.

Supervisors Vote to Rework Clean Water Tax Measure

"What is clear is that this is not ready for prime time," says L.A. County Supervisor Yaroslavsky after representatives of cities, schools and businesses voice opposition.

A proposal to charge Los Angeles County property owners a fee to fund the cleanup of local waterways met with enough opposition Tuesday that the Board of Supervisors voted, 3-2, to rework it.

"What is clear is that this is not ready for prime time," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a champion of the proposal.

Nearly 200 people turned up at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration for the public hearing on the proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure.

Those in favor of the plan hailed it as a cost-effective way to reduce urban runoff —including trash and toxic substances such as industrial solvents, lead, mercury and infection-causing bacteria—into county waterways and the ocean.

"This measure is the most important water quality, water supply and flood control measure that the region has ever seen," said Mark Gold, associate director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and former president of the nonprofit Heal the Bay.

But those against the proposal characterized the fee as a tax that many could ill afford, arguing that the measure offered little detail on how the money would be spent and that it duplicated other existing taxes and fees.

"God sends us rain and you figured out how to tax it," said Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston.

The ordinance, if passed, would raise more than $200 million annually. A typical single-family homeowner would pay about $54 on average, according to Phil Doudar, project manager for the initiative. About 90 percent of parcel owners would likely pay less than $100, he estimated, though large commercial property owners could be charged thousands of dollars.

Elected officials spoke out on both sides of the issue.

In support, Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte said his city has invested more than $60 million— almost half its annual budget over the last six years—to clean up runoff before it flows into the ocean.

"The Los Angeles County Flood Control District has worked collaboratively with municipalities and other stakeholders, who drafted an initiative that will charge a fair and reasonable service fee for cleaning up the polluted storm water that comes from every corner of this 4,000-square-mile county," La Monte said.

Burbank Vice Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy voiced opposition.

"We are committed to environmental stewardship," Gabel-Luddy said. "However, we, the city of Burbank, remain opposed to this for a number of reasons," including, she said, that would divert tens of thousands of dollars from public education.

Representatives of many school districts asked the supervisors for an exemption for schools, saying the measure would otherwise result in cuts to already decimated education budgets.

"The Long Beach Unified School District will lose more than $700,000 and have to make even deeper cuts," said Jim Novak, the district's chief business and financial officer .

Businesses, including those in aviation, real estate, construction and metals manufacturing also raised concerns, some saying they were already paying to comply with environmental regulations they viewed as redundant.

Even some environmental agencies, largely in favor of the measure, called for changes before it goes to a vote.

Some residents argued that the mailer advising them of the proposed fee looked deceptively like junk mail and that the county was making it difficult to register their opposition. Others asked that the matter be put to a vote during an upcoming general election, rather than a mail-in vote by property owners, as originally planned.

More than 50 percent of property owners had to oppose the plan in writing to avoid a ballot measure on the proposed fee. Only about 4.3 percent had submitted an objection prior to the start of Tuesday's meeting, according to the Department of Public Works.

But the concerns raised were significant enough that Supervisor Don Knabe asked that the protest process be continued for another 60 days. He also recommended that county staff consider a way to allow protests to be filed by email or online, a process for putting the initiative on a general election ballot, a sunset date for the measure, a specific list of projects to be funded, alternative funding sources, and a way to address concerns of property owners already capturing and treating storm water.

The board's vote was 3-2 in favor of Knabe's motion, with Supervisors Gloria Molina and Michael Antonovich dissenting.

Antonovich suggested instead that the clean water measure be eliminated entirely, which was voted down, 3-2, with only Knabe siding with Antonovich.

A report from county staff is expected March 12.

