Despite 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.
The ordinance would apply to single-family homes too, but requirements would be minimal and could be met with rain gutter downspout redirection to landscaping and/or the use of a rain barrel.
Tthe development community made no new arguments. The usual “it is too expensive and it is too hard” pleas carried the day. Board members even questioned the adequacy of public review despite the fact that staff met with neighborhood councils and held five public workshops. The bottom line: The city got cold feet because of development community pressure.
The board failed to fully appreciate today that the LID ordinance marks the cornerstone of the city’s water-quality compliance master plan. City staff has put together Total Maximum Daily Load implementation plans that will cost well over $1 billion. And the LID ordinance is critical for plan implementation.
City officials can’t comply via water-quality standards alone. They need everyone’s help. The ordinance would result in dramatic reductions in pollutant loads, enhanced flood control, augmented groundwater recharge and greener communities. These are all tremendous benefits in their own right. But the city’s major compliance problems with water quality standards have also put taxpayers in a place of tremendous financial liability.
Remember Mayor Villaraigosa’s campaign promise to transform Los Angeles into the cleanest, greenest city in America? If the city wants to move from rhetoric to reality, leaders will have to approve the LID ordinance as soon as possible. Any further delay is unconscionable and puts the city at unnecessary risk of enforcement due to extensive, ongoing water-quality violations.