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April 21, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Council backs measures to fund toxic-cleanup of storm water Council backs measures to fund toxic-cleanup of storm water (April 21, 2004)

By David Boyce
Almanac Staff Writer

Two state proposals to fund the cleanup of toxic substances from storm water runoff are backed by a majority of Portola Valley council members.

In two 3-to-2 votes on March 24, the Town Council joined 19 other county municipalities, the county's Board of Supervisors and local interest groups in supporting the measures, which are before the state Legislature.

Among the toxic substances targeted: copper residue from brake pads and mercury from vehicle exhaust.

One of the measures, Assembly Bill 1546, would allow a San Mateo County agency to add $4 to the fee of vehicles registered in the county. The other measure is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would allow municipal governments, without voter approval, to levy a fee of $1 to $2 a year on residential parcels to manage storm water runoff.

Vehicle fee

AB 1546, authored by Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would create a five-year pilot program allowing the City/County Association of Governments in San Mateo County to add $4 to the fee of vehicles registered in the county.

The vehicle registration fee is a part of the vehicle license fee, said C/CAG spokesman Walter Martone. Counties and special districts can add local fees of up to $4 if approved by the state Legislature.

Half of the $2.8 million generated by this fee would pay for roadway sweeping, public education, substance cleanup and pollution monitoring, said Richard Napier, executive director of city/county association, who spoke at the Portola Valley council's March 24 meeting. The rest would be spent to relieve traffic congestion, including funding commuting alternatives.

Councilman Richard Merk -- who, with Mayor George Comstock, voted against supporting the bill -- said it's unfair to burden county residents when trucks passing through the county are a major pollution source.

Constitutional amendment

The costs of meeting state and federal laws that regulate the management of storm water runoff have more than tripled over the last year, Mr. Napier said.

Municipal governments already have the right to levy fees on property owners to manage water, sewage and garbage without requiring voter approval. ACA 10 is a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would expand that list to include a fee of $1 to $2 a year per residential parcel to manage storm water runoff, Mr. Martone said.

Such fees are exempt from a provision of state Proposition 218, approved by voters in 1996, that requires a two-thirds majority of local voters to approve special assessments on property.

"I think that anything that lowers the bar starts an erosion of the process," said Vice Mayor Ed Davis, who, along with Councilman Merk, voted against the town's supporting the amendment.

A constitutional amendment originating in the state Legislature requires a two-thirds majority vote from both houses to pass, followed by approval of a simple majority of voters statewide.

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