City’s Bid for L.I.D.
September 18, 2009 § 5 Comments
L.A. Creek Freak pedaled up the newly-repaired Coldwater Canyon Avenue to bring our readers the latest on the plan to bring LID to the city of Los Angeles. This blog entry tells about the city’s LID efforts, and in it, Creek Freak spends as much time on important digressions as I do on the specifics of LID!
LID stands for Low Impact Development. LID is basically an approach to solving multiple water issues by detaining and/or infiltrating rainwater. There’s a longer and slightly more technical explantion for LID at Wikipedia. LID is beneficial for increasing water quality, increasing water supply, and even preventing flooding and curbing global warming. It tends to include features like cisterns, rain barrels, bioswales, infiltration galleries, mulch, and the like. It’s stuff that our keen-eyed readers are already at least somewhat familiar with, though Creek Freak hasn’t called it LID that often.
(Digression #1 – Language: A couple of my minor semantic pet peeves here: I tend to slightly resent that the term LID has come to mean site sustainability only in regards to stormwater, when there are many other factors that might lessen a development’s negative environmental impact. These factors can range from transportation to energy to social space to building materials… even stream protection and minimizing water usage through greater efficiency or greywater. None of which is part of what is called LID – so what LID is covers a very important slice - but not the entirety of impacts. Also, “impact” can be positive or negative – so I what I really want is “high-impact” development that is highly restorative – like a shopping center that daylights and restores a creek in its midst! Nonetheless, what LID actually is is definitely a really good wonderful creeky-freaky thing. Let’s do LID and do all these other important environmental endeavors!)
On Tuesday morning, TreePeople, Green L.A. Coalition, and the Urban Land Institute hosted a discussion on LID. Presenters included TreePeople’s Andy Lipkis, green developer Greg Reitz of REthink Development, and Los Angeles City Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels. The meeting was hosted at TreePeople’s very cool muy-sustainable Center for Community Forestry, a proud example of LID in practice. Lipkis reviewed what LID is, and why it’s important. Reitz showed examples of what it can look like for multi-family developments.
Commissioner Daniels went into greatest detail about the current efforts to get LID adopted into law as a requirement for development, similar to what has already been done in Ventura County and in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas. The idea for the city of L.A. is to expand what is known as the SUSMP – the Standard Urban Stormwater Mitigation Plan – pronounced “Sue-Sump.” SUSMP is one step that developers already have to do when they build in L.A. Depending on the size of the development, SUSMP requires various practices and features to prevent strormwater pollution, both during construction activities and once the development is complete. This results in those sandbags that we see around construction sites… and quite a few other things that are less apparent.
(Digression #2 – A Vague Critical History of L.A.’s SUSMP: I am not an expert on how SUSMP works in L.A., but it’s my impression, historically, that it has been… shall we say… wimpy. It was sort of the least we could do, without the regional water board getting angry at us. It didn’t apply unless the development was huge, and even so, it mostly pertained to best practices during construction, without much in the way of long-term watershed management. It seems like L.A.’s SUSMP was revised and got a little better around a half-dozen years ago… but it still seems like it isn’t resulting in very much in the way of environmentally effective rainwater features. If you’re interested in reading even more about SUSMP, here’s the city’s SUSMP page, and the county’s 150-page 2002 SUSMP manual.)
Under the proposed new LID rules, SUSMP will take a big step forward. There’s apparently a draft ordinance circulating. It is described as applying to all new development and significant redevelopment. It will require sites to capture and re-use and/or infiltrate all the runoff that would be generated by the 85th percentile storm, hence only in very large storms would runoff leave the site.
The new ordinance is supposed to go before the city’s Board of Public Works for approval soon, then in October to the L.A. City Council’s committee on Energy and Environment, and hopefully will be approved by the full council before the end of the year.
(Digression #3 – Transparency: This is a really good proposal that really good people - true Creek Freak friends and allies - intend to have approved by the end of the year, but L.A. Creek Freak searched and searched couldn’t find more than a whiff of the planned ordinance online. On the city’s websites, LID appears in a couple places. There’s a LID city council motion 09-1554 that was introduced in June 2009, but hasn’t had any activity or supporting documents to date. There’s a LID page with LID links and even a good reports on what LID is – the informative 2009 Green Infrastructure for Los Angeles: Addressing Urban Runoff and Water Supply Through Low Impact Development. But there’s nothing I could find about the ordinance itself. I’d suggest that it would be a really good transparent-government-2.0-kinda-thing to get the draft ordinance up on-line somewhere… preferably somewhere the public can post comments… perhaps it could at least be posted at the city’s stormwater blog L.A. Team Effort? It’s the 21st century and there’s this great tool called the internet where the cost to post and notify is so negligible and the ability to build trust can be invaluable. Not revealing the draft ordinance can result in suspicion and skepticism. Publishing it can help facilitate a public dialog, build awareness, build support.)
After the meeting wound down, Andy Lipkis lead a tour of the rainwater features at the center site, including their huge cistern and their educational watershed garden. All very inspiring! I am looking forward to the new LID ordinance bringing more inspiring new rainwater projects into the mainstream of Los Angeles development.