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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A Good Start …

Lowenthal: bag hero in L.B.

So far, so good.  Yesterday was the first critical date for the coast this month and Long Beach and L.A. got the ball rolling.  Last night, the Long Beach City Council voted 6-2 to approve a single-use plastic bag ban ordinance identical to the L.A. County’s recently enacted measure.  Like the county, grocers and other retailers can sell green paper bags for a dime with 100% of the proceeds going to the store.  The only difference in the ordinance is that the start date is Aug. 1 next year instead of July 1.

The momentum on local bag bans is definitely growing.  Long Beach is a city of nearly half a million people and it joins the over 1 million people in the county’s unincorporated area with bag ban ordinances in place locally.  Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal led the way on advocating for the bag ban measure. Support from the environmental community, some grocery store chains and the grocers’ union made a big difference in the final vote.

Meanwhile n Los Angeles, the city council’s Energy and Environment committee finally heard the Low Impact Development ordinance that the Board of Public Works unanimously approved in January.  Although the panel did not vote on the proposal, it appears that chair Jan Perry and members Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz support the measure.  Perry postponed the vote to the Dec. 14 meeting, but she made it clear that she wanted the full council vote before members go on winter recess on Dec. 17.

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A December to Remember

Packages

Who's naughty or nice? This holiday season holds the promise of great gifts for the regional environment

December brings connotations of the holiday season.  Office parties, vacations, holiday shopping, football bowl games, family gatherings, overeating, lighting the menorah, and Christmas lights and trees.  For Heal the Bay, this December is anything but a time to ease into the new year.  As always, there is our push for year-end giving.  Tis the season for charitable write offs.  Also, once again, Heal the Bay is spearheading the Day Without a Bag event.  Over 25,000 bags will be given away at over 150 locations throughout L.A. County on Dec. 16 as a reminder to bring reusable bags whenever you go shopping.  Once again, partners include L.A. County, Los Angeles, other cities, retailers, grocers and other environmental groups.  This year, the event has spread across much of the state with counties from San Diego to San Francisco participating.

However, this December is as busy as any previous December I can remember.  Continue reading

A High Impact Ordinance

The L.A. Board of Public Works' LID ordinance is a giant step in the fight to reduce runoff pollution.

Jan. 15, 2010 is the day that the Los Angeles Board of Public Works enlisted the help of the development and business communities and homeowners to green L.A. and clean local rivers and beaches.

The cost of clean water is high and we all need to do our part to reduce runoff pollution. The newly adopted Low Impact Development ordinance is an equitable approach to reducing runoff and will help the city keep down the cost of compliance with water quality standards.

The board unanimously approved the draft LID ordinance, which requires 100% of the runoff generated from a three-quarter-inch storm at newly constructed homes, larger developments and certain redevelopments to be captured and reused or infiltrated on site. If compliance is infeasible on site, developers can pay a stormwater pollution mitigation fee to help pay for off-site public LID projects like green streets and alleys.

Support came from diverse parties, including the Green L.A. Coalition, the L.A. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, NRDC, local business leaders, the Sierra Club, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, local developers, Heal the Bay, the Assn. of Professional Landscape Designers, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, the Regional Water Board, neighborhood councils, TreePeople, local gardeners and many other individuals and environmental groups. An incredibly impressive group realizes that LID is a cost-effective way to reduce runoff pollution, augment local water supply, and green L.A. 

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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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County Greening

Xeriscaping – a beautiful thing

I’m very tempted to write an extremely positive post on Los Angeles’ proposed trio of far-reaching environmental ordinances on green building, drought tolerant landscaping and low-impact development (LID).  After all, if the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approves the three ordinances at its meeting Tuesday, it will be the singularly most progressive environmental action ever taken by the county and will set an impressive precedent for the entire region.

Pardon me for my skepticism, but the enviro community’s past history with the supes, in conjunction with strong opposition from the Building Industry Assn. and general economic jitters, leads me to worry that a potentially resounding victory could be watered down into a defeat.

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