By John Davis
The City of Los Angeles has undertaken a project at Penmar Park to clean
dirty storm water before it reaches the ocean. The project is being completed by the City Department of Public Works, Bureau of Engineering. While the project appears to be sound, the process leading to it has had at least one procedural error.
Given the project is in a Park facility controlled by the City Recreation and Park Department and its Board, a hearing should have taken place so that the public could weigh in on the merits of the project at the Park Dpt. level. The rules of the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles requires that, “Posting of public hearings and land-use changes shall be made sufficiently in advance of Board meetings at the facility or facilities affected. “ The DPW responded that since the prior baseball diamond would be replaced that no change in land use existed. However, this disregards the fact that the new land use includes a massive new underground structure. A new land use in this case was added.
The Secretary of the Board confirmed that no hearing was held at Penmar by the Parks and Recreation Board for the project, removing the public from the process as it relates to the Park Board and land use changes at Penmar. While the Department of Public Works is conducting the project, it still requires a hearing by the Parks Board according to its rules.
The project seems good though. It consists of a large underground cistern, like a huge and very deep swimming pool. It is designed to catch polluted storm water from the street and to deposit in underground pool. It holds a maximum of 2.75 million gallons of polluted water. That water, according to the project manager, then trickles into the storm sewer. It is then cleaned by the Hyperion Water Treatment Plant before reaching the sea.
Importantly, a Phase 2 project is also in the works.
Phase 2, as described by DPW, would use some of the captured water for irrigation purposes at the park. One major question looms though. How would the water be treated before it is used on the grass at the park? This is very important because adults and their families sit on and touch the grass at the park.
No approval of Phase 2 exists yet and no permits for the California Environmental Quality Act have been filed. So, there is still time to weigh in on Phase 2 at the Recreation and Parks Board level as well as with the Board of Public Works, if the Parks Board follows its own written rules.
The concept is without question good for the environment, but only if the public is involved in the Parks Board hearings so that residents can ensure the quality of the water will be fit for human contact.