Regional Funding Efforts

Each public agency responsible for an MS4 must develop funding sources for their individual program. However, a few multi-agency or regional funding efforts have been undertaken. These pose unique challenges as they often attempt to provide funding for a group of agencies that have different needs and approaches to stormwater program management as well as addressing the interests of various stakeholders that can influence the outcome of a funding initiative. It can be an exercise in “herding cats” through treacherous landscapes, and therefore success can be elusive. Below are descriptions of several efforts.

Southern California

Successful Funding Measures

Proposition O, City of Los Angeles, 2004

Although this was a single-agency effort, the City of Los Angeles has significant enough population and geographical coverage, in addition to affecting a substantial number of surrounding agencies, to warrant inclusion in this section. In 2004, Los Angeles voters overwhelmingly passed this bond measure, which authorized the City of Los Angeles to fund projects (up to $500 million) that prevent and remove pollutants from regional waterways and ocean, consequently protecting public safety and meeting federal Clean Water Act regulations. Proposition O funds projects that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Water quality protection of rivers, lakes, beaches, bays and the ocean
  • Water conservation, drinking water and source protection
  • Flood water reduction, river and neighborhood parks that prevent polluted runoff and improve water quality
  • Stormwater capture, cleanup and re-use

Measure W, County of Los Angeles Flood Control District, 2018

On November 6, 2018 voters in Los Angeles County approved Measure W with a 69.5% majority. This measure was a parcel tax requiring a two-thirds majority that would levy 2.5 cents per square foot of impervious surface on most parcels in LA County (median home = $83). The proceeds are intended to go toward projects increasing stormwater capture and reducing urban runoff pollution, which may increase water supply, improve water quality, and provide community investment benefits. This measure is considered to be a follow up effort to the failed fee process abandoned in 2013 by the Los Angeles Flood Control District.

Failed Funding Measure

Stormwater Funding Options in Los Angeles County, 2014

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) led a multi-year effort to develop a sustainable revenue source for municipalities to manage stormwater programs and implement water quality improvement projects. This effort included special legislation and development of a proposed parcel fee, the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure,” to fund clean water programs. At extended protest hearings on a proposed parcel fee in January and March of 2013, the Board of Supervisors heard concerns about the fee and the fee program from public schools, the business community, other stakeholders and the public. The Board moved to close the public hearing and determined to “not proceed at this time with the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure as proposed.” 

In response, a group of City Managers (through the California Contract Cities Association and the League of California Cities) created a Work Group to review stormwater funding options and seek input of stakeholders from the environmental, public education, and business communities. The referenced report is the result of that effort.

Water Resilience Plan: Funding Report, County of Los Angeles, 2016 (Note: The link and introduction to the report is coming...)

Northern California

Successful Funding Measures

Measure B, Santa Clara Valley Water District, 2012 

Santa Clara Valley Water District passed Measure B in November of 2012, a parcel tax for “safe, clean water and natural flood protection.” Using a messaging platform of ensuring a safe, reliable water supply and immediate need of funding for critical infrastructure projects, they were able to garner support of 73.7% of participating registered voters. The initiative included an “Action Plan” that provided detail on what the funding from the Measure would be used for. They listed priorities and their corresponding projects, estimated costs of these projects, detail on fee structure, and frequently asked questions. It also includes acknowledgements to their many endorsers and sponsors throughout the effort, which included several popular newspapers that produce both print and electronic articles.

Although this successful measure was a county-wide effort, it involved only one public agency rather than a coalition of municipalities present in the Contra Costa and Los Angeles county efforts.

Measure AA, San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, 2016

On June 7, 2016, residents of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area voted with a 70% majority to pass Measure AA, a $12 parcel tax that will raise approximately $25 million annually, or over $500 million over twenty years, to fund shoreline projects that will protect and restore the Bay.

Although this measure is not strictly related to stormwater management, it is a water quality and habitat restoration measure that is somewhat related to current clean water goals. It also illustrates that regional efforts can succeed when the right elements are brought forward at the right time.

Failed Funding Measure

Community Clean Water Initiative, Contra Costa Clean Water Program, 2012 

This was a funding initiative proposing a property-related fee ranging from $12 to $22 per residential parcel per year for the purpose of funding the efforts of the 20 municipalities in Contra Costa County to meet their NPDES permit obligations. While preliminary polling indicated a 54% support rate, the measure ultimately failed with only 40% of the vote. See the Funding Options Report for this initiative. The failure of the measure is thought to be attributable to several factors including the following:

  • Combining 20 municipalities into a single measure with a wide range of constituencies resulted in varying support by elected officials
  • The lack of identifiable deliverables
    • No funding for capital improvement projects or operations
    • Funding was to go toward permit compliance in an era when trash capture was just beginning and before green infrastructure requirements
  • Weak public engagement process

In addition, the local newspaper (Contra Costa Times) published a series of editorials criticizing the effort with particular attention to the Proposition 218 procedure (voter’s signature required, ballots not returned to elections officials, no impartial analysis or arguments supporting/opposing the measure, and voting by property owners instead of registered voters).

Note: The failure of the first two county-wide funding initiatives attempted (Contra Costa and Los Angeles Counties) is evidence that such collaborative efforts pose additional challenges that may make them harder to be successful. Other similar county-wide efforts have been started in San Mateo, Ventura, and San Joaquin counties, but have stalled largely due to lack of consensus among participating municipalities on goals, schedules, and other priorities.