Mission Viejo


By Larry Gilbert

I often reference President Reagan's "Trust, but verify" advice. Too many elected officials make claims that go unchallenged. The focus of this Part One report addresses the topic of relinquishing around $470,000 of Mission Viejo (MV) permit fees when it may not have been necessary.

From January, 2012 through July, 2012 the city of MV created a program led by councilman Frank Ury titled "Improve, Don't Move." IDM. During this time frame, roughly 1,700 applications from residential and commercial properties were processed. MV waived 100% of residential fees and 25% of commercial fees.

Analysis confirms that our IDM program did not achieve the great success touted by councilman Ury. Let's not overlook the fact that we compensated the independent contractor firm of Charles Abbott Associates (CAA) for "Building Plan Check and Inspection Services" in which they were paid between 55-59% based on the monthly fees collected. During the 2012 IDM program we paid CAA around $550,000 for their services. Analysis of the six months following the discount program time frame confirms that at $610,000 we actually paid CAA 10% more for the same services. Following are specific facts:
Between the 1,365 Residential Permits, with improvements valued at $14 million, and 403 Commercial applications, valued at $12 million, we ended up “forgiving” around $470,000 dollars for this dual program.

Was this program necessary? What is the normal amount of revenue received from applications in the same timeframe without giving up those fees? In my January 18 Public Records request I asked for the back up data supporting the reported success of the program. In that request I specifically asked for the addresses, fees waived and valuations of the Residential applicants and the Commercial properties which also participated, albeit at a lesser fee reduction. The city provided a September 6, 2012 report of the Residential applications and a January 13, 2014 printout of Commercial applicants. Both reports listed permit numbers, date of issuance, and the Permit fees but no way to identify the locations or detailed valuations.

They did provide the following three commercial property examples:

1) Nordstrom with 150,000 square feet of Tenant Improvements (TI) at a valuation of $4 million dollars. Those improvements took place on two floors. Are we truly to believe that Nordstrom waited for Mission Viejo to create a discount program to save $6,300 representing the 25% discount of the full permit costs? Are we to believe that they did not have these major improvements in their system? Was Nordstrom going to depart from the Shops at Mission Viejo if we did not have this program?

2) Bye Bye Baby in our freeway center with a 36,000 square foot TI valued at $1.2 mil. We waived $2,652 for that permit. Did Bye Bye Baby wait to see if we had any form of permit discount before proceeding?

3) Panera Bread had a 3,600 square foot TI valued at $380,000. The same question applies; did they wait to see if we had any form of discount to eventually save $2,947?

Contingent on access to related city records I plan to broaden this data in Part Two - stay tuned.

Larry Gilbert, a retired electronics industry executive, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1977. He is an elected board member of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. Larry is also a former Board Member of South Coast Christian Assembly church and leader of their Senior Ministry.

Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.

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