Friends of San Lorenzo Creek

County Explores New Tax to Monitor Stormwater Runoff

NOVEMBER 10, 2007

Alameda County may form a "community facility district" to raise funds for regular inspection and maintenance of stormwater treatment facilities at residences in the San Lorenzo Creek watershed.

The county board of supervisors at its November 6 meeting authorized the Public Works Agency to begin the process of forming such a district to include all the unincorporated territory in the county. Most of the San Lorenzo Creek watershed lies within the unincorporated communities of Castro Valley, Cherryland, and San Lorenzo, with a small portion in the City of Hayward.

Under federal law new residential developments above a certain size are required to install stormwater treatment facilities to reduce pollutants in runoff water that drains into creeks. The same law requires the county to provide ongoing inspection of those facilities.

According to a report from the county's public works director, Daniel Woldesenbet, new residential developments in the San Lorenzo Creek watershed have limited landscaping and little or no common areas because of limited land available for development. These factors tend to preclude use of low maintenance, landscape-based treatment systems.

Most developers therefore prefer using underground mechanical treatment devices, which require only small spaces. Such devices require frequent, regular maintenance, typically several times each year. At the same time, most new residential developments in the watershed do not have homeowner associations that can coordinate and fund inspection and maintenance work.

A "community facility district" or CFD would provide the administrative framework and funds to inspect and maintain stormwater treatment facilities. As new residential sites are developed, they would be annexed into the CFD. The annual fees for each site would be based on the number of treatment devices and the number of parcels or units on the site.

CFDs are the state legislature's workaround to the limitations of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that limited the ability of local agencies to increase property taxes. In 1982 the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act was created to provide an alternate method of financing services and improvements. (See California Government Code sections 53311 - 53368.3.)