It may be not a very interesting read, but I think the two articles and one set of comments that was sent to the Planning Department for the Draft Environmental Impact Report, are very important these days.
The first article is the newest and it was printed in the California section of the Los Angeles Times, just today.
Since no matter what is built at Ponte Vista will allow all new residents the chance to find local jobs, it looks like many of them will have to commute, some quite a long way, perhaps.
The financial burden of longer commutes makes homes in outlying areas that are already reeling even less attractive.
By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 17, 2008
Rising gas prices may be the latest ailment afflicting the housing market, as figures released Monday showed Southern California home prices plunging 27% in May from a year ago and falling even more precipitously in distant suburbs.
"It seems like the money they can save in housing is being absorbed by higher gas costs, so they are a little reticent to commit," Griffith said. "Gas is definitely beginning to be a concern.
Home sales and prices: May 2008
June 7, 2008
Water-Starved California Slows Development
PERRIS, Calif. — As California faces one of its worst droughts in two decades,
building projects are being curtailed for the first time under state law by the
inability of developers to find long-term water supplies.
Water authorities and other government agencies scattered throughout the
state, including here in sprawling Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, have
begun denying, delaying or challenging authorization for dozens of housing
tracts and other developments under a state law that requires a 20-year water
supply as a condition for building.
California officials suggested that the actions were only the beginning, and
they worry about the impact on a state that has grown into an economic
powerhouse over the last several decades.
The state law was enacted in 2001, but until statewide water shortages, it had
not been invoked to hold up projects.
While previous droughts and supply problems have led to severe water
cutbacks and rationing, water officials said the outright refusal to sign off on
projects over water scarcity had until now been virtually unheard of on a
“Businesses are telling us that they can’t get things done because of water,”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said in a telephone interview.
On Wednesday, Mr. Schwarzenegger declared an official statewide drought,
the first such designation since 1991. As the governor was making his drought
announcement, the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County —
one of the fastest-growing counties in the state in recent years — gave a
provisional nod to nine projects that it had held up for months because of
water concerns. The approval came with the caveat that the water district
could revisit its decision, and only after adjustments had been made to the
plans to reduce water demand.
“The statement that we’re making is that this isn’t business as usual,” said
Randy A. Record, a water district board member, at the meeting here in Perris.
Shawn Jenkins, a developer who had two projects caught up in the delays, said
he was accustomed to piles of paperwork and reams of red tape in getting
projects approved. But he was not prepared to have the water district hold up
the projects he was planning. He changed the projects’ landscaping, to make it
less water dependent, as the board pondered their fate.
“I think this is a warning for everyone,” Mr. Jenkins said.
Also in Riverside County, a superior court judge recently stopped a 1,500-
home development project, citing, among others things, a failure to provide
substantial evidence of adequate water supply.
In San Luis Obispo County, north of Los Angeles, the City of Pismo Beach was
recently denied the right to annex unincorporated land to build a large
multipurpose project because, “the city didn’t have enough water to
adequately serve the development,” said Paul Hood, the executive officer of
the commission that approves the annexations and incorporations of cities.
In agriculturally rich Kern County, north of Los Angeles, at least three
developers scrapped plans recently to apply for permits, realizing water was
going to be an issue. An official from the county’s planning department said
the developers were the first ever in the county to be stymied by water
concerns. Large-scale housing developments in Santa Barbara and San Luis
Obispo Counties have met a similar fate, officials in those counties said.
Throughout the state, other projects have been suspended or are being revised
to accommodate water shortages, and water authorities and cities have
increasingly begun to consider holding off on “will-serve” letters — promises
to developers to provide water — for new projects.
“The water in our state is not sufficient to add more demand,” said Lester
Snow, the director of the California Department of Water Resources. “And
that now means that some large development can’t go forward. If we don’t
make changes with water, we are going to have a major economic problem in
The words “crisis” and “water” have gone together in this state since the 49ers
traded flecks of gold for food. But several factors have combined to make the
current water crisis more acute than those of recent years.
