UPDATED: VICTORY - LA County Clean Water Fee

The outcome of today’s “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” Measure Protest Hearing was a big win for the business community, with all five LA County Supervisors acknowledging our key point that the measure isn’t ready for prime time.

After more than 4.5 hours of public testimony and an hour of debate among the Supervisors, they passed the following motion, offered and moved by Knabe, modified and seconded by Yaroslavksy, with Ridley-Thomas, Knabe, and Yaroslavsky voting “yes” and Antonovich and Molina voting “no”:

  1. The protest process shall remain open for 60 days, delaying further Board of Supervisors action until March 12 and allowing parcel owners additional time to submit protest forms.
  2. The final, revised ordinance must be completed and made available to the public before any election is scheduled.
  3. LA County Department of Public Works staff is directed to report back to the Board of Supervisors within 60 days:

1.An assessment of the feasibility of adding an on-line process for filing protests

2.Details for the Board of Supervisors to consider the option of putting the measure on a general election ballot (rather than a mail-in ballot among parcel owners)

3.Revising the measure to include a sunset clause of not more than 30 years

4.A list of projects that would be funded by the measure

5.Revising the measure to provide for credits or reductions for properties already performing storm water runoff pollution abatement

6.Alternative options for funding storm water runoff pollution abatement

As you can see, this closely tracks what we have been asking for. THANK YOU to the 25 BizFed members who testified today:

Will Wright, American Institute of Architects; Jim Clarke, Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles; LaDonna DiCamillo, BNSF Railway; Michael Beasley, Boeing; Martha Cox-Nitikman, BOMA of Greater LA; Holly Schroeder, Building Industry Association; Lauren Lewow, California Apartment Association; James Simonelli, California Metals Coalition; Mike Lewis, Construction Industry Coalition on Water Quality; Jaime Garcia, Hospital Association of Southern California; Lisa Bailey, Irwindale Chamber of Commerce; Frank Lopez, LA Area Chamber of Commerce; Christina Davis, LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce; Weston Labar, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce; Dennis Daze, Majestic Realty Co.; Kevin Ivey, NAIOP SoCal Chapter; Cynthia Kurtz, San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership; Albert Chang, San Gabriel Valley Regional Chamber of CommerceJonas; Peterson, Santa Clarita Economic Development Corp; Horace Heidt, United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley; Elizabeth Martyn, Union Pacific Railroad; Pilar Hoyos, Watson Land Company; David Evans, Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association

Thanks also to everyone who has worked these past weeks to make sure our voices were heard.Stay tuned for more information and next steps as we continue our work with DPW to try to ensure our concerns are addressed before anything moves forward.

ORIGINAL ACTION ALERT:

If you received one of these “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” notices in the mail, please read it carefully. It looks more like a newsletter - than a notice for you to file a protest to a new fee on your property tax bill. The LA County Department of Public Works is sending these notices to all 2.2 million property owners in LA County to inform them about their proposed Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure to provide dedicated funding through a NEW FEE (or tax) to reduce pollution in storm water runoff that affects beaches, waterways, and groundwater.

 

Among the rhetoric out there, you may not have heard that regardless of whether or not this passes, our Cities and the County will bear the cost of complying with the Clean Water Act to effectively deal with storm water runoff. The decisions to be made are:

1. HOW and WHO will pay those costs and

2. What are the best and publically transparent ways to accomplish REGIONAL SOLUTIONS to get the most for any/all investments

When DPW briefed BizFed about the proposed measure in August, we had serious concerns about whether the measure was ready for prime time and about how it would impact the business community. Many of the required details to put a fee before the voters had not yet been defined. However, DPW committed to working with BizFed to try to improve their proposal.

 

We formed the BizFed Water Quality Parcel Tax Working Group in September to work directly with DPW on the details of the proposed ordinance, hoping to address the concerns of the business community. Chaired by Mike Lewis, Construction Industry Coalition on Water Quality Coalition, our working group has had multiple in-person meetings with DPW staff, who are working with us and taking our concerns and input seriously.

 

Here’s where we stand today:

 

· BizFed’s Board has not yet voted to take a position on the measure. Instead, the Board authorized the creation of our working group to try to address business community concerns. We expect to take a formal position in the near future, which will depend heavily on the where things stand with our working groups efforts with DPW.

· BizFed remains concerned that the measure itself is not being properly put before the voters in accordance with Proposition 218. In its current form, the measure appears to meet the legal definition of a tax, which would require approval from a two-thirds majority of all voters, rather than a fee, which would require approval from a simple majority of affected property owners. We have shared these concerns in writing with LA County and await their written response and analysis.

 

· However, whether this measure ultimately is put to a vote as a tax or a fee, and whether it moves forward in 2013 or 2014, the proposed ordinance will have a serious financial impact on businesses throughout LA County. Therefore, we have continued working with DPW to rewrite the proposed ordinance and implementation manual to try to ensure it accomplishes the County’s objectives without treating property owners – whether they are business, public, or residential property owners – unfairly.

 

We are putting the finishing touches on our proposed rewrite of the ordinance to try to address these concerns, which we will present to DPW in January.

 

Now is the time for all property owners in LA County to learn about and get engaged on this issue. There are some important reasons why LA County is asking for this measure, but it is absolutely vital that we take the time to get it right!

Stay tuned for more updates in the days and weeks ahead.