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Bid to charge for storm water cleanup remains on back burner — for now

Posted: January 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

A little more than a year ago, property owners in Los Angeles County received mailers that some said were easily confused with junk mail.

But the easily overlooked mailers were notices calculating the estimated amount of money the property owner would have to pay to satisfy requirements of a proposed measure, known as “Clean Water, Clean Beaches,” to fund storm water cleanup efforts countywide.

The outcry against the measure in the Santa Clarita Valley was extensive, from property and business owners all the way up to Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who called the measure a “sneak attack” on property owners.

But about one year after the measure first entered the public eye, it remains tabled pending further review, according to county officials.

Kerjon Lee, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, said the measure has remained stalled since county supervisors voted to send it back to the drawing board.

“As far as the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, that continues to be tabled for now and the county continues to talk to various stakeholders about their concerns,” Lee said.

As originally proposed, the measure would assess a fee on all land parcels in Los Angeles County, depending on the size and makeup of properties.

Fees were projected to average $54 a year for most single-family residential properties, $250 a year for typical fast-food restaurants or convenience stores and approximately $11,000 a year for “big box” retailers, according to estimates from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

The measure prompted several public hearings, and hundreds of speakers packed the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Los Angeles to speak.

Environmentalists said it could provide much-needed funding to prevent toxins and trash from flowing into rivers and creeping into the ocean.

But others criticized the county’s handling of the issue, saying the claims they received said they’d owe thousands of dollars annually.

Critics pointed out the lack of a “sunset date” — a time the fee would automatically end — and failure to reward property owners who had taken steps to reduce runoff pollution from their properties.

Some cities, including Santa Clarita, already charge fees that are used to fund storm water cleanup efforts, including installing catch basins to prevent trash from flowing into the river and sweeping streets to clear dirt and debris.

“This is double taxation in its purest form,” said City Councilwoman Marsha McLean during the March 13 public hearing at the Board of Supervisors.

City officials also pointed out that Santa Clarita Valley storm water does not flow to Los Angeles County beaches, which the measure aimed at cleaning up.

Lee said the Board of Supervisors is due to hear a report on the measure’s progress during a meeting this month.
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