Low Impact Development in L.A.

Elmer Street Swale

Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward with an important ordinance on low impact development (LID). The proposed ordinance will now be reviewed by the City Attorney before a final vote likely to be held in early spring of 2011. Heal the Bay and other members of the Green Los Angeles Coalition have been advocating for the Ordinance’s passage for nearly two years.

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About the Ordinance

The City of LA has been considering a low impact development ordinance for nearly two years. Specifically, this regulation will make LID a key part of new and re-development throughout the city.  It exempts any project that deals with less than 500 square feet of impermeable surface, and larger developments or remodels must propose anything from installing a drainspout redirect, which would channel the water from gutters off of driveways and into a garden, to more elaborate tools to help rainwater and urban runoff filter into the ground.

What is LID?

Low impact development refers to building in a way that captures a majority of rainwater and runoff on site, mostly by creating permeable surfaces like gardens and green space but also by diverting rainspouts and using permeable asphalt and other paving surfaces.

Why is LID Important?

When water flows down city streets, it picks up chemicals, trash and bacteria, and carries those pollutants into the stormdrain system, where they are carried directly out to our rivers, creeks and beaches. When water instead is diverted to a permeable surface, like a garden, that water percolates through the ground, where it is naturally filtered and cleaned, and ultimately ends up recharging our natural groundwater supplies.

Because Southern California imports so much of our water, it is critical that we conserve and reuse as much water as possible. LID captures water that would otherwise be wasted and returns it to our water table. In addition LID saves local governments money in complying with Clean Water Act regulations.