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UPDATE: County supervisors delay Clean Water, Clean Beaches decision

Posted: June 25, 2013 1:42 p.m.
Updated: June 25, 2013 1:42 p.m.

LOS ANGELES - After hours of public hearings, hundreds of speakers and months of discussions, county supervisors said Tuesday they still do not have the information they need to move forward with a fee for cleaning up water runoff.

County Public Works Department officials presented supervisors Tuesday with a summary of the complaints residents, businesses and other organizations made after the county proposed the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” measure late last year.

However, the Public Works presentation offered no specifics for the next step, one supervisor said following the presentation.

“It’s treading water at this point before we make a more fundamental decision on where we want to go,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said of the board’s delay.

Supervisor Don Knabe said he has yet to receive the solid information he needs about the measure, calling what he has received up to this point “guesstimates” based on what “may or may not be.”

Even after directing the Public Works department to examine the fee, questions remain on a number of issues, including whether to incorporate an automatic expiration date, called a “sunset clause,” whether to exempt or provide some kind of relief for churches and schools; and how to reward property owners who have already taken steps to reduce runoff pollution on their properties.

Also included in Tuesday’s report was a study from the county’s chief executive officer on what it would take to put the measure up for a countywide vote sometime in 2014.

But the lack of specifics in the reports also presents an obstacle to that option, said Supervisor Gloria Molina.

“We are not ready for this kind of program when it is not well defined and does not make sense to us,” Molina said.

Placing the measure on the ballot in either June 2014 or November 2014 could cost more than $10 million, according to a report from the county chief executive officer. It would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote.

The proposed fees would assess a per-parcel levy on all county property owners. Cost estimates indicated single-family home owners would pay $54 a year and commercial interests would pay $250 to $11,000 more per year.

Santa Clarita, which already charges single-family home owners $22.45 a year for the same purpose within city boundaries, argues it should be exempt, as do other cities with storm water fees already in place to serve the same purpose proposed by the county’s.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who has been a vocal critic of the fee, once again called for state and federal agencies to partner with Los Angeles County in addressing water quality issues.

“This is a state issue; this is not a one-county issue,” Antonovich said.

Antonovich also questioned how effective the fee would be, noting it would raise around $280 million a year countywide while the estimated costs of pulling the county into water quality compliance are in the billions of dollars.

“The cost of this project and the amount of revenue that would be generated don’t match,” he said.

In the end, supervisors voted unanimously to ask for a more substantive report to be delivered to the board within the next 120 days.

Less than 10 people spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, in contrast to the hundreds who turned out for hearings in January and March.

One speaker was Kathleen Trinity, a member of the Acton Town Council, who said putting another levy on the residents of Acton, an area of permeable land and little water runoff pollution, would be “unfair and shortsighted.”

“This proposed tax will drive away the very people who conserve water and can truly keep California clean,” she said. “Please don’t drive us out.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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