Solana Beach to develop traffic impact fee program

The Solana Beach City Council on April 27 approved a professional services agreement with Chen Ryan Associates to develop a traffic impact fee program.

In November 2014, the council certified the environmental impact report and adopted updates to the city’s circulation and land use elements of the general plan. As part of the update, a new policy was added to develop and maintain a transportation impact fee program that collects fees from development projects based on the number of additional trips — across all modes of transportation — the development is projected to generate.

“It will look at all development, including single-family homes, commercial, mixed-use,” explained City Manager Greg Wade. “Part of the adoption and certification of our land use element requires us to study this as a method to assess our circulation impacts.”

The fees collected from the program would be used to fund the construction of capital improvement projects. The fees would also administer and maintain the program.

“This whole TIF (traffic impact fee) method is really the trend in terms of the way that municipalities are dealing with these transportation-related impacts,” said Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn. “I think the reason it’s a trend is because it has a lot to offer in the way these things are evaluated and assessed.”

During the recent update to the city’s general plan, Chen Ryan Associates was hired by Project Design Consultants as a subconsultant to prepare the updated circulation element. The firm also prepared the city’s comprehensive active transportation strategies (CATS) program. Additionally, Chen Ryan Associates has performed three iterations of a traffic impact fee analysis for San Diego County and several assessment district programs for the city of San Diego, City Engineer Mo Sammak said.

“Chen Ryan is an expert in this field,” Sammak said.

The city budgeted $100,000 for the project for the current fiscal year. The project is estimated to cost $81,915, but staff requested $85,000 in case the California Coastal Commission has requirements that lead to additional work.

In a 4-1 vote, the council approved the agreement. Councilwoman Ginger Marshall cast the sole dissenting vote.

“I’m responsible for the public’s money and this is an $85,000 line item on the consent calendar, which is a considerable amount of money,” said Marshall, who pulled the item from the consent calendar, a list of items approved with a single vote and no discussion.

She questioned whether other firms would offer a lower bid and suggested opening the project up to other bids, although Wade explained that professional services are not subject to bid requirements.

“I think that would be the prudent thing to do considering it’s $85,000,” she said.

“Chen Ryan would likely come in as the selected group because of their knowledge already in this city,” Wade said.

Councilman Mike Nichols agreed.

“Chen Ryan has been a very, very good consultant to the city for many years,” he added. “Chen Ryan is probably one of the leading traffic consultants. … We could waste some staff time and spend some extra money to put out an RFP. I’d also be willing to bet that these guys would be the lowest bid.”