HB South Park 12

South Park in Hermosa Beach, which underwent a renovation completed in 2016, is the latest site being considered for a water infiltration project that would treat stormwater that runs from the Herondo Drain, the South Bay beach city's largest storm drain, into the Santa Monica Bay

“There is no good location in Hermosa Beach,” was the message of more than 20 concerned residents who gathered at South Park on Sunday to oppose a proposed stormwater infiltration project in the city.

Similar complaints bubbled up in the spring when Hermosa Beach announced its Greenbelt Infiltration Project, designed to treat stormwater that runs from the Herondo Drain, the South Bay beach city's largest storm drain, into the Santa Monica Bay.

The runoff, which causes high bacteria levels and can lead to beach closures, has caused a consistent “C” grade from Heal the Bay for the last several years.

Residents who live along the greenbelt along Valley Drive from 2nd Street to Herondo Street don't want the project there even though the Hermosa Beach City Council announced they plan to conduct an Environmental Impact Report.

Now residents next to nearby South Park are raising their voices in opposition.

“It looks like we're heading in the right direction to try to get everybody working together rather than having two separate groups to put as much pressure as we can on the City Council to do the right thing, to get it out of the residential area,” said Ira Ellman, who along with Jessica Guheen and Gina DeRosa, facilitated the Sunday meeting.

“It's literally in my backyard,” said DeRosa, about South Park. “But there are more big picture concerns.”

“The more I learn about this, the more I honestly think this is not the right project for Hermosa Beach,” said Guheen, who helped spearhead a 10-year renovation of South Park.

'Project is important, location is wrong'

The residents next to the Greenbelt and South Park raised many concerns Sunday as well as at previous public meetings including a Greenbelt Infiltration Project study session in June.

At the study session, the consensus from the crowd was that the “project is important, but the location is wrong.”

Concerns included the removal of a third of the trees on the greenbelt; liquefaction; moving utilities that line the greenbelt; pollutants in the soil; street closures and traffic during construction; odor and noise coming from the system after completed; structural integrity of homes; as well as lawsuits on other projects against Tetra Tech, the project contractor.

On Monday, the city's environmental analyst Kristy Morris said there are 10 potential locations, in and outside of Hermosa Beach, that are being evaluated, but an alternative has not been selected by the City Council. All of the proposed sights are in the direct vicinity of the storm drain and the feasibility of the alternatives will be discussed at an October 9 City Council meeting.

“There has been no decision to move the project to South Park and the current location is the Greenbelt between Herondo and 2nd Street until City Council takes formal action to identify another location at their October 9 meeting,” Morris said. “Information on alternative sites, feasibility, and considerations will be presented at this meeting.”

In 2013, Hermosa Beach joined Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District to form the Beach Cities Group to comply with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit to reduce bacteria in the Santa Monica Bay.

Herondo drain runoff

The Herondo Drain Watershed was identified as a “chronic source of elevated bacteria levels” where it drains at the southern border of the city. Hermosa Beach, in partnership with the other cities, will receive funding for design and construction from the State Water Resources Board.

The Greenbelt Infiltration Project will treat stormwater that runs from the Herondo Drain and into the Santa Monica Bay. The runoff, which can lead to beach closures because of high bacteria levels, has caused low grades from Heal the Bay for the last several years.

Morris said while Hermosa Beach contributes about 14 percent of the water that flows through the Herondo Storm Drain, all of the polluted storm water from the drain flows into the ocean off Hermosa's beaches “endangering the health of the public along the city's beaches.”

“For the current project location, the city of Hermosa Beach is the lead agency since the project is located in our city. If the project were located in Redondo Beach, they would be the lead agency,” according to Morris.

At the study session in June, Mayor Jeff Duclos, as well as assistant city attorney Lauren Langer, said if the city does not complete the project, Hermosa Beach could potentially face “significant liability” if they don't meet water quality standards by 2021. Langer said penalties could reach upwards of $37,000 a day as well as potential lawsuit by private citizens.

Resident Heidi Fernandez said Sunday it's a “unification situation at this point,” referring to joining forces between concerned Greenbelt and South Park residents.

“I don't want to pit neighbors against neighbors,” Fernandez said.

But plenty of residents are still upset by what they feel is a “lack of transparency” by the city.

“I don't trust them... I'm very upset because they lied to me from the very beginning,” said one resident. “It seems like they're playing us.”

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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