Southern California environment news and trends

County launches parcel tax campaign to cut runoff pollution as the Supreme Court takes on LA's stormwater rules

Mercer 15830

AP Photo/Ric Francis

A bicyclist rides along a path next to the concrete-lined Los Angeles River. Almost 80 years ago, engineers transformed it into a stormwater canal. LA County voters may have the opportunity to decide on how to treat stormwater in future rainy seasons if the county Board of Supervisors approves a taxation plan.

The Supreme Court may weigh in on LA's stormwater pollution this week, but the justices likely won't be the last ones to have a say in the matter. Property owners in Los Angeles-area cities will hear from the county’s flood control district in the coming days about a potential parcel tax to support storm sewers - one on which they'd vote.

LA County has more than 2 million property owners, and it’s contacting every one of them. The mailing gives notice of a plan to consider a tax assessed to every property in 9 watersheds throughout the region. The new parcel tax would pay for storm-water control projects aimed at capturing, controlling and filtering rainfall. State law requires broad public support in order for the tax to take effect. 

L.A. County’s flood control district bears responsibility for pollution carried through storm drains - including metals, bacteria, and oil. At about $54 for the average homeowner's parcel, the tax would vary based on a property’s size and on how much of the property is covered with concrete. (The county’s mailing explains in detail how it would calculate the levy, and for that matter, how property owners could protest the size of their bills.)

The next step is a public hearing in mid-January, at which county supervisors will vote whether to send the plan forward. If they do, property owners will vote by mail later in the spring. 

County officials who've offered media tours and background briefings on this subject have said this is a pretty unprecedented idea. Nobody can remember a mail-in vote of this size in the county's history. 

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