Residents want water restrictions repealed

SOLANA BEACH —Upset over recently approved modifications to the city’s water efficient landscape ordinance, a few members of the community asked council members at the Jan. 13 meeting to repeal the changes and questioned the legality of state mandates to reduce water use.

“It’s a governor-mandated water shortage,” said David Ferguson, who described the new restrictions as “extremely onerous, invasive and unnecessary.”

“There is no reason to live in sticks and stones and cactus in our lawn,” he added. “We have 11 grandkids. I have a nice lawn in the backyard. Where are they going to play? … Let’s be realistic and stop living like we’re in a third-world country.”

Catherine Dickerson called the situation crazy, noting most of the world is covered in water and California has 840 miles of coastline.

“There’s no shortage,” she said. “It’s just not in the right place. And no amount of conservation is going to move it.

“We live in a land of liberty and justice for all, and I call on you all to stand up for justice and stand up for liberty,” she added. “Just because the governor has his personal agenda doesn’t mean you have to follow it and impose it further on us. It’s crazy that we can send a piano-sized probe … to a comet 10 years away and we can’t get water to citizens of the United States of America, especially California.”

In response to drought conditions, Gov. Jerry Brown in 2010 required cities to create water efficient landscape ordinances to govern landscape design, installation, maintenance and management to improve water efficiency and conservation.

Solana Beach adopted its first set of new laws in March 2011.

As the statewide drought worsened, Brown recently ordered increased restrictions. To comply council members in November updated the city’s water efficient landscape ordinance.

The new law increases water efficiency standards through better irrigation systems, grey-water storage and onsite storm water capture and by limiting the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf.

It also requires a plan review for new projects with landscaped areas of 500 square feet, a permit or plan check for residential and commercial rehabilitated landscape projects that are 2,500 square feet or more, and annual audits and a separate landscaping water meter for all new multifamily, commercial and industrial projects. Single-family homes are exempt.

Penalties include fines of $100 and $200 for first and second violations, respectively, and up to $1,000 and six months in jail for continued noncompliance.

Had the city not adopted its own set of rules it would have been required to follow the state guidelines, which council members said are more restrictive.

Councilman Mike Nichols said repealing the updated requirements would mean Solana Beach would have to follow those state mandates, which could be worse.

Resident Don Billings, who called the new rules “profoundly offensive and unnecessary,” said council members should question the legitimacy of the state action.

“You took an oath to the Constitution, and when the state mandates something it is your duty to salute it,” he said. “But ask yourselves if the action is legal.”

Billings said he spent two years preparing the 20-year long-range water resources plan for San Diego and was chairman of that city’s Independent Rates Oversight Committee for eight years.

“I know for a fact that we are awash in water in this county right now, and looking out 20 years there’s no reason to be concerned that we will have a shortage,” he said. “And let me make clear — if we find ourselves in a shortage that is a political choice … that I reject.

“We cannot tear out grass and get to a solution,” he added.

During a presentation earlier in the meeting Santa Fe Irrigation District General Manager Mike Bardin said all urban water suppliers in the state “are in an unprecedented era right now” responding to state mandates “that we’ve never had to deal with before.”

He said the Water Resources Control Board established cuts for each of the state’s approximately 450 urban water suppliers using a formula based on residential gallons per capita per day.

The SFID, which provides water to Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch, was required to reduce its water use by 36 percent, which Barden said was “a pretty significant reduction, a pretty big hill to overcome.”

“We have a blend of different land-use patterns clumped together as one agency,” he said, adding that he advocated such a one-size-fits-all methodology is unfair because lots sizes in Solana Beach are far smaller than those in SFID’s other jurisdictions.

“That argument occurred early in the process,” Bardin said. “That got no traction at all at the state.”

Bardin also noted San Diego has “spent billions of dollars in the last decade to develop drought-resilient supplies.”

“The Carlsbad desalination plant just came online … in December,” he said. “That’s a billion-dollar plant that provides basically about 8 percent of the water for the county.

“We’re not being given credit for that,” he added. “Basically there’s a one-size-fits-all across the state…. We believe there’s some inequity in that.”

He said SFID’s position on the proposed regulations is that they do not fully recognize drought-resilient supplies developed by the region. They also do not address the potential for a wet winter or ways to come out of the emergency regulations.

The current restrictions are scheduled to remain in place until October, but the state is proposing modifications that will be considered at a hearing in early February. He said those changes include lowering SFID’s mandated reduction to 32 percent.

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