Environment, Parks, Libraries

Access to Safe and Affordable Water Statewide

Statement by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
On a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund for California

“Access to clean water is a human right, and I applaud Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature for acknowledging this and passing SB 200, which creates a pathway for aiding vulnerable communities across California.

“SB 200 will enable the state to identify water systems that fail, or are in danger of failing, and to provide resources to aid in rehabilitating those water systems and ensuring their customers have an adequate supply of potable water.

“It’s not just rural communities that are impacted by these public health crises. Just last year, Los Angeles County had to step in and tap its Public Works Department to take over the troubled Sativa Water District. We are now implementing a strategy – including an anticipated investment of approximately $8 million – to provide clean, clear and safe water to its 6,800 customers in Compton and Willowbrook for the long term.

“We look forward to partnering with the State to identify ways for SB 200 to support this mission and to defray the significant costs associated with this critical work.”

LA County to Begin Upgrades to Sativa’s Antiquated Water System

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas joins state lawmakers at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

After decades of neglect by its previous operator, the water system serving some 6,800 residents of Compton and Willowbrook will receive a deep cleaning and emergency tie-in to a neighboring water district.

The work will be carried out over the summer by the Sativa Water System’s current administrator, Los Angeles County Public Works, as part of the County’s multipronged effort to overhaul the agency’s water infrastructure and financial management.

“Having access to clean and clear water is a basic human right, and one that we are committed to providing Sativa’s customers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for state officials to appoint Public Works as Sativa’s interim administrator in October after decades of mismanagement by the water district’s previous leadership caused episodes of brown water flowing from taps. “No one said this would be easy. But we are committed to course-correcting and making sure Sativa customers are in good hands for the long-term.”

Since then, County officials have been working to combat occasional spikes in brown water that are the result of poorly-maintained water infrastructure, while also triaging the district’s most urgent administrative and infrastructure needs. Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn to pour more resources into Sativa Water District after Los Angeles County Public Works identified the extent of challenges facing Sativa and the level of support required to stabilize the water system and begin providing a more reliable source of clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton until a long-term service provider can take over.

“Now that the County of Los Angeles has been operating the water system for several months, we have gained a better understanding of its critical infrastructure needs,” said Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella.

“A state-of-the-art filtration system will be introduced to purge the water supply of the particles that have affected its appearance, and new water lines will be added in strategic locations to improve water circulation. These solutions will be implemented over three phases that will effectively enhance the water system’s overall resiliency and end the legacy of brown water that has plagued the Sativa Water District.”

This first phase of work will run from July 22 – Sep. 15 and includes the addition of an emergency connection to neighboring water company, Liberty Utility. To minimize disruptions in service to customers and limit the number of brown water spikes that might be experienced as a result of system flushing, Public Works will conduct this work overnight. Public Works will also provide customers with water for drinking, cooking and hygiene in the event of a temporary service disruption.

Sativa customers are encouraged to sign up and receive project updates by phone or via text messages by visiting SativaWD.com.

Statement on the Supreme Court Census Decision

“This decision is a step in the right direction. Frankly, considering the current makeup of the Supreme Court, it is remarkable. It gives us hope that the checks and balances that have guided our democracy remain strong, even in the face of an administration whose actions toward making sure everyone is faithfully counted in the 2020 Census are, in the words of Justice Stephen Breyer, ‘not just unconvincing, but pretextual.’

“The Founding Fathers thought this data was so important that they mandated it as part of the United States Constitution in Article 1 Section 2 because representation is based on population and connected to so much of vital importance to Los Angeles County, in order to appropriately fund and serve our residents.

“An up-to-date tally is essential and any actions to stop this accounting are a violation of what we hold sacred. We will continue our fight to count every member of our community because it is our duty – whether they speak another language, are of a different ethnicity, or belong to a different political party. They deserve to be counted. They matter!

“In Los Angeles County, we face a special challenge. We’re home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. The world is Los Angeles County and Los Angeles County is the world. This means we have our work cut out for us to reach historically hard-to-count population groups, such as people of color, low-income residents, immigrants, and people without higher education. Young children and young families are particularly at risk.

“Los Angeles County’s Second District is the hardest-to-count Supervisorial District with approximately 74 percent of its residents – close to 1.5 million people – living in hard-to-count Census Block Groups. I applaud today’s decision by the Supreme Court in seeing through this administration’s attempt to sideline our brothers and sisters that they would not like to see counted. My message to those of you for whom this citizenship question was aimed: Representation matters, you will be counted, we will fight for you!”

