Moves are being made to smooth the local political waters churned by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's new proposal for reducing sewage--a plan that calls for a lid on growth in Santa Monica and two other cities.
Santa Monica officials, at first angered by the proposed moratorium on development and pledging to fight it, said this week they hope to be able to reach a compromise with Los Angeles on ways to cut sewage flow without clamping down excessively on development.
Bradley's 10-point proposal would put limits on new construction in Los Angeles as a way to ease the strain on the city's aging sewer system.
But in Santa Monica, Burbank and San Fernando--three cities that pump more sewage than their contracts with Los Angeles allow--all new development would be banned under the proposal.
Joining Bradley in a news conference to announce the plan last week was Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), who has been vocal in the fight against pollution in Santa Monica Bay, which has been made worse recently by sewage overflows.
Under Bradley's proposal, controls on growth--except in the cities where he urged a complete moratorium--would come in the form of limiting the number of new sewage hookups.
The plan is expected to be presented to the Los Angeles City Council early next year.
Santa Monica, one of 30 cities and special districts that contract with Los Angeles for the treatment of their sewage at the Hyperion plant, discharges nearly 2 million gallons a day more than its contract permits, city officials say.
Initially, several Santa Monica officials decried Bradley's call for a development moratorium. While agreeing with the goal of reducing sewage and pollution, they said it was unfair to single out a city that has already taken steps to control growth and reduce sewage flows.
Mayor James Conn, in an interview shortly after Bradley's announcement, denounced the proposal as hypocrisy.
"For five years, we've been telling L. A. to fix Hyperion and that we are willing to pay our share," he said. "For five years, we've been telling L. A. they've got a problem and we'd better sit down and talk about it."
"And for five years, we've been trying to control development in Santa Monica while L. A. was (going) pell-mell on growth and development," the mayor continued. "So now, because it is politically expedient, they are going to try to punish us? It is not OK."
He said the city would consider both legal and legislative ways to stop Los Angeles' action.
However, this week, a more conciliatory tone sounded from City Hall.
City Manager John Jalili, warning that a moratorium would deal a serious blow to important projects already under way, said he was confident Los Angeles would be willing to discuss other solutions.
"We are taking a look at . . . alternative means, at a variety of ways to resolve the problem, short of an actual limit on sewer permits," he said.
"We welcome L. A.'s interest and intend to work cooperatively," Jalili said. "But we want to make sure (solutions) are done in a mutual way, without resorting to a blanket moratorium on sewer connections."
Privately, some Santa Monica officials were critical of Hayden for supporting the Bradley proposal. Hayden, meanwhile, was apparently surprised by the Santa Monica backlash.
Hayden said he had not known Bradley's proposal would include a complete moratorium, an element he said was contained in the plan's "fine print."
In separate meetings late last week, Hayden said he sought to "calm down" Santa Monica officials, while expressing reservations to Los Angeles officials about whether a moratorium "makes sense or is even legal."
He said the Los Angeles officials agreed to be flexible and negotiate with Santa Monica.
While saying he does not endorse a moratorium, Hayden said Santa Monica and other contract cities should do their part in reducing sewage. If Los Angeles reduces new sewer hookups by 30%, Santa Monica should do the same, he said.
Santa Monica Councilman Dennis Zane, meanwhile, said that the city's "creative and innovative" ways to reduce sewage are more practical than a complete ban on new development.
"The challenge isn't simply to squash development but make development efficient from the vantage point of water conservation and sewage," Zane said. "I'm delighted the City of Los Angeles is finally taking an aggressive approach to the extraordinarily difficult and critical issues of Santa Monica Bay. . . . In my view, it's about time."
He added that Bradley's proposal was "an excellent first step for discussion."
'Movement Is Happening'
"Not all the elements are right, but movement is happening," Zane said. "Once they see what we've been doing, that we are on the cutting edge of waste management . . . they'll see we've been leading the way on this issue."
Santa Monica officials point to several measures they've taken to ease the sewage crisis.
About 30,000 homes have been equipped with water-saving devices, and the city is considering an ordinance that would require all new development projects bigger than 80,000 square feet to have on-site treatment facilities, Jalili said.
Two big projects--Southmark's Colorado Place, now under construction, and J. H. Snyder Co.'s Water Garden, which is awaiting City Council approval--already include recycling and treatment features.