Parks and Environment

Taste of the Heights Festival Returns to Pathfinder Park in Rowland Heights

Supervisor Don Knabe in conjunction with the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association, Rowland Heights Coordinating Council, local community groups, local businesses, sponsors and the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation will host the 4th Annual Taste of The Heights Festival at Pathfinder Park.

The Taste of The Heights, which has been established as a featured annual event in Rowland Heights, is a fun evening under the stars with food, wine tasting, and the smooth sounds of jazz from 94.7 THE WAVE. The Taste of The Heights Festival will showcase fine food from local restaurants to demonstrate the cultural diversity of the Heights. Each restaurant will provide an array of their most exquisite food entrees for patrons to sample. This will be the second year for the Kid Zone where youth 12 and under will have their own food tasting, and entertainment.

The festival will be held on Wednesday, May 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m, at Pathfinder Community Regional Park, which is located at 18150 East Pathfinder Road in Rowland Heights. For ticket sales and information contact (626) 333-1369. Children under 6 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

10th Annual Los Angeles River Master Plan Earth Day Event

Jordan High School students, local residents and partnering organizations joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe today in Long Beach to plant various native trees and shrubs in celebration of the 10th Annual Los Angeles River Master Plan Earth Day Event.

The Earth Day event also included a ribbon cutting ceremony to dedicate a decorative gate designed by local river artist Michael Amescua. The installation of the decorative gate was sponsored by Supervisor Knabe and the Port of Long Beach.

This year’s Earth Day was part of a larger Public Works comprehensive project called the Wrigley Greenbelt Project. The Wrigley Greenbelt area is a stretch of County owned land between Willow Street and Wardlow Avenue along Deforest Avenue. The goal of this project includes landscape enhancements to help improve the urban air quality and increase health benefits to the neighboring communities.

This project will also add educational elements such as native habitat gardens and interpretive signage to promote public information and awareness about the watershed and the surrounding environment.

In addition, the proposed water quality enhancements include water retention features to collect, filter and percolate storm flows from the adjacent residential areas.

Dockweiler State Beach Dedication Set Where else but Dockweiler?

A special location and specialized facilities make Dockweiler Beach unique among local beaches.

– Dockweiler is one of the few beaches in the region where it is legal to have a fire on the beach. Along with Cabrillo Beach, Dockweiler is one of only two beaches where there are fire pits on the sand.

– Dockweiler is home to the only RV campground in the County that is located right on a beach. Rates are low, availability is year-round, and guests have access to complete RV hookups, pump-out stations, hot showers, and a Laundromat.

– The only Oceanside hang-gliding facility in the County is located at Dockweiler.

– Want to get up-close to a jumbo jet or other aircraft in flight? Parts of Dockweiler are directly under the LAX flight path and just a few hundred yards from the runway edges.

– No major development on the beach! Dockweiler feels far from civilization because homes and businesses are not built right up the beach.

– The Dockweiler bike path continues for miles in both directions, connecting all the way to Santa Monica in the north and to Redondo Beach in the south.

County Budget: Solid

A healthy local economy will allow the County to continue to improve services and build new facilities in 2007-08, particularly for public protection and health care, Chief Administrative Officer David E. Janssen said today in releasing the proposed $21.241 billion budget.

Experiencing a third year of improved financing, the County plans to spend $1.4 billion to improve or build jails, libraries, hospitals, animal shelters, fire and sheriff stations, parks, probation camps, juvenile halls and infrastructure.

It also plans to increase its 100,632 workforce by 1,425 employees to enhance sheriff patrols and anti-gang initiatives, and improve the care provided foster children, juvenile wards, mental health patients, jail inmates, and animals.

While improvements in services are wide-ranging, the majority of the increased funding — more than $370 million — is designated for public protection and health care issues.

Specifically, an additional $157.9 million is targeted for public safety, $128.4 million for justice services, and $82.7 million for health and mental health.