Supportive Housing Development Breaks Ground

Gramercy Place Apartments Groundbreaking on June 26, 2019. Photo by Diandra Jay / Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined officials from the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA), Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, and other partners to celebrate the groundbreaking of Gramercy Place Apartments.

Gramercy Place Apartments will be located in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of the City of Los Angeles. The 64-unit building is designed to appear as six separate buildings with one two-story wing, two three-story wings, and three four-story wings, all connected by an exterior courtyard walkway. The development will reserve 30 units for seniors with limited means, 20 units for seniors experiencing homelessness, and 12 units for households with a mental illness. To accommodate residents, a variety of amenities will be provided: an exercise room; community spaces – a lounge, a community room with a kitchen, and a roof terrace; bicycle parking; access to three laundry room facilities, as well as commercial space and underground parking.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas stated, “We will be relentless in deploying a variety of tools to tackle our homeless and housing affordability crisis. But the backbone of our effort continues to be building new, affordable housing with support services – work that can’t happen without committed, strong partners. Partners such as Hollywood Community Housing share the County’s commitment to create quality affordable housing for today, which we can ensure stays affordable tomorrow.”

Gramercy Place Apartments is the product of collaborative work. The LACDA is providing a total of $5,000,000 in construction and permanent financing, which accounts for $2,000,000 in Affordable Housing Trust Funds and $3,000,000 in Mental Health Housing Program Funds through a partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Housing Works will be the lead supportive service provider. Funded primarily through Measure H, onsite supportive services will include intensive case management services, substance use treatment, life skills training, benefits education and advocacy, attendant care, representative payee services, end of life counseling, medication management services, transportation assistance, education with a focus on arts and life enrichment, and support to connect with various community-based services.

City Council President Herb Wesson said, “We are going to solve this housing and homelessness crisis project-by-project, bed-by-bed. Gramercy Place Apartments will bring another 60 much-needed affordable units to the heart of the 10th Council District. We cannot and will not rest until we get our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness off the streets and into stable housing.”

For more information on Gramercy Place Apartments, please call the information line at (866) 247-5973.

Los Angeles County Boosts Investment in Sativa Water District

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas joins state lawmakers at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors voted to pour more resources into Sativa Water District after Los Angeles County Public Works identified the extent of challenges facing Sativa and the level of support required to stabilize the water system and begin providing a more reliable source of clean and clear water to its customers in Willowbrook and Compton until a long-term service provider can take over.

Public Works is also determined to repair Sativa’s relationship with its 6,800 customers, and will host an open house at Sativa headquarters tomorrow, the latest in a series of events to keep the community up-to-date on the progress of their work.

The open house follows a visit today by several state lawmakers looking to Sativa as a model for how to address problems with small and mismanaged water systems across California that may pose a threat to public health.

“Having access to clean and clear water is a basic human right, and one that we are committed to providing Sativa’s customers,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for state officials to appoint Public Works as Sativa’s interim administrator in October after decades of mismanagement by the water district’s previous leadership caused episodes of brown water flowing from taps. “No one said this would be easy. But we are committed to course-correcting and making sure Sativa customers are in good hands for the long-term.”

“LA County has officially taken over the troubled Sativa Water District and is starting the hard work of fixing the broken infrastructure and finances that were left behind,” added Supervisor Janice Hahn. “As the interim administrator, we are committed to making every investment necessary to ensure the water coming out of residents’ taps is clean, clear, and safe to drink.”

Speaker Anthony Rendon and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at Sativa headquarters. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

“This has truly been a community effort and I want to recognize the Board of Supervisors for standing with me from the very beginning of this journey,” said Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who championed the legislation required to transfer control of Sativa to the Los Angeles County. He and Assemblymembers Richard Bloom, Wendy Carrillo, Laura Friedman, Eduardo Garcia and Sydney Kamlager-Dove all participated in the tour of Sativa headquarters, which Speaker Anthony Rendon helped facilitate.

The Board approved a motion by Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn to establish a fund for continuing to operate Sativa, potentially through mid-2021. After conducting a comprehensive assessment of Sativa’s 70-year-old water system, Public Works estimated the cost of serving the water district until a permanent operator is in place could reach $13.8 million, of which $5.7 million will be offset by Sativa’s revenue and state grants.

Public Works expects to identify a long-term service provider early next year, but state regulators could take as long as two years to approve the transition. In the meantime, Public Works Director Mark Pestrella said, “LA County is committed to supplying safe, clean and reliable water to the residents of Willowbrook and Compton.”

Sativa customer Elizabeth Hicks is grateful, saying, “Sativa is improving under the supervision of the County’s Public Works agency. They accomplished within six months a major task that the previous administration couldn’t accomplish in 30 years – we are seeing clear water coming out of our faucets.”