An eight-year drought in the Colorado River basin has greatly impinged on
water supply to Southern California. Of the roughly 1.25 million acre-feet of
water that the region normally imports from that river toward the 4.5 million
acre-feet it uses each year, 500,000 has been lost to drought, said Jeff
Kightlinger, the general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of
Even more significant, a judge in federal district court last year issued a
curtailment in pumping from the California Delta — where the Sacramento
and San Joaquin Rivers meet and provide water to roughly 25 million
Californians — to protect a species of endangered smelt that were becoming
trapped in the pumps. Those reductions, from December to June, cut back the
state’s water reserves this winter by about one third, according to a
consortium of state water boards.
The smelt problem was a powerful indicator of the environmental fallout from
the delta’s water system, which was constructed over 50 years ago for a far
“We have bad hydrology, compromised infrastructure and our management
tools are broken,” said Timothy Quinn, the executive director of the
Association of California Water Agencies. “All that paints a fairly grim picture
for Californians trying to manage water in the 21st century.”
The 2001 state water law, which took effect in 2002, requires developers to
prove that new projects have a plan for providing at least 20 years’ worth of
water before local water authorities can sign off on them. With the recent
problems, more and more local governments are unable to simply approve
“Water is one of our most difficult issues when we are evaluating large-scale
projects,” said Lorelei Oviatt, the division chief for the Kern County Planning
Department. In cases where developers are unable to present a long-term
water plan, “then certainly I can’t recommend they approve” those
developments, Ms. Oviatt said.
As the denied building permits indicate, the lack of sufficient water sources
could become a serious threat to economic development in California, where
the population in 2020 is projected to reach roughly 45 million people,
economists say, from its current 38 million. In the end, as water becomes
increasingly scarce, its price will have to rise, bringing with it a host of
economic consequences, the economists said.
“Water has been seriously under-priced in California,” said Edward E.
Leamer, a professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University
of California, Los Angeles. “When you ration it or increase its price, it will have
an impact on economic growth.”
The water authority for Southern California recently issued a rate increase of
14.3 percent, when including surcharges, which was the highest rate increase
in the last 15 years. In Northern California, rates in Marin County increased
recently by nearly 10 percent, in part to pay an 11 percent increase in the cost
of water bought from neighboring Sonoma County.
Interest groups that oppose development have found that raising water issues
is among the many bats in their bags available to beat back projects they find
“Certainly from Newhall Ranch’s standpoint, water was a key point that our
opponents were focused on,” said Marlee Lauffer, a spokeswoman for Newhall
Ranch, a large-scale residential development in the works is Santa Clarita,
north of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles, among others, has opposed the
To get around the problem, Newhall Ranch’s planners decided to forgo water
supplied through the state and turn instead to supplies from an extensive
water reclamation plant as well as water bought privately. Other developers,
like Mr. Jenkins, have changed their landscaping plans to reduce water needs
and planned for low-flow plumbing to placate water boards.
Mr. Schwarzenegger sees addressing the state’s water problem as one of his
key goals, and he is hoping against the odds to get a proposed $11.9 billion
bond for water management investments through the Legislature and before
voters in November.
The plans calls for water conservation and quality improvement programs, as
well as a resource management plan for the delta. Among its most
controversial components is $3.5 billion earmarked for new water storage,
something that environmentalists have vehemently opposed, in part because
they find dams and storage facilities environmentally unsound and not cost
The critics also point out that the state’s agriculture industry, which uses far
more water than urban areas, is being asked to contribute little to
conservation under the governor’s plans. As more building projects are
derailed by water requirements, the pressure on farmers to share more of their
water is expected to grow.
RE: CASE No. ENV-2005-4516-EIR
As part of the public process, I have made a partial review of the Ponte Vista Draft EIR. The review was limited to my core engineering specialty of water. My California engineering licensures are:
The most serious unmitigated environmental problem I found is that frequent sewage flooding of homes is very likely to occur in the Taper Avenue neighborhood if the project is built as proposed in the EIR. It is also my opinion that the City of Los Angeles will be held partially liable for such flooding if it approves the EIR and allows the project to be built in its current form.