Wendi Werner January 16, 2013 at 04:08 AM
This ordinance should require a periodic revaluation from the VOTERS to keep it going, not the board of supervisors who will have the total and only control to vote it up or down. The way this stands now, there is no true oversite because the members of the oversite board are appointed by the board of supervisors. The amount of money needed (300 hundred million ) was based upon, in part, but substantially from the requirement that was adopted by the regional board and pushed by the advocacy groups that required the county and municipalities to remove all bacteria including natural bacteria or be subject to lawsuits. This is not what the clean water act was based on. Even if the agencies that advocated for this were to completely clean all of the pollution, they would still receive part of the 300 million per year, forever.
Jo January 16, 2013 at 05:25 AM
This rain tax idea is a scam; just another way for our money grubbing government to grab more of our hard earned income. Don't let these politicians get away with raising our taxes. We already pay the highest taxes in the nation. We are Taxed Enough Already! Thank goodness for Antonovich, the only one with a brain in his head. Californians are fleeing this state for low-tax, freedom red states. I can't wait to move out of CA. The Democrats have ruined Los Angeles. We're on the verge of bankruptcy and our infrastructure is crumbling. Street sweeping has been reduced from every 4 weeks to every 27 weeks on "open routes" where they don't collect parking fees, which by the way have gone up 80% under Mayor (wife cheating) Villar. First they put in the grates in storm drains so trash and leaves collect, then they stop street sweeping. Now the storm drains along our major streets are no longer storm drains, they are now planters for giant weeds and vegetation that is growing from the stinky sludge. Only 3 men assigned to clean out all the storm drains for the entire SF Valley...how can that be good for the environment?
Jo January 16, 2013 at 05:30 AM
No budget for tree trimming now. No budget for sidewalk repairs. They only do those things when there's an emergency. Giant, bloated, lavish pensions and retiree benefits for the unions are LA's # 1 priority. Street sweeping was every 4 weeks, now it is ev. 27 weeks. Leaving all that trash in the streets is bad for the environment, and the standing water along our gutters stinks. It is disgraceful! We are turning into Stockton or San Bernardino where they placed pensions as their #1 priority....that's the direction we are heading. They have enough of our money, they are just mismanaging it. As a Santa Clarita Councilman said, they found a way to tax rain.
Fred January 16, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Jo , if your a female , I would marry you . I agree 100% with your views .
Lisa Hastings January 16, 2013 at 06:25 PM
What a bunch of drama and biased political agenda in the comments! This decision by the Board of Supervisors is good news. With input from the public, the Clean Water proposal can be re-worked into something good for the citizens of Los Angeles County.
r.bennett January 16, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Government officials, handsomely paid by us, are not doing their job now to keep our waters clean. Many, many businesses dump sewerage, chemicals and unthinkables into tributaries right now without any worries of fines or exposure from our officials. It wouldn't take much of an effort to see who the culprits are. Put on some wading boots and walk one of the tributaries. You will be saddened by what you see. R.B.
michele Zack January 17, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Most comments reflect a major lack of knowledge of the county's and all cities' situation regarding state and federal mandates to clean pollutants from water running to the ocean. Not only should we, but by law we HAVE to clean up, and yesterday's public hearing (which I attended) really showed that sometimes the system works — only Lisa Hastings seems to understand this. Contrary to r.bennett's comments, most large sources of pollution coming from business and industry have been dramatically reduced — though there is always room for improvement. But they get huge fines when caught! Many businesses have already invested a lot in cleaning up their acts. along with homeowners. It is the "little" stuff coming from multitudes of small sources — lawn pesticides and fertilizers, oil, pet waste and other poisons called "non-point pollution" that continues to foul water and end up in the ocean that must be addressed. We will all benefit when a reasonable, fair way to do this and pay for it is established. That's a major reason why Sups are going back to the drawing board — to ensure those already paying and doing get credit for it, to possibly exempt schools, and to come up with a real plan, named projects, and accountability. Proposed measure was really bad. Contrary to Wendi's claim, cities (not the county) will control 40% of the money, along with joint powers districts. And Jo, try New Jersey if you think taxes are high here! Get the facts instead of repeating untruths.
robert January 17, 2013 at 01:05 AM
