Assessment Projects


Background

What types of projects can be made through assessment?

The following are some types of projects that can be made through assessments:

What does "Special Assessment Proceedings" mean?

It's a democratic way by which a majority of you and your neighbors can get together to pave your street, build sewers, etc. and pay your fair share over a period of time.

Tell me more - what's the authority?

Generally speaking it's the "Improvement Act of 1911" ... a State law. If you're interested in looking further into this, it's Division 7 of the Streets and Highways Code, obtainable in the public library.

Who pays for the improvements?

You the property owner.

Why doesn't the City pay for all of them?

Because "the City" is "you"... and if this were the practice, you would end up paying for everybody else's street. The assessment district procedure is the fairest.

But how about the gas tax money and all the other taxes I pay each year?

Generally speaking tax money is not used for purely local improvements. It's the policy in this and most other cities to require that local improvements be paid for by the benefiting property and not out of general taxes which are needed for other things. On major streets, gas taxes are used to pay for part of the costs.

What kind of work can be done under assessment proceedings?

The usual things are curbs, gutters, pavement, sidewalks, storm drains, street lights, sewers and street trees.

What kind of sewers?

Mainline and lateral to your property line. For further information regarding connections to sewers see MORE ABOUT SEWERS .

Are certain improvements mandatory?

Yes... it is council policy that all street projects include sidewalk, street trees and street lights unless unusual circumstances are present. City policy also requires installation of sewers where permanent pavement is to be installed.

Are there any rough estimates available for different types of work?

Yes... following are some figures for a normal residential 50-foot lot of average depth, that may be useful:
  Average Usual Range
Street Lighting $1,000 $850 - 1,450
Sewers (Within street to property line only):
Non-hilly terrain 5,600 4,600 - 7,000
Hilly terrain 8,500 5,700 - 13,500
Street Paving (including curb and gutter) 5,400 4,900 - 7,000
Sidewalk (less driveways) 950 650 - 1,100
Concrete driveway entrance (average Res.. type) 1,050 950 - 1,350
Parkway trees (average of one per lot) 400 300 - 500
Alley Paving:
10' width 2,500 2,000 - 3,500
15' width 3,500 2,500 - 4,500
20' width 4,500 2,750 - 5,750
Tree wells 280 200 - 360
Tree well covers 280 200 - 360
(Estimated as of July 1, 1988 for anticipated start of construction by July 1, 1990.)

What might cause my assessment to be higher than the usual range?

Extra grading, retaining walls, hilly terrain, rocky or sandy soil, ground water, storm drains, utility relocation, commercial improvements, size, slope, location and zoning of your lot, size of project, right of way costs, inflation, etc.

How do I benefit?

Well, here are some of the benefits:

To Start a Petition

How do I start such improvements?

Visit or call the nearest branch office of the City's Bureau of Engineering:

HARBOR
638 S. Beacon Street, Suite 402
San Pedro, 90731-3346
(310) 732-4463

VALLEY
6262 Van Nuys Bl. Rm 351
Van Nuys, CA 91401
(818) 374-4600

WEST LOS ANGELES
1828 Sawtelle Boulevard, 3rd floor
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5516
(310) 575-8381

CENTRAL
201 N. Figueroa Street, 3rd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 482-7049

BUREAU OF STREET LIGHTING
Assessment Engineering Division
1149 S. Broadway, Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 847-1345

What do I ask for?

A petition form for assessment work. You may download the petition from the Bureau of Street Lighting's public web page.

Do I have to prepare the form and fill in all the blanks?

No. Just tell the engineer what kind of work you want done. He'll advise you and prepare the form.

What do I do with the form?

It's your job to circulate it for your neighbors' signatures. Make sure they read the petition, understand it and have an idea of the cost. Your neighbors may obtain further information by contacting the branch engineering office.

Who should I get to sign it?

Property owners who will benefit from the work. The engineer will tell you what streets and property are involved, if you are in doubt.

How many should sign it?

Those representing over half the area to be assessed would be sufficient...but more is desirable. If you can get every benefiting property owner to sign it, that's the best. Protest later on can delay the work or even cause the project to be abandoned.

When will I hear from the City?

After Engineering has completed a preliminary investigation, the City will mail each property owner a Petition Validation Survey with an estimate of your portion of the cost of the project.

What is the purpose of the Petition Validation Survey?

If the Petition Validation Survey shows a majority of the property owners are still in favor of the project, then, the City Council will grant the petition.

Who gets the completed petition after I get all the signatures?

Bring or mail it to the office where you received it...that is, the engineering office.

