Wed, Aug

The Storm Water Caper

LA WATCHDOG - To add to the multibillion dollar burden imposed on Angelenos by the significant increases in our water, power, and sewer rates, the County of Los Angeles is proposing a dramatic increase in our Storm Water Tax to cover the undisclosed billions and billions that are needed to fund and operate the County’s Flood Control District’s Storm Water Master Plan.

In April of 2009, shortly after Angelenos rejected the ill conceived Measure B and its related shenanigans, the Bureau of Sanitation proposed a quadrupling of the Storm Water Abatement Charge over a five year period.  This parcel tax needed the approval of a majority (not two-thirds) of the City’s almost 800,000 property owners, who, for the first time, would be voting in a “stealth election” by mail.  

However, this 20 year, $8 billion undertaking was DOA (dead on arrival) because Sanitation failed to develop a comprehensive and understandable operational and financial plan as well as the City Council’s justifiable concern that Los Angeles parcel holders would reject this proposed tax increase.

So rather than pursue the Storm Water / Urban Runoff Master Plan at the City level, Sanitation and our million dollar Board of Public Works punted and ceded control to the County of Los Angeles and its Flood Control District.

As such, the Flood Control District recently proposed a Water Quality Funding Initiative that will assess every parcel in a yet to be determined manner.  However, there has been no disclosure on the Master Plan and its long term funding requirements or the impact on property owners, other than the “average” fee would be in the range of $50, at least for the first year.  

But as we have learned with our water, power, and sewer rate increases, “average” can be very misleading, especially if you are a single family homeowner.  

And once again, the political know-it-alls and the bureaucrats are treating us like mushrooms, keeping us in the dark and piling on the manure.

Based on the 20 year, $8 billion Master Plan proposed by the City in 2009, the parcel tax would increase to $100 a year in the fifth year, resulting in revenues of about $80 million a year.  However, that would be just the beginning of a continued onslaught where the parcel tax would have increased to an estimated $750 to $1,000 a year, in large part to cover the massive amounts of debt required to fund the Master Plan.

The political and environmental establishment is pushing ahead without properly disclosing the long term operational plans and financial consequences to homeowners, apartment owners, and other property owners that are going to be financing this phenomenally expensive Master Plan that will cost undisclosed billions and billions.  

But the County assures us of oversight.  

According to the proposed County ordinance, the Water Quality Oversight Board will be established, consisting of 13 politically appointed members, nine of which will be appointed by Watershed Areas and four by the Board of Supervisors, including two members from the “general public.”

Unlike our Board of Public Works, all of the members (other than the two general public appointees) must have expertise in water quality as well as other qualifications. But that is a self selecting group that is not representative of the public, but loaded with bureaucrats and environmentalists who have very little appreciation for single family homeowners who will be footing a disproportionate share of the financial burden.

Rather than full steam ahead with the proposed ordinance and the Water Quality Funding Initiative, the Board of Supervisors and the Flood Control District need to come clean and disclose the operational and financial details of the Master Plan and develop a level of oversight and transparency that includes knowledgeable, non political members of the general public.

In addition, parcel owners in the City of Los Angeles will be footing a disproportionate share of the burden of the Storm Water Master Plan in that the City represents only 11% of the land area, but over 40% of the population and over 40% of the assessed value of the real estate.

As for the residents of the City of Angels, this quadruple assault (water, power, sewer, and storm water) on our wallets will cost us more than $2.25 billion over the next five years, or about 50% of the City’s General Fund.  

This stinks. Something is rotten in downtown Los Angeles.

Note: A shout out to Dr. Williams of El Sereno and the LA-32 Neighborhood Council for alerting us to the County’s Storm Water plans.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and the Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:   [email protected] ) –cw

Tags: Storm Water Tax, County’s Flood Control District, Board of Public Works, LA County, rates, rate increases, water, power, sewers

Vol 9 Issue 76
Pub: Sept 23, 2011