As a homeowner in Altadena, I have always prevented the "little" stuff to be washed away from my property. I practice organic fertilizing, I pick up my two dogs' waste daily, and my vehicles are always in good repair, as my driveway can attest to it. Not a drop. So, why should I pay to clean runoff that is already clean? If it's natural, it's a pre-existing condition. Tax the substances that this idea is directly focusing. Like the plastic bag ban. Buy a quart of oil, pay the clean-up tax. Every location that sells motor oil should also recycle the same. Don't burden the easy mark; property owners. We pay enough as it is, just for owning a piece of property. When I retire in 8 years, I am planning to sell my property here and move to another state. California is circling the drain for property owners on a fixed income.
Lisa Hastings January 17, 2013 at 04:12 AM
Part of the problem is runoff--clean or not. The Clean Water measure should include rebates or other incentives for property owners to capture rainwater on their property by replacing driveways and concrete slabs with porous materials or making other adjustments to a properties' landscape, such as creating berms and swales. These modifications contribute to soil fertility, reduce landscape water usage, and increase water table levels. Altadena's small water companies--owned by Altadena property owners, operate wells that tap into the water table. Minimizing runoff is in the best interests of all Altadena property owners.
not Carl Peterson lll January 17, 2013 at 04:47 AM
L.A.'s DWP pays 'significantly higher salaries, analysis finds http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/25/local/la-me-dwp-salaries-20120925 Yes we want clean water. Yes we don't want to polute. Yes the feds say we have to pay. BUT WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE! The government class wages still an an upward trend, while the average private wage earner dwindles. But the governement always demands more from a smaller pie. Every single day,locally,and nationally....more rules, more regulations, more taxes. Yet every single day the nation is further in debt....but they want more again....again...
not Carl Peterson lll January 17, 2013 at 04:49 AM
God gives us rain. Our government finds a way to tax it.
NRA Guy January 17, 2013 at 07:23 AM
What a joke. Vote no to these criminal supervisors.
ROBERT E. FISHBACK January 17, 2013 at 03:46 PM
"Most comments reflect a major lack of knowledge..." But, honey, this is Patch.
Culturevator January 18, 2013 at 04:55 AM
The "Civil Service" scam is well played. Some civil servants will receive 3 pensions when they retire. Some of the hierarchy will receive close to a million dollars a year for "civily serving" themselves to the tax revenue, while we have been "civily served" a once progressive, and beautiful city that is becoming a rundown dump. I invite a thorough examination of the system, here in Los Angeles.
Can't Say January 18, 2013 at 05:54 AM
Zev and Molina MUST GO! Worst supervisors out there.
J.C. Tomlin January 18, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Take time to learn the facts, then make an informed decision!
Vito Spago January 18, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Zev and Molina are out due to term linits, but that moron Solis is in from Obama's B of Labor and thinks she can waltz right in because she is Mexican also.
r.bennett January 23, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Michele Zack is the only one without a reply note. Does she get to blurt out anything with no accountability? Anyway, I will meet with her anytime to show her sources of pollution, that aren't just run-off, in our tributaries to the LA River, even though she has already stated that I'm misinformed, because she knows what reality is, sitting at her keyboard far away. Her comments are unfortunate in that they are speculative, and misleading. The effect is that we get the impression that most sources of pollution (other than run-off) have been addressed. This is not the case. Our waters and environmetnt need plenty of help. Whitewashing what is really going on is cancerous. R.B.
Sean McCarthy March 13, 2013 at 12:06 AM
UNITED CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE OF THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY APPLAUDS THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS IN THEIR DECISION NOT TO GO FORWARD WITH THE STORM WATER PARCEL FEE AT THIS TIME. VAN NUYS Calif. Monday, March 13, 2013 The United Chambers of Commerce is pleased that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has postponed any action on the Storm Water Parcel Fee for at least 90 days. The proposed fee was opposed by the United Chambers of Commerce from the very beginning and we were glad to join with others including BizFed who called for reconsideration of the fee. Our opposition was based on three principals: the unfairness of imposing the cost for cleaning storm water on property owners only and the fact that there were no defined projects and thirdly, that the fee would have imposed $200 Million per year on county property owners with no sunset provision. We are most pleased to see that the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 for the delay in implementation and we hope the County of Los Angeles will continue to seek our opinion on this matter as they look for other ways to address the storm water issue.
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