The Sheriff’s Department, under a court order to improve conditions for inmates, is slated to receive $19.3 million and 165.5 positions for its custody system, $245 million to refurbish Sybil Brand Institute for Women and build new women barracks at Pitchess Detention Center, and $16 million to design a major refurbishment at Men’s Central Jail.

Another $10 million is earmarked for custody medical services for the Sheriff’s Department as it assumes responsibility for inmate outpatient medical services currently provided at LAC+USC Medical Center.

$2.6 million is allocated to fully fund staff and operational costs associated with opening of the new Los Angeles Regional Crime Laboratory, scheduled to open in May, and $9.1 million to offset the loss of revenue from the cancellation of the state prisoner housing contract.

The budget recommends providing $17.3 million to add 105 deputies, eight support employees and one-time operation costs to enhance the patrols in the unincorporated areas.

Another $6.4 million is included to hire 47 employees in the Sheriff’s, District Attorney and Probation Departments to combat gang violence.

Under a federal decree to improve conditions for juvenile wards, the Probation Department would receive $20.9 million to redesign camps, restructure camp management and increase administration and support staff, increasing staff by 336 positions. Another $47 million would be set aside for one-time and ongoing critical needs, bringing commitment of new funding to the department since 2005-06 to $75.1 million.

To balance the Health Services Department budget, which is going up $61.1 million in increased operational costs, Janssen recommends providing $80 million from the General Fund, $50 million of which would be designated as an intergovernmental transfer to generate $100 million in additional revenues.

A 269-position decrease in Health Services is primarily due to discontinuing resident physician services at King-Harbor Hospital (249.5) and transferring 16 positions to the Department of Public Health. The majority of the cost of converting King-Drew Medical Center into King-Harbor Hospital is not included in the proposed budget; it will be addressed later in the budget process. The budget also does not include the impact of an improved nursing pay plan.

In preparing the health recommendations, Janssen said he used very optimistic assumptions – including receipt of $143 million in managed care supplemental rate increases during 2006-07 – which will be refined if needed in final changes to the Board before the budget is adopted in June.

The Mental Health Department for the third year is faced with having to cut existing positions while receiving substantial new revenue to add new programs and employees. Janssen recommends eliminating 147.3 positions to save $9.5 million to reduce the department’s structural deficit, while using $68.1 million in new revenues from Proposition 63 to add 220.9 positions to convert the operation from clinical services to community-based, client and family- driven recovery-oriented services. Proposition 63 precludes its revenues from being used for existing programs. The department has indicated the reductions would have minimal impact since the positions are currently vacant and are spread throughout the department instead of being focused on any one program.

Despite adding programs and projects, Janssen said the budget is a conservative one that reflects an ongoing budgetary uncertainty at both the national and state level.

The economic outlook for the County remains positive with slightly slower growth through 2007.

Continued job growth throughout the County coupled with increases in personal income will likely keep the economy from falling into a recession, Janssen said. While the housing bubble has not burst in the County, the housing market continues to contract.

Home prices continue to appreciate, but the slowing resale market presents the biggest risk to the County as it would impact property taxes, the County’s most important source of funding. Property taxes account for approximately 61 percent of the locally-generated revenue.

The budget assumes a conservative 6 percent growth in property tax, 3.5 percent in local sales tax, and 3.3 percent in state realignment vehicle license fees.

It does not include a potential $23.7 million loss of income from the state nor major reductions proposed by President Bush. The County will continue to work with both branches of government to try to minimize any impacts and will deal with any financing issues once the state and federal budgets have been finalized.

Other budget items include:

– $800,000 to the Department of Animal Care and Control to hire 16 employees for its centralized call center to reduce the long wait times and dropped calls.

– $1.4 million to both the Alternate Public Defender and Public Defender Offices to hire eight and 11 employees respectively to handle increased workload.

– $4.5 million to the Mental Health Department to fully implement a pilot project already approved by the Board to add 80 beds for intensive mental health services.

