What a surprising way to end a two-year journey. As rain fell outside City Hall on Friday morning, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the proposed Low Impact Development ordinance . . . on consent. For more than a year, the Building Industry Assn., the Central City Assn. and others provided numerous objections on the LID ordinance. As a result, staff included a number of changes to accommodate developer concerns.
The measure now includes a grandfather clause to exempt most proposed development in the city approval pipeline. Also, the “in lieu fee clause” option has been eliminated because it’s viewed as a fee rather than an alternative for developers to comply with the LID requirements. The proposed measure now includes a strict biofiltration option to be used if on-site LID approaches prove unfeasible.
With all of these changes and yet another pitch for greater exemptions for the LID regulations, the environmental community expected success at City Council, but not without a fight from the development community.
Instead, after over a year of occasionally contentious discussions and hearings, the leadership of councilmember Jan Perry (the Energy and Environment Committee chair) and council President Eric Garcetti, led to an anti-climactic council consent approval Friday. The City Attorney will craft the final language , which should be done in about two months. After that, the City Council will likely approve the final ordinance as is or with very minor changes. The consent marked a great way to end the year at City Council.
The success of the LID measure is due to many people. In the Department of Public Works and the Bureau of Sanitation, Commissioner Paula Daniels, Adel Hagekhalil and Shahram Kharaghani deserve a great deal of credit for drafting the ordinance, developing business support and working with the building community to address its concerns.
Green LA and its members, Heal the Bay (Kirsten James and Meredith McCarthy in particular), landscape architects, green gardeners, and the general public all propelled the City Council to pass meaningful action.
Make no mistake, the LID ordinance is an innovative approach to reducing polluted runoff that augments local water supplies, while providing additional flood control and helping to green Los Angeles.
Soon, there should be a lot fewer developments that pave from lot line to lot line. Also, with the offsite compliance option, L.A. should start seeing more green street LID projects that infiltrate polluted runoff from transportation land uses.
The LID ordinance should go down as one of Mayor Villaraigosa’s biggest environmental successes. Along with the Board of Public Works-approved water quality compliance master plan, the LID ordinance offers a blueprint for reducing urban runoff pollution through an integrated watershed management approach.
Educating the general public on the importance of this sea change in L.A.’s stormwater pollution control may not be easy because of the complexity of the issues, though. After all, announcing that 100% of the runoff generated from a three-quarter inch storm must be infiltrated or captured and used on-site, doesn’t exactly inspire a “Save the Whales” sort of affinity from the masses.
However, over the next few years, the public will see that development in L.A. has a lot more landscaping, and much less polluted runoff coming from building sites during a rain. The end result will be cleaner creeks, rivers, beaches and coastal waters. And not too far in the future, after the LID ordinance’s effects are felt throughout the city, rainstorms won’t be feared as the region’s biggest source of water pollution. Instead, they will be welcomed for their ability to replenish aquifers and irrigate landscapes.