The issue of Escondido’s compliance with the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s requirements with regard to stormwater, and non-stormwater runoff came up again at last Wednesday’s City Council meeting with Agenda item 15: Amendments to Chapter 22 of the Escondido Municipal Code, and Adoption of Jurisdictional Runoff Management Plan and Associated Water Quality Improvement Plans for the San Dieguito and Carlsbad Watersheds and CEQA Notice of Exemption. It was much calmer than at the March 11 meeting, see https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/03/12/invective-and-ignorance/ .
In her excellent presentation, Environmental Programs Manager Helen Davies emphasized that the City had scaled back the implementation steps to the minimum necessary to comply with the Stormwater Permit as the Councilmen had requested at the March meeting.
Councilman Ed Gallo wondered what the financial effect of stormwater treatment would be on new construction. Where would the money come from to pay for the city’s inspections? As she had at the March meeting, Davies patiently explained that there would be little additional cost, as meter readers were being trained to look for illegal runoff. Gallo was not convinced. He knows what will happen, the city will have to hire more people. Gallo offered no evidence for this statement. He continued to rant about the prohibitions on runoff into the City’s MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm System, http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/npdes/stormwater/Municipal-Separate-Storm-Sewer-System-MS4-Main-Page.cfm .) How can people drain their pools he complained? As he had in March, he noted that people couldn’t wash their cars on their driveways, and weren’t allowed to park on their lawns to do so, because the Municipal Code did not allow such parking. The fact that he is a member of the City Council that can change that Code didn’t seem to occur to him. Councilwoman Olga Diaz tried to remind him of that fact, but it did not appear to register with Gallo.
Councilman John Masson said he found the runoff management plan’s new requirements very frustrating, as the City had barely managed to conform to the 2007 requirements. He felt the regulators were “throwing whatever at the wall to see what sticks.” It was an “agency run amuck.” He, once again, insisted that Escondido do no more than was absolutely required.
Councilman Mike Morasco was concerned that the enforcement would be too subjective, and touched upon the “unfunded mandates” theme.
Diaz again tried to calm her colleagues’ fears. She was pleased that many municipalities had worked together to create the Plan, and liked the change from an Escondido focus to a regional focus. She again reminded them that water quality was very important to San Diego’s economy. She felt that those areas of the plan that were impractical and burdensome will be a problem, but one that could be managed. Morasco interjected that once the plan was “on the books” it would be difficult to change. He added that he found it difficult to vote in something that was not “user friendly”. Diaz noted that the Council handled difficult matters all the time, and they would do the same with this. She was excited about the alternative compliance modes that were being developed. She concluded by reminding the others that enacting the plans was not an optional matter.
Mayor Sam Abed, was a little more agitated than the Councilman. He had a short tirade about the overreach of the Water Quality Board and the blanket regulations. MS4, he insisted, was regulation driven, not clean water driven. Getting a little hotter under the collar, he insisted it was an infringement on property rights, and there should be some leeway. The inflexibility of the system was overzealous, etc. etc. He resignedly asked the staff if the Council’s failing to approve the Plan would make things more difficult. He got the answer he expected, “yes”. Abed continued his rant with his views that this amounted to policing people in their own homes, the government was controlling life, and this was not the government’s role. Hmmm. Wonder how much its costing Abed to bring his parking lot into compliance with the Regional Stormwater Permit?
Gallo noted that he had voted no (on a water quality control plan?) 15 years ago when he was on the Planning Commission, but the state shoved it down their throats. He concluded with a slur on Governor Brown’s intellectual capacity.
Diaz moved to approve the plan. There was a long silence. No second was forthcoming. Finally Abed seconded the motion claiming it to be the worst second he had ever made. The motion passed with “4 yes votes, Masson voting no.”