Is there anything else that I or my neighbors have to do then?

No...except to keep in contact with the branch engineering office if you want to follow the status of the job.

How will I know if my petition is granted or not?

The City Clerk will send you a letter telling you what action the City Council took on your petition.

Are petitions very often denied?

No...providing you have enough signatures, and the signers are owners who benefit, and the proposed work is feasible.

Is such work ever started without a petition...or without a majority petition?

Yes. The City Council can start an assessment proceeding at any time by approving the project environmentally and declaring that the public interest requires it.

What might prompt the Council to do this

Public safety, traffic demands, public health and welfare, etc.

The Petition is Granted

What happens then?

Many things...Engineers must order surveys, prepare plans, specifications, cost estimates, make a preliminary estimate of the benefits and assessments, and must obtain whatever right of way necessary. Public funds may have to be made available. In short, almost every Bureau and Department of the City, and outside agencies may become involved.

Is there anything I can do to help?

Yes. You can keep yourself and neighbors informed of progress on your improvement, recognizing that all of these things necessarily take time...approximately 18 to 24 months for projects requiring no right of way, 12 more if right of way is involved, and additional 12 months if acquisition of right of way requires condemnation. Keep in touch with the engineer at the branch office... he may suggest other ways you may help... but remember, he has a job to do too, so be patient and recognize his time is valuable also.

Anything else I can do?

Yes. If the City needs to acquire part of your property, recognize that it's only so the improvements can be put in. Cooperation will be to your advantage...and if you can explain this to your neighbors, you may help a great deal.

How will I know the job is ready to commence so I can protest what I may not like about it?

The City Council will adopt an "Ordinance of Intention" and all benefiting property owners will be notified by letter anc by a newspaper announcement. All these notices will say that on such-and-such date at 10:00 A.M. in the Council Chamber the City Council will hear and consider protests.

Where can I get details of the proposed work?

The construction drawings may be inspected at the branch office of the Bureau of Engineering.

Will I be notified of my share of the costs?

Yes... the notice contains an estimate of your share of the costs and the total cost of the project.

How does the City knows if I am an owner?

The City Clerk's Land Records Division should have your name, current address, and complete property description. If signers of protests are not shown on the last equalized assessment roll as owners, they must show by written evidence that they are the owners. If you are in doubt go or write to City Clerk's Land Records Division's office, 201 N. Figueroa Street, 7th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Tel. (213) 977-6018

Suppose I don't receive a notice. Will my property still be assessed?

Yes...under State law we are not required to search further than the City Clerk's records.

Voting for the Project

What is proposition 218?

Proposition 218 is an amendment to the constitution of the State of California that assures property owners they will not be assessed for improvements or services without the opportunity to vote on the assessment.

How I am going to know when to vote?

Notices of adoption of the Ordinance of Intention and Assessment ballots will be mailed by the City Clerk to the owners of real property proposed to be assessed, in this assessment ballot proceeding, all in the manner and in the form required by law.

How many votes does it take to abandon an assessment project?

At the conclusion of the public hearings, the City Council will tabulate the assessment ballots submitted, and not withdrawn, in support or opposition to the proposed assessment. The Council will not impose the assessment if there is a majority protest.

What is a majority protest?

A majority protest exists if the assessment ballots submitted, and not withdrawn, against the proposed assessment exceed the assessment ballots submitted, and not withdrawn, in its favor. The assessment ballots are weighed by the amount of the proposed assessment to be imposed upon the identified parcel for which each assessment ballot was submitted. Upon adoption of the tabulated assessment ballots, the City Council may confirm or abandon the proposed assessment.

The Protest Hearing

What is a Protest Hearing?

It is a public testimony hearing about the enactment of these assessment proceedings, conducted at least 45 days from the adoption of the Ordinance of Intention. The assessment ballots required by prop 218 are counted and protests against the proposed improvement and assessment are heard by the City Council during this hearing.

What is the basic purpose of the protest hearing?

To decide whether or not do the work.

Does my protest have to be in writing?

Yes... you may also appear in person on the scheduled hearing day.

Who do I mail my protest to?

City Clerk, City hall, Los Angeles 90012.

How soon does the City Clerk have to get my protest?

Before 10:00 A.M. on the day of the hearing.

Can I protest that my estimated assessment is too high?

You can.

If I and several of my neighbors want to protest, do we all have to write separate letters and all appear at the hearing?

No... you can all sign your names to the same letter, but don't forget to identify each property represented. At the hearing, it is best if you agree on a spokesperson to represent the group.

