A Shameful Screw-Up

It pays to pollute at Malibu's Paradise Cove

The L.A. Regional Water Board issued a shocking order Tuesday to allow the Kissel Co. to walk away nearly scot free despite its involvement in hundreds of water quality violations at Paradise Cove in Malibu over the past decade. Paradise Cove has long been one of the most polluted beaches in Santa Monica Bay. The mobile park, which is owned and operated by Kissel, has been one of the largest sources of fecal pollution to the beach. Raw sewage from the park has frequently spilled in the street. The Kissel Co. has failed to build a new on-site sewage treatment plant and sewers for over a decade despite the issuance of numerous Time Schedule Orders with an array of compliance deadlines.

How did the most egregious serial Bay polluter of the 21st century get away with so many violations?

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Apocalypse Now

Does end of world mean the end of HtB?

As a father of three, I end up going to a lot of movies. Last weekend, I saw the world nearly destroyed in the action film “2012.” Not that I’m biased, but the highlight of the movie is definitely the annihilation of Los Angeles. As John Cusack drives a gravity-defying limo through the crumbling Westside, two Heal the Bay billboards crash violently to the ground (check out 1:33 in this trailer).

I guess if the world is coming to an end, healing the bay becomes less of a priority. Besides, after director Roland Emmerich gets done with L.A., I’m pretty sure Santa Monica Bay no longer exists post apocalypse. In the film, the Santa Monica Pier (including our aquarium!) and my neighborhood slide into the abyss of what’s left of the bay. (Tragic indeed. I can’t even imagine the fecal bacteria counts after the 10.9 quake.)

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Flying Easy?

The Brown Pelican falls off the endangered list but toxic dangers still loom in the sea

The federal Department of Interior has just delisted the Brown Pelican from the endangered species list.  I agree with the move, which occurred about eight months after the State Department of Fish and Game delisted the California Brown Pelican.  It is just tragic that it took over 35 years since the DDT and PCB ban to finally achieve this milestone. The legacy of our society’s addiction to easy-to-use pesticides and herbicides is brilliantly documented in Rachel Carson’s classic 1962 book “Silent Spring.” The impacts of DDT and PCBs on eggshell thinning in predatory birds nearly led to the extinction of the Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle.  All of the species have recovered substantially in the decades following the chemical bans, but the organochlorines still pose a substantial ecological and health risk. These toxins easily biomagnify up the food web and have very slow degradation rates in the marine environment.

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Putting the Lid on LID

trash cansDespite tremendous turnout from the environmental community, the L.A. Board of Public Works today delayed its decision on a staff-proposed Low Impact Development ordinance for at least another month. The Board voted 2-1 to postpone the measure, disregarding strong backing from Sanitation staff and the DWP. (Paula Daniels, the board lead on the LID ordinance, cast the dissenting vote.)

Many Green LA members, businesses, gardeners and landscape architects came out to support the reasonable and much-needed ordinance. But the lobbying efforts of the Building Industry Assn., the same folks that have opposed LID efforts throughout the state, succeeded at the Board level. The fact that the Regional Water Board earlier passed a Ventura County stormwater permit with a strong LID component fell on deaf ears.

The proposed ordinance calls for all significant new construction and redevelopment projects in the city to infiltrate or capture and use 100% of the runoff generated by three-quarter inch storms. In the event developers can’t comply with the requirements on site, they can provide offsite mitigation or pay an in-lieu fee to the city to fund LID projects like green streets and parking-lot retrofits.

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Watered Down Reform


State's water bill is heavy on the pork

The California Legislature approved a water deal this week, but sadly it’s weaker than the proposal that almost got jammed through at the end of session a few weeks ago. Sen. Fran Pavley’s effort to put meaningful water rights reform into the measure fell victim to 11th-hour dealmaking. Pavley’s reasonable initiative was perhaps the most critical part of the package. The proposed bond measure also has soared to over $11 billion (water pork for all!), and claims that the funds have not been earmarked for a peripheral canal and storage may be legally accurate but surely not politically correct. Statements from the governor, water districts and legislators make it clear that the intent of the water legislation is to enable the ill-conceived re-plumbing of the Delta to proceed. 

I certainly wasn’t surprised that a water package passed through the legislature in special session. The water crisis is as big a problem in California as the financial crisis.  However, I am deeply disappointed.

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Victory at Sea


After 18 years of fighting for clean water, surfers in Malibu score a major win

The Regional Water Board voted 5-2 last night to approve a moratorium on septic systems in the Malibu civic center area.  In a bid to clean up chronically polluted Surfrider Beach, the measure bans any new septic systems in the area and mandates removal of existing systems by 2015 for commercial properties and 2019 for residential properties.  The environmental community — Baykeeper, Surfrider Foundation, Malibu Surfing Assn. and Heal the Bay — came out in large numbers to support a prohibition and moratorium for the civic center area.   It was a great organizing effort that involved all groups.

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Cleaning Up the Stink in Malibu

200390363-001My kids are ages 16, 13 and 10.  Trying to get them to clean up the mess in their rooms is nearly impossible.  If I badger them continuously, promises will be made to tidy up.  Inevitably, these pledges are empty and rarely result in a clean room.  My experience with Malibu during its 18 years of cityhood is pretty similar: a horrible mess, an ungodly smell, and plenty of unfulfilled promises. 

On Thursday, the Regional Water Board will play the role of the parent that has had enough of a recalcitrant child.  Malibu, board members will say, it’s time to clean up your mess and get real about fixing long-standing water quality issues. And this time there are consequences — an immediate ban on new septic systems in the Malibu civic center area and a moratorium on all on-site wastewater treatment systems by 2014.

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