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L.A. County property owners to consider stormwater cleanup fee

December 4, 2012 |  1:24 pm

Los Angeles County property owners began to receive notices this week of a proposed measure to impose a parcel fee that would fund efforts to clean up stormwater that flows into the county's waterways.

Property owners will have until Jan. 15 to protest the proposal in writing. On that date, the county Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing and could vote to move forward with an election on the measure unless they receive written protests from a majority of property owners. The election would probably be conducted entirely by mail.

Two of the supervisors complained Tuesday, in a brief off-agenda discussion at the board's regular meeting, that the notice that went to property owners with a protest form but no return envelope, suggesting it was intended to look like routine mail that could be easily overlooked.

"Clearly, the intent of that piece of mail is to look like junk mail," Supervisor Don Knabe said.

Knabe and Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who were the two dissenters when the board voted in July to move forward with the measure, complained that the wording of the notice was one-sided in favor of the measure and that the fee was really a tax.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky pointed out that the front of the mailer was marked, "Official Notice to Property Owners of Public Hearing."

"Sure doesn't look like junk mail to me,"  he said.

The mailers also designate the proposed fee that would be charged to each property owner — $54 a year for most residential properties. The fee, if approved, is expected to generate more than $200 million annually for projects intended to prevent stormwater from dumping pollution into the county's waterways. The fee proceeds would be divided among the municipalities where the properties are located, new watershed authority groups that would work on regional projects, and the county flood control district.

Stormwater pollution has been an ongoing issue in the county and is the subject of a lawsuit against the county brought by environmental groups that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. County officials said the lawsuit was not the impetus behind the proposed ballot measure.


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