The city’s Water Department said today it is considering charging developers a fee for exceeding their allotted water demand at new construction sites.

The city maintains extensive projections for future water demand across San Diego. When a large development is proposed that exceeds that planned-for demand, the city is requiring developers to offset their added burden.

That’s a recent step. Water Department officials say they want to offer developers the chance to pay a fee that the city would use to develop new water sources. Instead of the developer making changes on site, the city could use the money itself to increase conservation and efficiency efforts elsewhere. (This is sometimes called an “in-lieu fee” and has been used in the city’s attempts to spur the development of affordable housing.)

The idea met with skepticism at a City Council committee meeting today. Councilwoman Toni Atkins said the city should put incentives in place to encourage developers to build efficiently — not rely on the city to make improvements elsewhere.

“The whole concept of in lieu fees will just be another thing that developers have a problem with,” she said.

I called Craig Benedetto, a spokesman for the San Diego Building Owners and Managers Association and other developers, and asked him whether he has a problem with the idea.

He said he doesn’t.

“We’re realistic about this,” he said.

Benedetto said the fee would be one way to more efficiently mitigate a development’s increased demand. Since new development is oftentimes already more efficient, he said better savings can be gained off-site.


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