Environment, Parks, Libraries

Board Strengthens Regulations on Oil and Gas Facilities: Drilling No Longer Authorized Without A Permit

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, a “Strike Team” has inventoried an estimated 800 oil and gas facilities in Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas. The Board unanimously called for being proactive in ensuring that existing oil and gas facilities operate safely, as well as for enhancing the regulatory process for future well sites.

When first assembling the team in 2016, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said, “The objective here is to ensure that these facilities are appropriately and proactively monitored to ensure they are operating in a manner that protects the health and safety of surrounding communities.”

Strike teams assess oil drilling facilities. Photo by Tim Stapleton / LA County Department of Regional Planning Land Use Regulation Division

The 800 oil and gas facilities have been operating with a lack of consistency in permit conditions, and under regulations that vary from project to project.

The first phase of the Strike Team’s work included a site visit and assessment of all facilities within the unincorporated areas. That work is now complete, and the team is now focusing on the second phase of work, which consists of researching and investigating abandoned and orphaned wells, storage facilities, pipelines, and hazardous chemicals with the objective of providing a recommendation to the Board later next year on how to improve regulations over these facilities.

The Strike Team is comprised of representatives from the County Department of Regional Planning, the Department of Public Health, the Fire Department and Department of Public Works.

The Department of Regional Planning was also directed to update the Zoning Code to require a Conditional Use Permit be obtained before drilling new wells in any land use zone across the unincorporated portions of County. This means that the oil and gas facilities will no longer be able to drill “by right”, or without County discretionary approval. The new ordinance is expected to go to the Regional Planning Commission in June 2020, and thereafter to the Board for final approval.

Willowbrook Goes Green with New Solar Panels

The Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus is now home to approximately 4,000 solar panels at the top of both parking structures in addition to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

These panels are expected to be operational by the end of February 2020 and are anticipated to save the County over $3 million in energy costs over the next 25 years.

Solar panel installation at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital.

The EV charging stations installed on the campus are meant to encourage both patients and employees to drive clean vehicles, which will help reduce fossil fuel use and air pollution. The parking lot solar canopies will also serve as shade structures that keep cars cooler when parked on the top floor of the parking garage.

Last year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors adopted its first countywide sustainability plan, Ourcounty (ourcountyla.org), which is focused around the themes of resilience, sustainability, and equity.  The implementation of this green infrastructure in Willowbrook is one of many environmentally-sustainable projects happening in the Second District and across the County.

Just down the street, construction is well underway at Magic Johnson Park, where $75 million is being invested in a transformation of the park, which will include a new sustainable-designed community center as well as a water quality project where stormwater will be collected from the surrounding area, cleaned, and used to fill the lake and irrigate the park.

More Magic on Its Way to Willowbrook’s Magic Johnson Park

Renderings courtesy of AHBE

Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors voted to move forward with the next phase of a master plan that will offer additional new amenities to Magic Johnson Park, a 126-acre park that is on the verge of becoming a community oasis in Willowbrook.

“More magic is on its way to Willowbrook’s Magic Johnson Park,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  “Our next phase of improvements will focus on outdoor amenities that create inviting gathering space for a host of activities…ranging from a dog park to a place for a community concert. At Magic Johnson Park, our goal is to make sure there is an amenity for everyone. ”

In addition to a dog park, the $7 million being invested in the second phase of improvements will predominantly be used to transform the former Ujima Village housing site, 16 acres of land adjacent to the Park, which has sat vacant since the housing development was demolished in 2013. The investment will be used to incorporate the land into the park with the construction of open green spaces that can be used for concerts and other programming. There will also be new walking paths, landscaping and seating areas.

The LA County Department of Parks and Recreation developed the 2019 Revised Master Plan, which amends the original Master Plan adopted in 2016 by incorporating the dog park, adding two recreational fields, and expanding the size of a future nature lab into the Master Plan. The 2019 Master Plan also shifts a proposed future cultural complex to the western side of the park, as an alternative to the previously proposed equestrian center.

(left to right) Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, and CBS’ Jim Hill at Magic Johnson Park Renovation Groundbreaking. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“For almost 25 years, the Magic Johnson Park has been used for daily exercise, family outings, and celebrations,” said Johnson, after whom the park was named in 1994 following his retirement from the NBA. “I’m excited about this significant investment by Los Angeles County which provides a safe, scenic space for Willowbrook residents and increases the community’s engagement with the park.”

The initial improvements at the park, which are slated for completion in Fall 2020, include a 20,000-square foot state-of-the-art community events center for holding weddings, conferences and other large gatherings; an outdoor wedding pavilion; a splash pad and children’s play areas; improved walking paths with security lighting; and acres upon acres of new landscaping that will give the park an entirely fresh look.

