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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Property Owners Have Until March 12 to Oppose Permanent Property Fee

• Critics Claim Costly County Clean Water and Beaches Measure Could Fund Non-Essential Projects

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The public has until March 12 to protest the Los Angeles County Flood Control District’s Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure that will assess a permanent annual fee on property owners to fund a wide range of projects.
“As the governing body of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles held a public hearing on Jan. 15, a county announcement states.
The Board of Supervisors voted to continue the public hearing until March 12, which means the deadline to submit a protest is also extended to March 12, an announcement states.
Protests were received from 95,000 property owners—4.3 percent. The county must receive protests from at least 51 percent of affected property owners for the measure to fail.
According to the minutes, almost 200 members of the public and representatives of municipalities and organizations spoke at the Jan. 15 meeting. Many indicated that they did not receive or did not read the original notice, which critics say resembled “junk mail.”
Although the county has issued assurances that single-family residences will not be billed more than $85 per year, many property owners in the Malibu area receive notice that their annual fee would be in excess of $125. Owners of multi-acre parcels received higher fee estimates.
A number of fee protesters complained that the fee is the same regardless of   whether the property is developed or undeveloped. Some property owners with large parcels are calling for exemptions. Others have requested that the supervisors include a “sunset” clause, to limit the number of years the fee can be collected.
The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has requested an exemption on the fee on the basis that it would cost the district approximately $180,000 per year.
Due to the numerous concerns raised by the majority of the speakers, Supervisor Don Knabe introduced a motion and the Board of Supervisors voted to continue the public hearing until March 12, to provide more time for public input and implement possible revisions.
Knabe's motion included: Immediately provide an online/e-mail protest option to the public; Provide a process for placing this initiative on a General Election Ballot, if there is no majority protest; Determine a possible sunset date for this initiative; Define a specific list of projects that this initiative would fund; Address the concern of double taxation for those that are already capturing and treating stormwater; and develop potential alternative mechanisms to fund stormwater quality projects.
The board may choose to close the public hearing and proceed to the second step in the process—an election to approve the proposed Clean Water Fee, or continue the item to a future meeting.
While the majority of the speakers at the Jan. 15 meeting were opposed to the fee, Malibu Mayor Lou La Monte was there to support the measure.
According to the measure’s website, the fee could be used for a variety of potential projects, including, “Installing storm drain screen inserts and filters, and keeping them clean, a cost-effective way of preventing trash from entering waterways at the source-street level; regular street sweeping; developing parks, wetlands and open space where water is held, filtered and naturally cleansed before it reaches coastal waters or percolates down into the ground; developing green streets, green parking lots and green roofs on public buildings, which retain rain and urban runoff and naturally cleanse it; Creating clean water education programs to emphasize the importance of keeping trash, used motor oil and other toxic liquids out of the storm drain system.”
Malibu-specific potential projects include “Trancas Creek and Lagoon Restoration,” which proposes creating “an engineered wetland” at the outflow of Trancas Creek, and construction of a “Trancas Creek and Lagoon Trail” extending “from Malibu West's residential areas to Malibu Coastal trails and Morningview Drive [sic].”
According to the project description, “The trail will be equipped with water green infrastructure that will naturally filter, store, and treat stormwater.
“Green infrastructure includes structures such as bio-swales, rain gardens, and permeable pavers: Bio-swales are vegetated channels that slow runoff, reduce pollutants, increase groundwater recharge, and improve air quality.
“Rain gardens contain sandy soil, organic material, and native plants that intake water, reduce runoff, increase groundwater, and are aesthetically pleasing. Permeable pavers provide pathways that allow water to infiltrate into the ground, reducing runoff and increasing groundwater.”
Also on the list is a “Malibu Equestrian Center Runoff Program,” described as: “Install green infrastructure to capture and treat runoff from the riding rings and parking lot. Horse owners would also be educated on how to maintain confined animal spaces and improve water quality in coastal streams.”
Plans for the “Malibu Civic Center Linear Park Expansion” include: “Construct a safe, permeable walking path from Webb Way to Malibu Canyon Road.
“The path will be flanked by green infrastructure, which will capture and treat stormwater before it reaches existing storm drain systems and flows into the ocean.”
 The project webpage states: “Green infrastructure not only conveys water, but can also allow infiltration, filter and clean water, provide habitat, and reduce urban heat island effects. Path-side installations could include: Plant-filled swales, detention ponds, rain gardens, and water infiltration areas, vegetative buffer areas, street trees.” Expansion of Legacy Park is also proposed.
Other proposed projects include a plan for “Point Dume Area Land Acquisition,” which states “City of Malibu plans to acquire vacant properties from willing sellers in the Point Dume area in order to further regional water quality objectives.” The website does not specify what property, or what the city's water quality objectives are.
“Historical Ecology of Malibu Coastal Watersheds,” states, “Educators will research and report on the historical ecology of the Malibu Coastal Watersheds to evaluate past human impacts, and bring the past to life.”
This project’s goals are not specified, beyond stating that it will “help both residents and visitors appreciate the importance of protecting natural resources in Malibu and beyond.” A similar proposal recommends: “Bringing the Clean Water message close to home through the classroom. Adapt a program to meet the new state Environmental Education Initiatives for K-12 by creating a curriculum that focuses on what children can observe in their own neighborhood.”
A Malibu Area of Special Biological Significance Implementation Project is also proposed.
The description states, “[ASBS] are protected coastal areas created to preserve local marine ecosystems. ASBS regulations prohibit pollutants from entering the ocean through direct private drains, municipal storm drains and natural streams.
“Malibu is home to a portion of an ASBS, which stretches 24 miles from Latigo Point beyond the County Line to Laguna Point (in the Point Mugu area).  This project will support marine assessments required to meet ASBS objectives.
“The city will also implement strategies to reduce or eliminate urban runoff pollution, acquire buffer land from willing sellers, and monitor the effectiveness of pollution control measures.”
The map listing all potential projects, including those in Malibu, is available online.
Parcel owners or their authorized representatives wishing to protest the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Fee can download the official form at www.lacountycleanwater.org, or write a letter and submit it to the Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
According to the website, to be counted as a protest, the letter must include: Assessor's Parcel Number (APN); parcel site address, or description of parcel’s location if parcel has no address; name and signature of the parcel owner, or an authorized representative. 
Protest forms must be received before March 12. Only one protest per parcel will be accepted and counted.
Project proponents do not need to take any action, according to the website.
Questions can be addressed to 800-218-0018 or WQFI.Info@dpw.lacounty.gov.
Only scanned or photographed protests with a handwritten signature will be accepted by email according to the website.
Protesters must ensure scans/photos are clear and legible, and must keep their signed protest and make it available to the Department of Public Works on request, according to the instructions.
Parcel owners may submit signed protest forms or letters via US Mail to:
Executive Officer of the Board of Supervisors, P.O. Box 866006, Los Angeles, CA 90086.

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