Environment, Parks, Libraries

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.

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.

Landmark Sports and Academic Complex Planned in Carson

Some of the world’s biggest names in sports have teamed up with Los Angeles County to unveil their game plan for building a massive athletic and academic campus for underserved children in South L.A.

The Carol Kimmelman Athletic & Academic Campus is proposed to be built on a portion of what had been the Victoria Golf Course in Carson – spanning more than 80 acres and featuring up to 52 tennis courts, soccer and multi-purpose fields, and as well as state-of-the-art academic center with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

The USTA Foundation – the United States Tennis Association’s charitable arm – and the Tiger Woods-founded TGR Foundation envision offering their programs at the campus at little or no cost to underserved local youth and families.

Rendering courtesy of The Carol Kimmelman Athletic & Academic Campus “This project brings great potential to transform an underused site into an unrivaled community resource that will benefit not just the South Bay, but the entire region.  Individuals of all ages could be enriched by the recreational opportunities made available at the Kimmelman Campus, and the STEM-based learning opportunities at the TGR Foundation would create an unrivaled educational opportunity for our youth,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The project was inspired by the passion and generosity of Carol Kimmelman, a California native who passed away in 2017. A member of the 1983 national champion USC women’s tennis team and former South L.A. elementary school teacher, she believed fervently in the power of tennis and other sports to transform the lives of young people from all backgrounds.

Two years after she lost her battle with cancer, her husband and four children are continuing her mission to make sports and education more equitable by opening this premiere center.

Doug Kimmelman, 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 & Learning program at the campus. NJTL offers tennis programs, youth services and college scholarships to more than 200,000 underserved youth around the country each year.

Additionally, the USTA Southern California Tennis Association intends to move their headquarters to the Campus and USTA’s Player Development division, which works to develop world-class American players, expects to make the campus its West Coast center of operations.

On the academic side, TGR Foundation – founded by golf legend Tiger Woods and his late father, Earl Woods – 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.

“My dad helped me launch TGR Foundation over 20 years ago, inspired by our family motto of ‘share and care,’” said Tiger Woods, the philanthropist, entrepreneur and 14-time major champion. “Like Carol Kimmelman, Dad was dedicated to helping young people find their self-worth and confidence and I’m proud and honored to help her legacy live on. TGR Foundation is excited to be part of the Carol Kimmelman Athletic & Academic Campus, where we can continue to spread our mission of empowering students to pursue their passions through education.”

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.

“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 and former world No. 1 who was recently appointed chair of 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.”

Already, the Kimmelman Family Foundation, along with the USTA Foundation, USTA, SCTA, and representatives of TGR have met with school district leaders, local community-based non-profit organizations, law enforcement officials, and business groups to collaborate on programs and opportunities at the Kimmelman Campus.

The County is also reviewing proposed plans for the remaining portion of the project to include other sports and recreation facilities, including up to eight full-sized soccer fields; two multi-purpose fields that can accommodate rugby and other sports; basketball courts; a sprint track; and training turf to promote active and healthy lifestyles for the entire community.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to formally consider a ground lease and associated environmental documents this Summer.