “I commend Controller Galperin on his leadership and uncovering just how unfair this fee structure has previously been to taxpayers. As the chair of PWGR, I know that utility services are vital to the health of our city, but we need a fairer system to ensure that our streets aren’t causing more damage to our cars and compromising the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists due to utility cuts — removing this tax break does just that.”
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