– $22.8 million to the Department of Children and Family Services to hire 329 employees to reduce caseloads and workloads; and $9.4 million for higher level of care for foster children.

– $400,000 to the Regional Planning Department for 10 positions for zoning enforcement, land use application processing, and updating the General Plan and zoning ordinances. The cost of providing services to the disabled and aging through the In-Home Supportive Services program, administered by the Department of Public Social Services, reflects a $39 million increase, due to higher salaries for workers, increased caseloads and increased

enrollment in the health care plan.

For the sixth consecutive year, the caseload for the IHSS program continues to rise while the number of persons receiving General Relief decreases. A 4.5 percent decrease in the GR caseload and anticipated lower-than-budgeted average cost per case is expected to save the County $11.9 million.

The 2007-08 budget marks the end of the County’s reliance on excess pension earnings to pay retirement costs. During the mid and late 1990s, the County relied heavily upon the use of unpredictable surplus retirement system earnings to meet its ongoing financing requirements. After Janssen became CAO in 1996, $30 million -$50 million was set aside each year to wean the County from reliance on these funds.

Janssen will recommend that an estimated $400 million that remains in the pension fund surplus be used to meet a new challenge facing the County, funding retiree health costs. The County currently funds these benefits on a pay-as-you-go basis instead of pre-funding the costs as it does with retirements. New governmental accounting rules require the liability to be identified, and the County is working with the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association on that calculation. Janssen said the study will not be completed until the end of the month but the County knows the liability will be substantial. The 2006-07 budget reflected a recognition that the County needed to start preparing for the issue by putting aside $17 million.

Among the notable capital projects in the budget are:

– $429.4 million for the improvements at Pitchess, Sybil Brand, and Men’s Central Jail; new sheriff station and probation field office in Athens; security improvements at probation juvenile halls and camps; refurbishment and expansion of the coroner’s facility; and new fire stations in the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys. – $228.1 million for 192 land acquisition and improvement projects at beaches and parks.

– $194 million for general government facilities, including an animal shelter in the east Antelope Valley and an $80 million contribution to the replacement of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

– $189.7 million for health and mental health facilities, including the final year of the LAC+USC Medical Center Replacement Project, construction of Harbor/UCLA Medical Center surgery/emergency room; Olive View/UCLA Medical Center emergency room/tuberculosis isolation unit and mental health urgent care center. – $119.1 million for new or replacement libraries in Acton/Agua Dulce, La Crescenta, Topanga Canyon, and unincorporated areas near Whittier and Lawndale; and refurbishment of Patriotic Hall.

– $100 million for high priority infrastructural improvements at County fire, flood control and aviation facilities; soil and groundwater investigation and remediation activities, and watershed testing efforts. – $77.5 million for high priority repairs and maintenance needs at County facilities, including probation camps, juvenile halls, and parks.

The budget is $197.7 million higher than the current $21.044 billion budget. Locally generated revenue (mainly property tax) makes up 28 percent of the budget. This $5.9 billion is what is known as net county cost and is what the Board of Supervisors has control over when allocating funding.

The budget allocates 28 percent (up 4 percent) to health and sanitation, 25 percent (up 3 percent) to public assistance, 27 percent (up 5 percent) to public protection, 13 percent (down 5 percent) to general government, 3 percent (up 4 percent) to recreation and culture, and 4 percent (down 32 percent) to other.

Janssen will present the budget to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 17 for adoption to allow public hearings to be held. Hearings will begin May 9, with adoption scheduled for June 18.

Funding Approved for Marina del Rey Dredging Project

With today’s approval by the Board of Supervisors of a $1.6 million contribution, the County of Los Angeles has secured all the necessary funding to begin a major dredging project in Marina del Rey. Navigation into the Marina through the harbor’s north entrance from the Pacific Ocean has become hazardous and extremely restricted over the last several years due to the buildup of sand on the ocean floor near the north jetty. This dredging project will return the north entrance to its design depth of 20 feet and will place the clean sand removed from the area offshore from Dockweiler Beach to aid in beach replenishment.

