The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously Wednesday, July 12th, to approve a new Watershed Management Plan and place a new storm-water Clean Beaches and Ocean Funding measure on the November ballot.
City staff was directed to issue a notice for a public hearing on Tuesday, July 25th, on proposed storm-water parcel fee increases to fund the Watershed Management Plan.
Additionally, staff was directed to prepare materials required for official action at the July 25th city council meeting to place this Clean Beaches and Ocean Funding measure on the November Ballot for residents to vote on.
This ballot measure — if passed by residents — would create a Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax and produce revenue necessary to fund the new Watershed Management Plan.
The main focus of the plan is urban runoff, the single largest source of water pollution in the region, said Neal Shapiro, urban runoff management coordinator for Santa Monica.
To put it simply, urban runoff is the “water that flows off of our streets and flows untreated to the bay every day, whether it’s raining or not,” Shapiro said.
“The goal is to get it [urban runoff] to a level where it’s not going to cause harm to marine life, to the people who use the beaches,” Shapiro said.
Because more stringent regulatory standards for broad categories of water pollutants have been implemented by state and federal agencies, additional effort will be required by Santa Monica over the next several years, according to city officials.
City staff and a consultant team have been developing the Watershed Management Plan over the past two years, having taken an “exhaustive look at our current program,” said Craig Perkins, director of environmental and public works management for the city.
“It’s an excellent document that provides the foundations for us to incorporate long-term solutions,” Shapiro said. “It will allow the city to meet the obligations of the various laws. And it’s dynamic. It can change over time.”
It is estimated that a revenue increase of $3 million per year is required to achieve just the minimum level of capital projects and operation enhancements needed to implement the plan and comply with all applicable regulatory standards for at least the next ten years, Perkins said.
The Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax funding measure to be on the ballot in November could provide the necessary $3 million per year, if approved by two-thirds of voters in the November election.
“All we’re asking for is the money to take care of Santa Monica, the bare minimum,” Perkins said.
However, these new revenues would need to increase annually for the program to remain financially viable over time, Perkins said.
This new tax would average about $7 per month for single-family parcels or about $2.50 per month for condominium units.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Santa Monica College would be exempt from paying the tax, Perkins said.
Councilman Kevin McKeown called the new plan “remarkable.”
“It’s a wonderful piece of work,” he said.
The plan provides recommended projects and activities, prioritized by specific public benefit criteria, that will allow the city to improve the quality of its urban runoff so that the waters of Santa Monica Bay and its tributaries will meet the goals of the nation’s Clean Water Act, Perkins said.
It also includes programs that are proposed to be implemented over the next ten years as part of the heightened effort to protect Santa Monica beaches and the bay, city officials said.
Shapiro said that water pollution improvements are “going on all the time — on a weekly basis.”
“But to do more, we just need more funding,” Shapiro said
Santa Monica currently operates and maintains 20 miles of storm drains, 824 catch basins and other major infrastructures like the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility.
The Los Angeles County Public Works Department is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the remaining storm- water conveyance infrastructure within Santa Monica, such as the Pico-Kenter drain, city officials said.
However, Santa Monica is responsible for the quality of the runoff and for all water quality permitting and compliance related to storm drain discharges into the ocean or other water channels, such as Ballona Creek, said city officials.
The Watershed Management Plan’s highest priority projects include:
n reducing urban runoff pollution;
n reducing urban flooding;
n increasing water reuse and conservation;
n increasing recreational opportunities and open space; and
n increasing wildlife and marine habitat.
In 1995, Santa Monica created a Stormwater Enterprise Fund and adopted a storm-water parcel fee that generates about $1.25 million of revenue per year to cover capital and operational costs in the storm-water fund. The parcel fee has not been increased since it was implemented.
The fee is collected through the annual property tax bills issued by the Los Angeles County Tax Assessor and varies according to parcel type and size. The fee averages $3.02 per month for single family parcels and about $1.05 per month for each condominium unit.
Increasing this parcel fee is another way the new plan could be funded, but Perkins said there is not enough time to place a storm-water parcel fee increase on the November ballot.
Perkins and his staff recommended the Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax as the most appropriate funding mechanism to generate the necessary additional revenue to implement the Stormwater Management Plan.
City council will reconvene Tuesday, July 25th, with staff, who will have prepared materials required for official council action on the Clean Beaches and Ocean Funding measure.