In addition, when the Draft EIR dismisses the 15cfs increase of storm water runoff into Los Angles harbor as insignificant, the document does not take intoaccount that the toxicity of the runoff will be increased by the urbanization caused by the proposed project. Also the Draft EIR does not give any information in the reviewed sections as to the depth of the two major sewer lines; the 96" LA County Sewer and the 144" joint LADWP - LA County Sewer outfall, that passes under the project site. There is potential danger to these sewers from replacing the existing unused single family homes with multi-story condominiums. The sewers could be crushed by the increased static loads of the heavierhousing and/or from the dynamic loads of the heavy equipment that will be used in construction. This potential problem cannot be evaluated from the Draft EIR because the sewer depth information is missing.
Also, the Draft EIR says that connection fees will pay for the constructionof additional water and wastewater treatment capacity engendered by theproject, but presents no data that weighs these fees against the cost of such construction.
Finally, the environmental damage that may be caused by changing the R-1zoning of the 61.5 acre tract that constitutes the Ponte Vista Project is notdiscussed in the Draft EIR. The main problem with rezoning is that other developers may cite the precedent to argue that their projects should also be grantedlike increases in density regardless of existing zoning.
A. Sewage Flow:
The Draft EIR's authors rely on data from the City of Los Angeles, LACounty, and LADWP to estimate sewage flow from each of the averaged mix of units, i.e. 2.5 bedrooms. Respectively these flows are represented to be 180, 195,and 225 gallons per day (gpd). Since the three agencies serve populationsthat live in the same general area it is difficult to understand the differencesin the figures. Adding to the confusion, the authors do not share the detailsof how they used the abovementioned data to arrive at the flow from anaveraged unit. Perhaps the best the reader can come away with is the feeling thatthe subject of predicting sewage flow is somewhat uncertain.
To further illustrate that uncertainty, I have used an independent respected source to make a parallel sewage flow prediction.
Table 2.5 of Wastewater Engineering: Collection, Treatment, Disposal:
Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., McGraw-Hill 1972, gives the 1968 water consumption for Los Angeles as 185 gallons per capita per day (gpcd). The same reference,ibid page 33, gives the ratio of water consumption to sewage generation as arange of 60 to 80%. Assuming that only one person will occupy each projectbedroom and using the low end of the conversion range, each unit is projected to produce 278 gpd of sewage.
My prediction, and those developed by the Draft EIR authors share thesame basic concept, i.e. that sewage flows can be predicted using assumptionsabout average use. Many water engineers would suggest that a better method is toanalyze the details of a proposed project.
The way the sewage flow from the project to the existing 8" Taper Avenuesewer is calculated in the Draft EIR raises unanswered questions in my mind. The lowest estimate, i.e. 180 gpd, is used without any justification as to whyone equivalent section of the project should produce less sewage than anyother. This has the effect of making the calculated sewage flow 279,800 gpd.This figure is strangely convenient because it is ever so slightly less that thesewer's remaining marginal capacity. Then the authors state that because thisflow only takes up 99.93% of the sewer's remaining marginal capacity, all isgood, nothing bad will happen, AND THERE IS NOTHING TO MITIGATE???
In reality, if the project is built as laid out in the Draft EIR, thehomeowners in the Taper Avenue neighborhood will not have to wait for the firstSuper Bowl Sunday half time flush for sewage to flow into their homes; it willbe a regular event!
B. Discharge to Los Angeles Harbor
In reality, the current site is uninhabited. If the project is built,vehicles will regularly drip oil, lawn chemicals will be used and the potentialfor spillage of household chemicals will become greater than the current valueof zero. The Draft EIR authors merely recommend that the status quo bemaintained, by dumping untreated storm water into the harbor. It is true thatvarious treatment options are mentioned in section IV-E, but their use is positedas conditional; no promises are made that commit the developer to provide anyon-site storm water treatment. Furthermore, given the density of the proposeddevelopment, it is difficult to imagine how such treatment could beaccommodated within the available space.
Thanks for the opportunity to review the Draft EIR. I hope that my commentswill prove to be of assistance.
John S. Lang