Rejecting the appeals of city leaders and the building industry, the state Water Resources Control Board on Thursday upheld rules that aim at preventing beach contamination from worsening as Los Angeles County grows.
The urban runoff standards require many new development projects to be built with controls capable of collecting 85% of their runoff. The rules, which cover all of the county, apply to new commercial projects of more than 100,000 square feet, housing developments with more than 10 units, parking lots with 25 or more spaces, auto repair shops, restaurants and single-family hillside homes.
Thirty-two of Los Angeles County's 85 cities and the Building Industry Assn. sought to overturn the standards after a regional water control board adopted them in January. But the state water board unanimously rejected the appeals. The board did remove a provision that would have required all gasoline stations to comply.
Several board members called the rules reasonable and precedent-setting, saying they hope other regions of California will adopt them. Los Angeles County is one of just a few places in the nation where de
velopment has to meet runoff limits.
David Beckman, a senior attorney with the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council in Los Angeles, called the runoff limits "long overdue."
"It's one of the most important decisions the state water board has made in recent years," he said.
Under the state board's order, all cities in the county have until Jan. 15 to adopt ordinances enforcing the new requirements.
Urban runoff is the No. 1 source of contamination of Southern California's beaches. From Malibu to Long Beach, beach waters near storm drains are rendered unsafe by bacteria, debris and chemicals that flow off yards, streets and parking lots year-round.
Under the rule, the new development projects must collect or filter runoff from the first three-quarters of an inch of rain that falls in any 24-hour period. In many cases, complying will mean leaving vegetation or other unpaved areas around buildings to capture runoff.
The appeal was lodged by inland cities, mostly in the San Gabriel Valley and southeastern areas of Los Angeles County. Officials from those cities contend that meeting the runoff limits will be too costly or difficult for developers, who will have to find new techniques to capture or clean storm water.