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Clean Water, Clean Beaches Tabled For 90 Days At County Hearing

Citing unclear goals or a plan for the massive amount of revenue it would generate, county supervisors passed a resolution tabling the Clean Water, Clean Beaches proposal for 90 days Tuesday, with a 4-1 vote.



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The resolution aimed to put the proposal on the ballot for Los Angeles County taxpayers some time in 2014, which Supervisor Michael Antonovich said he would never support.

"I would object on the basis that this is a state responsibility. We can all agree that clean water is a necessity and it's a state issue," Antonovich said. "Why is this on the back of the local taxpayer?"

During the hearing, which lasted more than four hours and heard more than 100 comments -- similar to the last time the proposal was reviewed by the county's Board of Supervisors, familiar concerns associated with the controversial measure were rehashed.

If passed, the proposal would generate more than $200 million for the county.

Samuel Unger, a representative for the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, said the motion would help address needed compliance and water supply issues that would face the county over the next several decades.

However, he acknowledged a perceived lack of information about the benefits that such a measure would have in the long term. 

"It appears as though the benefits have not been well articulated to the city councils," Unger said.

Supervisor Gloria Molina said the misunderstanding was much wider spread, and for good cause.

"We haven't identified what those projects are, and we’re asking for an awful lot of money," Molina said. "I just don't want a guessing game. It doesn't seem like it's ready to go to taxpayers."

As far as Antonovich was concerned, the measure should never go to taxpayers on a county level.

"It seems like it was really geared against the people, and more for another tax," he said.

ORIGINAL STORY

City Councilwoman Marsha McLean emphasized the need for all Santa Clarita Valley property owners to speak up on the Clean Water, Clean Beaches Act, joining a county supervisor and other local officials who have protested the measure since its proposal.

The measure was put off during a county Board of Supervisors meeting in January, but the measure is up for discussion again March 12 at a county board meeting in downtown Los Angeles. 


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"In this day and age, that's not another cost that we need to bear," McLean said. "Especially, since we have our own program that's in compliance with stormwater regulations. Our residents already pay the fee, so this would be double taxation so to speak." 

The city would face an increase of about $460,000 in its annual tax bill from the county because its open spaces would be taxed, she said. 

City Council members already have unanimously approved a resolution condemning the fee, which adds roughly $57 a year to the fee total for single-family home lots, and has no limit for what it would charge all other businesses, nonprofits and all other county properties.

For example, local school districts would face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees if the measure were to be approved. 

Supervisor Michael Antonovich's office is paying for buses for local residents who wish to voice their opinion on the measure at the March 12 hearing. The effort is being coordinated with the help of city officials at no cost to local residents. 

ORIGINAL STORY
City officials are set to discuss a stormwater measure Tuesday that would levy a new tax against most L.A. County residents.

The fee doesn’t have a purpose or direction, but it could mean thousands of dollars for  nonprofits, businesses and even multi-family homes, a county official said Friday.

"The fee is coming down as a result of the (water quality) standards,” said Edel Vizcarra, planning deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who repeatedly has warned residents of the “fee” that has been suggested by the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.

“What the district is telling us is that there are high levels of pollutants and metals in the water,” Vizcarra said. “But it’s very difficult to point to one area -- (Antonovich) feels that it’s a state issue, not a local issue.”

Santa Clarita City Council members are set to discuss the fee, which Councilwoman Marsha McLean equated to “double taxation,” at Tuesday’s meeting.

Los Angeles city and county collectively spends approximately $300 million each year to stay in compliance with state water standards that have become increasingly more stringent each year, according to county officials. 

One of the bigger issues with the fee, which Antonovich says is actually a tax, is that the flood district hasn’t identified what the revenue would pay for, Vizcarra said.

"We don’t even know what is going to be built yet,” he said. “We haven’t identified any of the projects, yet we’d be taxing people for something that may or may not occur.”

Due to procedures set in place by Proposition 218, a majority of 2.2 million affected - 1.1 million residents plus one, according to Vizcarra -- would need to protest the fine in order to stop the fee, an unlikely scenario despite the problems associated with it.


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If this doesn’t occur by Jan. 15 when a hearing is scheduled, then residents would likely see the fee on a mail-in ballot in March, Vizcarra said. That would be the last chance residents would have to stop the fee, which could then also be passed by a simple majority.

While the fee places a cap on single-family residences, schools and nonprofits are not exempt. Phyllis Ishisaka, superintendent of Glendale Unified, which is considered a smaller district, expressed concern that the fee collectively would cost her schools about $250,000. 

A church estimated its cost at about $4,000, and big-lot stores such as Target or Costco could be hit with fees that would cost around $11,000 to $12,000, Vizcarra said.

The supervisor has asked for time for alternatives, but in the meantime, the City Council is expected to direct staff to file a protest on behalf of all properties owned in the city. 

“One of the things (we’re looking at is) that maybe there’s a way to find one-time money so that people don’t have to be taxed,” Vizcarra said. “But we don’t know what the project is. And when you have environmental groups taking issue with taxes for environmental purposes, then you know there’s a problem.”


Do you have a news tip? Call us at (661) 298-1220, Or drop us a line at community@hometownstation.com