Council to ask Los Altos residents for money to fund work on storm drains

This storm drain on Sunshine Drive in Los Altos is filled with debris. The city says the pipes are in poor condition. The cost of replacing it will run $150,000 plus annual maintenance of $550. Photo from the city’s website.

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

Despite a number of protests from residents, Los Altos City Council decided Tuesday (April 23) to hold a mail-in vote about whether to charge property owners $1.1 million a year, plus inflation, for the foreseeable future for storm drain capital projects that have not been clearly defined.

At the council meeting Tuesday night, a 19-year resident who identified himself as Mark called the proposal “money in search of a problem,” as if city officials were saying “We just want $1.1 million. Then we’ll talk about what we’re going to do.”

“I think you guys are better than this,” Mark said. “I don’t think we need this tax. I think you guys have enough money to deal with.”

Proposed annual storm drain fees.

Ten-year resident Michael Thomas said he opposed the fees because city officials hadn’t presented any real goals or metrics for the money.

“It just seems to be an open-ended activity, and therefore I think we need to be much more specific about what we’re trying to accomplish,” Thomas said.

Several residents asked why the city couldn’t use money out of the general fund, pointing out that the $1.1 million a year only amounts to 1% of the city’s budget for capital improvement projects.

The fees would range between $72 and $117.59 a year for owners of single-family homes and condos, according to a report from from City Manager Chris Jordan and Interim Engineering Services Director Aida Fairman.

Owners of apartment buildings, commercial property and offices would pay between $57.24 and $65.69 per one-tenth of an acre.

The city would be able to increase the fees up to 3% a year to correspond with inflation.

Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins defended the fees, explaining that while the city does take in millions in revenue, it also has steep expenses to cover.

Bruins said the council had been discussing having a dedicated funding source for stormwater projects for years, leading to a stormwater master plan in April 2016.

Mail ballots will be sent out to property owners to vote on the fees. Ballots are due back at City Hall by 5 p.m. on June 18 and will be counted at 9 a.m. on June 19.

1 Comment

  1. According to CA laws & practices, parcels are only eligible for this fee to the extent their parcel contributes flow to a storm drain. I am astonished that the storm drain fee is being applied to all lots with the default being the resident/owner having to argue (with no guaranteed outcome) for a ‘potential’ reduction. My family has owned this house for nearly 60 years. The main street floods towards us, not away from us. There would have to be over 1′ of standing water where I live for the water to have a chance of reaching a storm drain (and that would only happen if there was no water on that street to block the flow). Most years, the water drains from city street on to our properties. Yet, we (as parcels who are not contributing to the problem) get to vote in the tax for everyone. We (the no-storm draining parcels) should not be eligible to vote on the tax, and we should not be eligible for the tax.

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