Can I still protest, even though I signed the original petition?

Yes, you can change your mind... but you should have a very good reason for doing so! The City has incurred considerable expense on the project up to this time.

How many protests does it take to abandon the project?

It is not really "how many," it is the percentage of assessable area owned by protestants within the assessment district that counts.

What percentage does it take then?

Over 50% protest would prevail. Occasionally, a protest can be resolved by modifying the project.

Can a protest be withdrawn?

Yes... anytime before the Council votes on your project.

Can I ever-re-start a project, once it is protested out?

Yes... after one year.

Project Construction

If the improvement is OK'd what happens next?

The Council instructs the Board of Public Works and the Bureau of Engineering to proceed with the work.

Does the City then construct the improvements?

No. All work must be publicly advertised for competitive bids from licensed contractors.

Does the project have to be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder?

If it is a good bid... yes!

What if the lowest bid is higher than the City Engineer's estimate?

We can either reject all bids and re-advertise, award the contract to the low bidder, or abandon the project...However, if it is proposed to award to the low bidder and the assessable portion of the bid exceeds the City Engineer's estimate of the assessable cost by more than 15% you will receive written notice in advance and may be asked to comment.

When will the work start?

Within about 45 days of the award of the contract.

Will I have to do any work on my property?

Occasionally, yes, but replacement in kind of existing improvements (such as driveways) will be paid for by the City. With your consent, certain additional work can be done as part of the assessment. The engineer will usually contact you about this.

The Final Hearing

How will I know when all the work is satisfactorily completed?

After the inspector, the engineer, and the Board of Public Works are satisfied with the completed work, a "final assessment" is filed. The City Clerk then notifies every property owner of hearings before the Board of Public Works and the City Council.

Will I get a notice?

Yes, provided that the City Clerk has your current address. The notice will also be published in the paper.

What is the basic purpose of these hearings?

Generally to consider two subjects...whether the work was done in accordance with the plans and specifications and whether the assessments are equitably distributed.

Does my protest have to be in writing?

Yes... and must be filed with the City Clerk before the day of the hearing.

Can I also appear in person?

Yes.

Can I also protest the amount of my assessment?

Yes...but remember, nobody really likes to be assessed. You should have some reasonable basis.

What can the Board of Public Works or the Council do about valid complaints at this stage?

They can and will correct the situation if changes are deemed necessary.

Payment

When is the assessment final?

As soon as the Council hearing is over, all the corrections made, and the council has "confirmed the proceedings and assessments."

When must I pay?

You will get a bill showing your total assessment, which can be paid in cash without interest or penalty within 30 days of confirmation.

What if I can't or don't want to pay it all at once?

If your assessment is more than $150, you can make installment payments. The Council establishes payment terms and corresponding interest rates. Payments may be from one to ten years based upon the amount of your assessment.

Will I be notified when installments are due?

Yes... the City Treasurer sends notices for annual principal and interest payments in October, and for interest only, in April.

What happens if I don't pay on time?

Penalties are assessed.

Can I complete the payment of my whole assessment before is due?

Yes... However, if payment is made more than 30 days after confirmation there will be a penalty equal to 5% of the unmatured principal.

What happens if I sell?

The buyer must assume the unpaid assessment unless the remaining assessment and penalty are paid at the time of sale.

More About Sewers

If my property is to be served by a sewer as part of an assessment project, does the City require that I do anything further?

Yes...when you want to connect to it, the Bureau of Engineering will require a permit fee and payment of the Sewer Facilities Charge.

When can I take out this permit?

After the final assessments for the completed sewer assessment have been confirmed by City Council or earlier if the contractor authorizes the City to use the sewer prior to final assessment confirmation.

Must I pay the fees in cash?

Yes...these fees are not part of the assessment proceeding and are not subject to deferred payment.

How much is the sewerage facilities charge?

The nearest office of the Bureau of Engineering will determine the charge when you provide the legal description of your property, and the type, size, and proposed use of the building.

What does the City do with this money?

The money is used for maintenance of the sewer system and for offsite, extra depth or oversized sewers and other related facilities.

Are there any other permits?

Yes...work on private property can be done only under permit issued by the Department of Building and Safety. This will include connection of the house sewer to the lateral in the street as well as abandonment of cesspools and septic tanks.

How do I get this done?

The property owner is responsible for work within his own property. You may select any qualified contractor to do the work. No contractor has the exclusive right to such work nor any more right to solicit work than any other licensed contractor. Carefully read and understand any document concerning your sewer connection contract.