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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Ruling protects schools’ ability to impose developer fees on certain projects
February 8, 2021
A California appellate court has ruled that a school district can impose developer fees on residential projects, regardless of whether the project will generate new students, according to a recent client news brief from Lozano Smith.
In the Nov. 5 ruling, the court upheld a the Chico Unified School District’s imposition of developer fees on a residential project oriented toward college students, rejecting the developer’s argument that the fees were improper because the project would allegedly generate no district students. The court borrowed heavily from the decision in Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, Inc. v. Salinas (2019), a case in which Lozano Smith served as co-counsel.
AMCAL Chico, a private developer of student and workforce housing, developed a “building intended to house college students” within the boundaries of the Chico USD. The project contained over 600 beds intended to be leased to students at the local university, with the requirements that all potential occupants be 18 years old and enrolled in a local degree program. AMCAL asserted that its project would not generate district students and was thereby exempt from school impact mitigation fees. Following a May 2018 trial, the trial court found that “a facility housing college students, such as this one, is not a separate class of residential development. Rather a residential apartment building, such as this one, is a residential apartment building regardless of its present, or intended occupants.” The trial court concluded that the mitigation fee assessed by the district was reasonable.
Appellate court decision
The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision in favor of the district. In reaching its decision, the court quoted Tanimura extensively. The appellate court cited language in Tanimura stating that Government Code allows an agency to impose a fee “reasonably related to projected development impacts without tying its analysis to an individual project.”
Tanimura clarified that public agencies, when imposing developer fees, need not consider the specific development project, but only the general type of project at issue. The AMCAL case, in its extensive citation to Tanimura, further strengthens a school district’s ability to resist the claims of developers who assert that they should be relieved of fees because few or no students will allegedly be generated by a specific project. Both Tanimura, which addressed agricultural workforce housing, and AMCAL acknowledge the reality that the use of residential housing once constructed may change over time, and students may eventually be generated.
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