Environment, Parks, Libraries

Los Angeles County Prepares to Take Over Sativa Water District

The Board of Supervisors will vote next week on a motion that would authorize the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) to enter into an agreement with the California Water Resources Control Board to serve as interim administrator of the Sativa Water District, which has struggled over the years to provide clean water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn filed the motion days after the Governor signed county-sponsored legislation allowing the Water Board to appoint an interim administrator for Sativa until a replacement water service provider can be identified for the long-term.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said DPW is well suited for the role of interim administrator, given its extensive experience operating systems across the County. It currently operates 68,000 service connections, serving approximately 245,000 people.

“Residents of Willowbrook and Compton have had to endure brown water coming out of their taps for years, because of Sativa’s mismanagement,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With DPW in charge, these customers will finally have the competent water service provider they deserve.”

“This is a victory for the people,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “By putting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works in charge, residents will finally have a capable, trustworthy water provider they can count on. There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but we are in it for the long-haul for the customers of Sativa.”

As interim administrator, DPW would assess the condition of the existing water facilities and identify any necessary and timely improvements to ensure safe drinking water is available to Sativa customers. It will also work closely with the Water Board to ensure that water quality meets all regulatory standards.

When Sativa customers reported brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to investigate, to prevent public health risks, and to determine whether Sativa leaders are able to properly maintain the system’s 70-year-old pipes. At his direction, the County also distributed about 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas in June, the Board endorsed AB 1577, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gipson, which would empower the Water Board to order Sativa to accept administrative and managerial services. In July, the Local Agency Formation Commission of Los Angeles County formally initiated dissolution proceedings over Sativa.

In August, the Board approved a motion reiterating its support for AB1577, but also sought amendments that would allow the interim administrator to have appropriate state funding and as well as appropriate immunities from liability. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1577 on September 28.

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Signing of AB 1577

“For years, Sativa mismanaged the delivery of a basic necessity to our communities. With the signing of AB 1577, Los Angeles County is ready, willing and able to step in as interim administrator of Sativa, and ensure that residents of Compton and Willowbrook receive the clean and safe water they deserve.

“The County’s Department of Public Works has extensive experience operating water systems countywide and currently serves 245,000 customers. It is well suited to take on the role of interim administrator, and to lead the search for a competent replacement water service provider for the long term.”

County Celebrates Groundbreaking of Affordable Housing Development for Homeless Young Adults

CDC/HACoLA officials join Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the groundbreaking of the East Rancho Apartments.  Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

Officials from the Community Development Commission/Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (CDC/HACoLA) joined Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to celebrate the groundbreaking of the East Rancho Apartments. Located in the unincorporated area adjacent to Compton, the development will provide housing for 10 transition aged youth who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

“Los Angeles County is committed to helping fund and construct affordable housing in efficient and novel ways,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This project will do just that. We will house young people who had been grappling with homeless, and providing them with a range of supportive services to help them achieve their goal of independent living.”

The CDC/HACoLA provided the land for the new construction to developers Special Service for Groups, Inc., and Restore Neighborhoods LA, Inc. The East Rancho Apartments will provide two-stories of stacked duplex housing with an attached parking garage. Each duplex will have five single-room occupancy units, and will include shared bathrooms, kitchen, and a living room. The residences will emphasize a supportive communal lifestyle and provide onsite clinical and supportive services.

Monique King-Viehland, CDC/HACoLA Executive Director, stated, “The young adults that will eventually occupy these units have faced devastating barriers in life. We are proud to help provide the first stepping stone to a successful future by putting a roof over their head, and services and resources at their doorsteps.”

All residents will have access to a full range of case management, mental health, substance use disorder, education, and employment services to assist towards their goal of independent living.

Rent Increase Moratorium in Unincorporated LA County

“The issue of tenant protections is not a policy area where we have consensus amongst the field of scholars studying it. Yet we know that it’s an issue that tugs at the hearts of many – particularly individuals and families who are experiencing housing instability.

“The context of unaffordability across Los Angeles County is unprecedented. And in the face of this housing affordability crisis, which has direct connections to our homeless crisis, intervention is warranted.

“While rent control is often described as a blunt or inelegant tool during times of crisis, it is warranted to prevent displacement and to protect tenants. Unlike Prop 10, the rent increase moratorium considered by the Board today was designed to be temporary. It is our job to create a safety net when needed, and now is one of those times.

“But even with the passage of a rent increase moratorium, our work is not done. We need much better data to understand the level of rental rate increases happening across the County – specifically in the unincorporated areas where the Board has direct jurisdiction – and also the rates of eviction within these areas.

“We also need a better system to proactively monitor tenant-occupied units and ensure that complaints related to uninhabitable conditions are properly addressed. We should give serious consideration to a mandatory conflict resolution or mediation program for landlord/tenant disputes and to consider – as New York City has done, and as the City of LA is doing – mechanisms to provide “Right to Counsel” for those low-income tenants who are being threatened with eviction proceedings and would benefit from legal counsel.

“This is a work in progress, but I am committed to making progress to further housing affordability in our region.”

Governor Urged to Sign Legislation Appointing Los Angeles County as Interim Administrator of Sativa Water District

A coalition of federal, state and local officials urged Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 1577 (Gipson), bipartisan piece of legislation that would appoint Los Angeles County as the interim administrator of the troubled Sativa Water District, overseeing its operations until a long-term water service provider can be identified to serve unincorporated Willowbrook and a portion of the city of Compton.

“Longstanding deficiencies in Sativa’s fiscal and operational management have plagued our most vulnerable communities with foul-smelling brown water but, to date, Sativa has failed to respond to the outcry with any solutions,” LA County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, along with U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán, California State Senator Steven Bradford and California State Assembly Member Mike Gipson, who authored AB 1577, wrote in their letter to the governor.

They added, “AB 1577 would facilitate the process by which Los Angeles County could assume interim administrative authority over Sativa and ensure the full transfer of authority to a permanent administrator that can provide responsible and effective long-term management over the supply of safe, drinking water.”

Sativa serves about 6,800 people living in a service area that spans about one-third of a square mile in South Los Angeles. Because of Sativa’s inability to provide proper maintenance of its 70-year-old pipes, its customers have had to endure brown water running through their taps over the years, mostly recently in April. In the past, Sativa has also faced allegations of mismanagement and nepotism.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the LA County Department of Public Works (DPW) is well suited for the role of interim administrator over Sativa. It has extensive experience operating water systems countywide, and currently serves 245,000 customers.

“Sativa’s mismanagement should no longer be allowed to continue,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “Los Angeles County is ready to step up, assume interim operations, and help identify a long-term water service providers that can give our residents the clean and clear water they deserve. I call on Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB 1577 to allow this transfer to take place immediately.”

Identifying a new long-term water service provider could take nine to 12 months. During that period, DPW would supervise the provision of water for Sativa’s customers. At the same time, it would review current system operations, maintenance and financial procedures with a focus on optimizing water quality and preparing for a new, long-term water provider.

When Sativa customers expressed alarm about brown water running through their taps in April, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas filed an urgency motion to conduct an investigation, take immediate steps to prevent serious risks to public health, and determine whether appropriate management and governance of the water district is in place to address Sativa’s neglect of its pipes and related infrastructure. At his direction, the County also distributed approximately 20,000 gallons of bottled water to Sativa customers.