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Santa Monica to Explain Changes in Water Law to Builders

 

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December 6, 2018 -- Developers of new buildings in Santa Monica will be required to abide by changes made last month to a Water Neutrality Ordinance some builders had been skirting.

The modifications -- made by the City Council November 27 in an effort to close loopholes in the law -- will be the subject of three public meetings and training sessions, City officials announced this week.

The meetings, which will be held December 18 and 19, are geared for "those involved in the building permit process," including architects, permit expediters, pool contractors, landscape professionals and property owners.

The Council voted to require buildings that add plumbing when they are constructed or renovated under the Water Neutrality Ordinance approved in May 2017.

Under the original ordinance developers whose projects increase the demand for water must pay for the additional water use to be offset elsewhere in the community or pay the City an in-lieu fee ("Santa Monica Launches Program to Cap Water Use," June 14, 2017).

The ordinance did not cover projects that demolished less than 50 percent of a structure or increased the number of stories without removing 50 percent of the exterior wall.

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Not long after the ordinance became effective, questions began to surface about whether developers could sidestep its requirements ("Santa Monica Water 'Neutrality' Law Begins with Trickle of Doubts," July 17, 2017).

Some developers skirted the ordinance by demolishing less the half of the building or adding stories by removing the roof.

"As a result, these projects were not required to comply with the ordinance even though they added a significant amount of new square footage," staff said.

Other developers indicated they did not plan to install irrigation systems or landscape, only to add them after the certificate of occupancy was issued, staff said.

Between July 1, 2017 -- when the ordinance kicked in -- and June 27 of this year, 183 projects met the requirements for compliance, staff said.

Of those, 90 projects had new water demand to offset totaling 1,214,634 gallons per year.

The ordinance, which caps water use to the site's historical five-year average, is part of the City's strategy to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2020, officials said.

Although the City currently uses 20 percent less water from outside sources, it has fallen three years behind in its goal, officials said at the meeting.

Water Neutrality Ordinance Public Meeting & Training sessions will take place Tuesday, December 18, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and Wednesday, December 19, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.


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