Independence Day versus San Luis Obispo’s fee increases

June 30, 2024

Stew Jenkins


Tuesday, two days before Independence Day, the San Luis Obispo City Council will consider adopting hundreds of huge fee increases. For instance the city fee for a development agreement will increase 210% to $59,621.

No wonder housing prices are so high. To keep folks from questioning decisions of, say the architectural review or planning commissions, an appeal to the City Council is slated to increase 341% from $797 to $3,512.

And if you are trying to build something but need to appeal an erroneous denial of your permit application for a needed structure that complies with city regulations, your fee to appeal to the City Council is proposed to increase to $8,611 (a 332% increase).

How about health and environmental actions at your home or business. Did your heater die? Replacing your heater requires a SLO City permit fee now of $489 (227% fee increase). Do you want to conserve water? A grey water system permit will now cost $622 (a 238% increase).

Want to insulate your building to reduce energy usage and save the planet? Your permit will cost $489 (a 239% increase). How about seismic strengthening for safety – the recommended increased permit fee goes up 449% ($57 to now $312, if approved).

There are new fees recommended on ordinary human activity or ordinary home improvements you might want to make to save the planet. But, to no doubt salve the conscience of those preparing the recommendation, a very few of the hundreds of SLO City Fees are recommend to be lowered – slightly.

The best example is this: I did not know that the City of San Luis Obispo requires that you pay a public dance permit fee if the spirit or the music moves you to grab your partner and dance down your street, or in the park. Well, inconveniently rising with inflation over the years that public dance permit now costs $125.36. The recommendation is to round it down by $1.36 to $124.

“Fees” are limited by the California Constitution and statutes to cover the actual cost of city provided services and goods, for instance, water.

What does John Q Public think the  cost of a piece of paper and printing out the public dance permit on a city computer printer amounts to? And, really, folks. Can anyone justify the city intervening in your lives by imposing, collecting, or enforcing a requirement that you get and pay for a permit to dance in public?

And let us circle back to those appeal fees. By the time you appeal, city staff has already prepared reports and bodies like the Architectural Review Commission have already issued their reasons for approving or denying a development or permit issuance. No justifiable extra cost is incurred  by city staff repeating their arguments in an appeal to the City Council.

Having brought a successful appeal to the City Council, I can attest that it is the person appealing to the City Council who has to incur the cost to provide documents, materials, evidence and arguments. It is the person appealing who is exercising their right under the U.S. and California Constitutions to petition for redress of grievances and to instruct their elected representatives.

No fee, let alone the current exorbitant fees, should ever be charged. Charging that fee impairs an appellant’s ability to exercise of that right to appeal to the San Luis Obispo City Council.

Show up July 2, at 5:30 p.m. at San Luis Obispo City Hall, 990 Palm Street, to urge the City Council to reject the recommendations and reduce or eliminate these unjustifiable fees and these nonsense permits restricting residents’ freedoms.

Stew Jenkins is an Attorney in San Luis Obispo who has been appointed repeatedly by the Superior Court as Special Master. His Law Office provides customized estate plans, represents commercial, industrial and farming land owners, and protects clients constitutional rights. His phone number is (805) 541-5763. He is the host of the weekly radio talk show, SLO County Public Policy and the Law, K-NEWS, FM 98.5.


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Elections have consequences. Keep voting for them, keep getting higher taxes, more fees, less public safety, more crime, and plenty of homeless.

Excellent work on this piece, Stew. These fees are un-American. We need more liberty, and less government.

Stu, I pretty much agree with everything you say here. I share your concerns. Unfortunately, the people of this community keep voting in these liberal, progressive types, the hipsters, who think nothing of spending 5-6 million $$$ decorating the streets with green paint and ugly planter boxes for the few dozen bicycles that use these new facilities. Meanwhile, the City pays exorbitant salaries, and pension benefits to many people, who in my opinion, we really don’t need. Nothing will change until the “hipsters”are voted out. We need a new crop of leaders, Nothing will change until we vote all these people out. A new crop of leaders are needed that will adopt and maintain a “servant/service” leadership ethos.

These fees are indeed absolutely necessary in order to maintain the excellant quality of service provided by public servants in the City. If we fail to fulfill our obligation to pay their well deserved pensions, we could easily end up with surly, uncaring, vendictive, ineffective, ignorant, stupid, and ocassionaly violent overseers. Then we’ll have no reason to dance in the streets.

I am pretty sure nobody knows you are being sarcastic.

Thanks for recognizing it.

There are all sorts of hidden fees even getting a permit, let alone appealing a decision. Huge paper trail now required – everyone involved needs to sign acknowledgment on every change, leading to a ridiculously cumbersome permit process. Need to grout in a few rebar to your foundation? Then you’ll need a special independent inspection that costs more than the actual work. It’s bureacracy run amok and if you complain about such idiocy, you get ‘special’ treatment. These ‘fees’ are simply an outrageous money grab and in no way reflect actual costs – they are hidden taxes imposed by faceless unelected bureaucrats that get rubber stamp approval by incompetent/complicit elected officials who always claim they’re against higher taxes, but are happy to impose fees for everything.

I have no facts as to how the appeal process came about in local government but imagine it was conceived as a way to limit litigation. If no appeal is available, the only option would be the courts. So, who benefits from the appeal prosses? Both parties if the issue is settled, neither if it ends up in court. Why is a fee charged to have an appeal, what service or goods are provided and why is the citizen required to pay when both parties may benefit?

If appeals are filed routinely there’s a problem with the entity not making the rules and prosses clear and they need to do a better job defining both.

Great opinion Stew.