Dredging of areas in and around the north entrance will be supervised by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as this navigation area is designated as a federal channel. The County offered to the Corps its financial assistance in order to complete the project, which will cost a minimum of $2.4 million. Approximately $1.4 million of the funding is expected to come from the Corps through the Federal budget. The additional $1.6 million financial contribution, approved by the Board of Supervisors today, will cover the remaining financial need and any unforeseen project costs. Any portion of the County’s contribution that is unused at the end of the project will be returned to County coffers.

The clean sand removed from dredging the Marina del Rey north entrance will be transported to an area just offshore from Dockweiler Beach near Imperial Boulevard in water approximately 15 to 30 feet deep. Underwater ocean currents will progressively push this new sand onshore along Dockweiler Beach and other South Bay beaches, replenishing beach sand washed away during winter storms in recent years.

The dredging project is scheduled to begin in December 2006 and be complete by March 15, 2007, well in advance of the peak summer season in the Marina. Work is expected to take place 24-hours a day and six or seven days a week. The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors will work with other agencies to ensure local residents, businesses and boaters are kept informed of the project’s progress and any potential impact on services. Additional buoys will be placed to help mariners avoid impacted areas in the Marina entrance.

This dredging project is going to lead to a number of important benefits for our community, said Supervisor Knabe. It will ensure that emergency response vessels from the Coast Guard, Lifeguards, and Fire and Sheriff’s Departments that are based in the Marina can safely navigate out of the channel to respond to emergencies and rescues along the Pacific Coastline. Also important is the improvement in public safety for navigating in and out of the channel for the 5,000 privately-owned vessels in the Marina. Finally, Dockweiler and our other South Bay beaches will benefit from a much-needed infusion of new sand thanks to the replenishment project.

Reforms Underway in Sewage Spill Reporting Process

A series of improvements and reforms are currently underway in how sewage spills across Los Angeles County are reported to the public and to health workers. These reforms come just weeks after the results of a disturbing investigation were released that revealed numerous breakdowns in the way local sewage spills are reported and recorded. The extensive investigation was called for by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe after a series of sewage spills along the Santa Monica Bay in recent months.

As part of the investigation, it was discovered that since January 2002, over 11.6 million gallons of raw sewage had spilled from wastewater treatment systems throughout local watersheds in 208 separate sewage spills. Of those spills, over 90-percent were never properly recorded by health officials, nor were records kept as to what was done to protect the safety and health of the public impacted by the spills.

The investigation also revealed numerous failed communication protocols between local wastewater operators and public health crews within the County, including lack of understanding at the local level as to which agencies must be contacted immediately after a spill and lack of clear policies within the County about contacting first responders after normal business hours.

As a result of this investigation, Supervisor Knabe unveiled a number of reforms to immediately address and reform the sewage spill reporting process, as well as the impact of the public health and health of the environment these inactions may have caused.

Many of the reforms recommended by Supervisor Knabe are already underway or completed, including:

– The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has communicated with all 88 cities in the County reminding them of their legal obligations about timely reporting of sewage spills to health response teams.

– Clear protocols are now in place for reaching public health response crews after regular business hours and on the weekends.

– A database system has been created to track spills when they happen, where they happen, the severity of the spill and the steps that were taken to warn the public and protect the environment.

– Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has introduced legislation to amend State law to resolve issues uncovered during the investigation that are beyond the County’s legal authority to address and correct.

I’m happy to report these reforms are already starting to take hold and create positive change, said Supervisor Knabe. What I’m most proud of though is the support of Assemblyman Ted Lieu.

Many of the reforms that need to happen are things that we can’t control locally. They have to happen at the State level through Legislative reform. Assemblyman Lieu believes in these reforms and supports making these needed changes to the law.