The lake that is currently the centerpiece of the park will be getting an innovative feature that will help address both water conservation and water quality goals. It will divert storm runoff from surrounding neighborhoods and the nearby Compton Creek, clean it and then use it to fill the lower lake and irrigate 30 acres of the park, creating a wetland experience for park goers.

County Parks and Recreation Director John Wicker ensured that there was a comprehensive and community-driven process to prioritize new amenities for Magic Johnson Park. “We are grateful to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and partners that are committed to developing and investing in this new, state-of-the-art and LEED Gold facility,” he said. “As a collective, we will build a park for the Willowbrook community to be active and participate in the year-round programs, as well as come together to make memories that will last a lifetime.”

The Magic Johnson Park renovation is only the latest of many investments that have transformed the community of Willowbrook. Over the last several years, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has championed a building boom that included the Martin Luther King Medical Campus, Willowbrook Library and Senior Center, AC Bilbrew Library, the development of hundreds of units of affordable housing, and upgrades to Metro’s Rosa Parks Station.

LA County Ends Legacy of Brown Water at Sativa

Audit Prompts Investigation of Previous Management

Clean water flows after improvements are made to Sativa’s water system. Photo courtesy of LA County Public Works

Just ten months after taking over the troubled Sativa Water District, Los Angeles County announced dramatic improvements have been made to the once-neglected water system, ensuring 6,800 customers in Willowbrook and Compton that they can reliably expect clean and clear water when they turn on their taps.

At the same time, the County released an audit that indicates hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not more – in potentially questionable spending by Sativa’s previous management. The matter has been referred to law enforcement.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announces Los Angeles County Public Works has assumed management of the Sativa Water District as customers celebrate on November 1, 2018. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

“When the County stepped in to operate Sativa after years of neglect by its previous management, we promised to create a transparent and accountable process to deliver clean and clear water to its customers,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Today, we have made good on that commitment, and we intend to help ensure that the water system is sustainable in the long-term.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas spearheaded the unprecedented effort to have Los Angeles County Public Works temporarily assume control of Sativa and stabilize its aging water system until a permanent administrator can be installed, a process that could take 18 to 24 months.

“This isn’t just about clean water – this is about justice,” added Board Chair Janice Hahn. “This community was forced to deal with dirty tap water in their homes for years. As we work to repair this water system and bring clean water to this community, we are also handing over the results of our audit to the proper authorities so anyone responsible for a crime can be held accountable.”

Public Works used cutting-edge technology to thoroughly flush Sativa’s water system, built new pipes to improve water circulation, and established connections to emergency water sources to ensure customers get clean and clear water.

With a deep cleaning project now completed, Public Works is preparing to transition Sativa to a permanent administrator, and has released a solicitation for proposals.

Public Works Director Mark Pestrella meets with Sativa customers. Photo courtesy of LA County Public Works

“Sativa was a water system in crisis when the County took it over in November 2018,” said Public Works Director Mark Pestrella. “Working with the community, we invested considerable resources and technology into upgrading the system and providing Sativa customers with the safe, clean, reliable and sustainable water service they deserve.”

“Work was done as promised, and there’s no brown water,” Sativa customer Elizabeth Hicks said.  “LA County completed the work with integrity and stepped up. Our community is receiving improved water quality, and the customer service for all the residents has improved a lot. I am very proud of Public Works. They have the necessary resources to deliver for the communities of Willowbrook and Compton. There were too many conflicts  and not enough resources before but, since Public Works stepped in, they changed everything.”

Immediately after taking over as interim administrator, Public Works discovered Sativa’s bank accounts were essentially empty and bills totaling at least $30,000 were unpaid. An independent auditor was brought on board to perform a financial audit of Sativa’s financial statements for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.

The audit found that under Sativa’s previous management:

  • approximately $1 million of loan funds intended to finance the acquisition and construction of a well appeared to have been used for other District purposes;
  • expenditures exceeded revenues by approximately $700,000;
  • as much as $385,000 in cash disbursement transactions could not be substantiated by supporting documents;
  • an additional $92,000 in debit card charges could not be substantiated by supporting documents; and
  • an additional $84,000 in cash disbursement transactions appear to be “non-legitimate” and “could possibly involve improper and/or unlawful actions.”

While the audit was ongoing, Public Works began the first phase of sorely needed repairs, maintenance and upgrades to Sativa’s infrastructure, which consists of two aging wells, one with high levels of manganese that gave the water supply a brown hue, and narrow pipes rife with sediment.

