A plan to charge Los Angeles County property owners a fee to fund the cleanup of local waterways seemed destined to be abandoned today, at least temporarily.
Nearly two months ago, the Board of Supervisors acknowledged the "Clean Water, Clean Beaches" plan needed to be reworked. But now, Supervisors Gloria Molina and Don Knabe, formally recommended against instituting the measure "at this time." Combined with vocal opposition from Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who serves Glendora, there are enough votes to kill the fee. Antonovich characterized implementing the fee as imposing a tax.
Glendora opposed the plan because the city council said it was not well funded and would prove an expensive cost to the city. City council members have openly encouraged anyone opposed to the fee to cast a protest ballot against it.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky championed the measure as a cost-effective way to reduce urban runoff -- including trash and toxic substances such as industrial solvents, lead, mercury and infection- causing bacteria -- into county waterways and the ocean. It was the result of years of work to reach consensus among various municipalities and environmental organizations.
But even Yaroslavsky seemed resigned to taking a step back, recommending that county staffers instead draft a 2014 ballot measure asking voters to fund projects to address stormwater and urban runoff pollution.
At a Jan. 15 public hearing packed with both supporters and opponents, those against the plan objected to more fees on behalf of residents and businesses they said were already struggling economically. Fees for a typical homeowner would average $54 annually, while large commercial property owners could pay thousands of dollars, according to the Department of Public Works.
"Gods sends us rain and you figured out how to tax it," Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston said during that hearing.
Others in opposition argued that the measure lacked detail on the projects to be funded and contended the ballot process was designed to push the measure through without scrutiny, while environmentalists and other elected officials hailed the measure as a way to support local cleanup efforts.
As proposed, more than 50 percent of property owners would have to oppose the fee in order to avoid a ballot survey of owners to decide the measure's fate. As of this morning, 113,556 owners had objected, according to county spokesman David Sommers, roughly 5 percent of the total.
Dozens of speakers on both sides of the issue waited to be heard by the board this morning. But it appears that whatever is said, the measure will not move forward in its current form.