Los Angeles County and South Bay Cities Partner to Keep Trash Out of the Bay

A project to install 460 trash catch basins in the Cities of Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Manhattan Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood has been approved by the Board of Supervisors. The trash collectors will be placed at the openings of catch basins along the curb, partially blocking the openings to prevent most trash from entering the storm drain system.

The installation of the devices is underway and is scheduled to be completed in April 2007. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works will finance the cost of the devices and installation, estimated at $1,640,000 ($1 million from Proposition 50, Santa Monica Bay Restoration Grant funds; $640,000 from County of Los Angeles Flood Control District funds). Once the installation is complete, each city will be responsible for maintaining the devices within their respective jurisdictions.

This is an important investment in our stormwater and runoff technology, said Supervisor Knabe. These catch basins will keep trash and debris from entering the storm drain system and ultimately the Santa Monica Bay.

There is no single solution for protecting water quality at our local beaches, said Public Works Director Don Wolfe. It takes a partnership between local government and the public we serve. That partnership begins with an individual’s choice to put litter where it belongs, in the trash can or recycling bin.

Board Approves Plan for New County Office of Water Recycling

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted recommendations today that established the County Office of Water Recycling within the County Department of Public Works. Working with other entities, the Office of Water Recycling will strive to double the region’s use of non-potable recycled water by 2030, an annual increase of 54 billion gallons.

The projected increase in recycled water use would make enough potable water available to meet the demands of an additional 1.3 million people. Among the other recommendations: all County-maintained golf courses, parks, parkways, and expansive greenbelts to be connected to recycled water supplies, where available, by 2020; recycled water use for irrigation of all unincorporated area parks, golf courses and other large areas of open space where feasible; working with interested parties, the Office of Water Recycling will develop an ordinance requiring dual plumbing in new developments within unincorporated areas; increase in public awareness of recycled water benefits through a public outreach effort.

Two-thirds of the water supply used by County residents for potable purposes (drinking, bathing, landscape irrigation, etc.) comes from Northern California and the Colorado River. Consequently, a significant percentage of our water supply is threatened by aging infrastructure, climate change, drought and other natural occurrences.

The remaining one-third of our water supply is from local groundwater, surface water, and recycled water. The primary beneficial use of recycled water is for replenishing the local groundwater supply.

With an estimated 12 million people living in Los Angeles County by 2020, serious steps are needed to increase the use and longevity of our local water supply, said Supervisor Knabe. By adopting the recommendations of our Water Recycling Task Force, we are preparing to meet the water demands of the future with better infrastructure and increased collaboration among water agencies, businesses, the public, and municipal agencies throughout the region.

Download Recycled Water Task Force Report
Download Supervisor Don Knabe’s Motion

Two New Traffic Stops Coming to Rowland Heights

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved two traffic regulation orders today that are designed to improve traffic safety in areas of Rowland Heights. The approval establishes one-way stop controls for northbound traffic on Abeto Avenue at Fidalgo Street and eastbound traffic on Fidalgo Street and Gallio Avenue.

The goal of installing new traffic controls at these intersections is to improve traffic safety, enhance traffic flow, and better serve adjacent properties. As required by the California Vehicle Code, the Board of Supervisors had to officially adopt these regulations before the California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Department can begin enforcing them.

Improvements Complete at Rowland Heights County Park

Over $1.8 million in renovations and improvements at Rowland Heights County Park are now complete, Supervisor Don Knabe announced today. The extensive construction work included reproofing of the existing community building, resurfacing and repainting of the parking lot, replacement of drinking fountains and barbeque grills, additional security lighting and new sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Additionally, area teens also participated in the renovation of the park through the County’s Youth Employment Plan. Participants were employed to plant shrubs around the parking lot and to remove old wooden bleachers. The final construction cost of the renovation project was $1,801,370. This amount represents a significant financial savings over the original $2,456,000 budgeted for the project.

This project is about making a reinvestment in our community, said Supervisor Knabe. These improvements will not only increase the usefulness of Rowland Park, but will also benefit the many residents of surrounding communities who utilize this park.