Public Works Principal Engineer Russ Bryden supervises a crew upgrading Sativa’s water system. Photo courtesy of LA County Public Works

Over the summer, Public Works reestablished an emergency water connection with the City of Compton and created a temporary water connection to the neighboring water system operated by Liberty Utilities. Both will serve as alternate water sources for Sativa customers.

Public Works also employed a state-of-the-art filtration system to clean out the old pipes and added new pipes in strategic locations to improve water circulation.

Much of the work was done overnight to minimize service disruptions and limit potential brown water spikes that might be triggered by flushing. Sativa customers were provided with bottled water for drinking, cooking and hygiene in the event of service disruptions.

The next phases include completely rebuilding Sativa’s two aging wells and creating a treatment system to remove the manganese. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Public Works regularly engaged Sativa customers to give them advance notice about infrastructure improvements, explain the process, and build trust. Public Works also sought their input about what the incoming permanent administrator should prioritize. The next community meeting is planned for September 14th at Sativa Headquarters.

 

LA County Partners with Sports Legends to Build World-Class Athletic and Academic Complex for Underserved Youth in South LA

(Left to Right) Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Doug Kimmelman, Tiger Woods, and Chris Evert

Teaming up with some of the biggest names in sports, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved building the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus, envisioned as one of the largest sports and education complexes for underserved youth and families in the South Bay, South LA, and surrounding communities.

The Kimmelman Campus will be constructed on approximately 80 acres of County-owned real estate currently occupied by the underperforming Victoria Golf Course in Carson. It will include 52 tennis courts, five soccer and multi-purpose fields, and an approximately 25,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art learning center with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Groundbreaking is scheduled this winter.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) Foundation, the LA Galaxy Foundation, and the TGR Foundation – founded by golf legend Tiger Woods and his late father, Earl Woods – will offer programs at the Kimmelman Campus at little or no cost to underserved local youth and families.

“With the Kimmelman Campus, our youth will have an amazing opportunity to unlock both their academic and athletic potential, and to learn about perseverance, teamwork, fair play, and other valuable life lessons both on and off the court,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I am thrilled to work with Doug Kimmelman of the Kimmelman Foundation, Tiger Woods of the TGR Foundation, Chris Evert of the USTA Foundation, and others on this incredible public-private partnership.”

“Thanks to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ leadership, we are a giant step closer to bringing a world-class athletic and academic campus to Los Angeles,” Tiger Woods said. “TGR Foundation is excited to be part of the Carol Kimmelman Athletic and Academic Campus, where we can continue to spread our mission of empowering students to pursue their passions through education.”

“This is the most significant undertaking by the USTA Foundation on the West Coast supporting our mission of combining tennis and education together to change lives,” said Chris Evert, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion who chairs the USTA Foundation’s Board of Directors. “By making high-quality tennis and educational opportunities available to all local children, regardless of income, this campus will provide a transformative experience for thousands of young people that inspires them to succeed both on and off the court.”

The project is being built in honor of the late Carol Kimmelman, a member of the 1983 national champion USC women’s tennis team and former elementary school teacher in South L.A. who believed fervently in the power of tennis and other sports to transform the lives of young people from all backgrounds. When she succumbed to cancer in 2017, her husband and four children vowed to carry on her mission to make sports and education more equitable.

Doug Kimmelman, her husband and President of the Kimmelman Family Foundation, said, “Carol was passionate about the potential for children to learn important life lessons both in the classroom and on the tennis court or sports field. This exceptional, cutting-edge complex will be a safe place for young people throughout the region to experience these lessons firsthand, helping them achieve their full potential and opening doors throughout their lives.”

The USTA Foundation foresees establishing the West Coast hub of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) program at the Kimmelman Campus. NJTL offers tennis programs, youth services and college scholarships to more than 200,000 underserved youth around the country each year.

The USTA Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) also intends to move their headquarters to the campus. Meanwhile, USTA’s Player Development division, which works to develop world-class American players, expects to make the campus its West Coast center of operations.

Dynamic tennis programming for children of all ages and abilities will be offered by both the SCTA and the USTA Foundation’s NJTL program on tennis courts spanning 29 acres, allowing more students throughout Los Angeles to grow and learn life lessons through the sport.

On the academic side, TGR Foundation will oversee the Kimmelman Campus’ expansive 25,000 square foot learning center, which will be equipped with high-tech labs, classrooms, and interactive stations that encourage innovative and hands-on STEM learning.

The project will also include two basketball courts; a sprint track; and training turf to promote active and healthy lifestyles for the entire community.