LID at Last in L.A.

Rain barrels will be sprouting up all over L.A. now under a newly approved Low Impact Development ordinance.

Today the city of Los Angeles took a giant step forward on its long-promised goal to green itself — one new development at a time.  After three years of negotiations, hearings, educational forums and technical discussions, the City Council voted 13-0 to support a Low Impact Development ordinance.

The vote means that nearly all new development and redevelopment in Los Angeles will have to treat rainwater as a resource rather than just a flood risk by early next summer.  The approach is groundbreaking (or concrete breaking) in its wide-ranging application to all significant new and redevelopment – even single family homes.

So what does it mean from a practical point of view?

All new and redevelopment must capture and reuse or infiltrate 100% of the runoff generated by a three-quarter inch rain. As a result, development will be greener, flood control risks and runoff pollution will be reduced, and local groundwater supplies will be augmented. Single family homes will only have to include rain barrels, cisterns, rain gutter downspout redirects to landscaping, or rain gardens to comply with the ordinance.

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Let It Rain!

Low Impact Development will be reality in L.A.

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.

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Getting the LID Out

The Santa Monica City Council passed a Low Impact Development ordinance on first reading Tuesday night. The measure requires all new development and redevelopment projects to infiltrate or capture and reuse 100% of the runoff generated from a three-quarter-inch storm unless LID measures are infeasible on site. The policy is based on the Ventura County stormwater permit and an earlier draft of the long-stalled LID ordinance by the city of Los Angeles.

The most progressive section of the ordinance focuses on green streets, requiring full LID compliance for all projects that cost more than $1 million. Councilman Kevin McKeown tried to get the LID ordinance to apply to all city projects. But his bold proposal gave way to a more modest but critical green streets approach. Leadership from Mayor Bobby Shriver and Councilman Terry O’Day helped carry the day.

Santa Monica leaders deserve accolades for practicing what they preach and requiring developers to embrace LID technology. The city has long been a leader in California on stormwater pollution prevention and LID requirements. Its groundbreaking 1992 ordinance included significant LID components, long before the coining of the term.

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Season’s Gratings

Bah humbug! for MPAs and TMDLs?

December means the holidays, and some very cold weather (at least for L.A.) and rain. It also means me eating way too many baked goods.  This year, December also brings major decisions that will affect coastal resources for generations to come — specifically votes on  marine protected areas and trash limits in the Los Angeles River. Unfortunately, one of the other major decisions — the Los Angeles Board of Public Works vote on the Low Impact development ordinance – has been postponed until Jan. 15 to address the concerns of the measures’ opponents, the Building Industry Assn.  The environmental and sustainable landscaping communities aren’t thrilled by the second postponement in as many months.  I hope the January vote is worth the wait.

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