Hawthorne homeowners focus on energy and water conservation

imageMaking homes energy efficient and creating more water self-sufficiency is a top priority for the City of Hawthorne and the South Bay Environmental Services Center.

The South Bay Environmental Services Center hosted a seminar for Hawthorne homeowners concerning the Energy Upgrade California and Water Reliability 2020 programs.

By 2020, the Water Reliability 2020 program aims to increase the use of local water resources to 66 percent of the South Bay’s total water usage. Currently, only 33 percent is from a locally-produced water supply.

Performance incentive checks range from $1,250 to $4,000 at the state-level as part of the Energy Upgrade California program. An additional rebate worth $500 is also being offered through Los Angeles County for homes achieving 20 percent energy-savings or better.

One resident of Hawthorne decided to take advantage of the incentives being given last year for energy efficient upgrades and installed 20 new windows in his home, at a cost of $16,000.

“Part of the reason was the wood was peeling off and the other reason was energy efficiency,” Wayne Beach said. “I see a significant change in my monthly bill, between 15 to 20 percent.”

Beach says that he was planning on replacing his windows for a while and the energy rebate motivated him to take action. He has been told that he will receive a rebate of about $1,500 in this year’s tax returns and says that any amount is helpful.

The South Bay Environmental Services Center encourages residents to look into the rebates and incentives being given for energy and water efficiency.

Grace Farwell, an environmental analyst, with the South Bay Environmental Services Center, is confident that the Water Reliability 2020 program will be a success.

“It’s through water conservation and through water recycling,” Farwell said.

imageResidents were given suggestions on how they can contribute to the Water Reliability program’s success. The incentive is that they will also see a decrease in their monthly utility bills. Simple things as turning off the water when brushing teeth, taking time-limited showers and running a full load of dishes or laundry help decrease energy and water consumption. Farwell said she mindfully applies these energy and water-saving habits in her own home.

“A lot of times we have to wait for the shower to get hot, so I put a bucket in the shower to collect the cold water and use it later to water my plants,” Farwell said.

Alternative energy sources, such as solar power, are available, but usable water is a natural resource that has long been scarce in Southern California and is getting a lot worse.

“Water shortage is a reality especially for Southern California. Because of the fact that we don’t produce or contribute to the source. We are users and takers of other people’s water collections,” Farwell said.

Even with the recent rainfall, the water went into the ground and out into the ocean because Southern California’s water system isn’t designed to capture the runoff. The South Bay relies heavily on the snowmelt and snowpack in Northern California and from the Colorado River, but in recent years, environmentalists in Northern California have limited the amount of water that they distribute.

“As the population continues to increase, and the water supply remains restricted, we are going to see higher and higher costs for water. There may be water rationing and more restrictions put on us for the actual use of water,” Farwell said.

Many of the cities in the South Bay have water ordinances that restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. But cities do not have the staff power to enforce them.

“They are really relying on the good heartedness of their residents to follow through,” Farwell said.

One of the main issues may simply be awareness. Many residents say that they are not aware of the water ordinances in place in their city.

Kiran Magiawala, a retired engineer and longtime Hawthorne resident, lives in an apartment complex and does not have direct control over his complex’s external water use. But he has contacted the building manager many times to ask to make the apartments more energy and water efficient. In the meantime, Magiawala said he does what he can.

“I would have more enjoyment out of taking a 20-minute hot shower,” he said. “But I ask myself at what cost I would be doing it. It is a philosophical matter of mindful consumption.”

Metro public meeting hears an outpouring of complaints

imageThe good news for South Bay residents is that the Metro light rail is expanding. The bad news is that the new line, which will connect Exposition Boulevard to LAX Airport, comes with some extra baggage.

More than 80 residents and business representatives congregated at the Flight Path Museum Tuesday for a meeting held by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority that invited public comment about four proposed locations for a new maintenance yard. The year will support a new light rail that will connect the existing Expo and Green Metro lines.

Of the 25 speakers, 19 were residents of Fusion Center, a housing development in Hawthorne. Many expressed concern that the proposed location near their community—an expansion of the existing Division 22 Metro maintenance yard—was added late in the selection process without proper notification to the surrounding community.

“We had started an environmental analysis of some sites, and for various reasons, those sites proved to be problematic,” said Roderick Diaz, Metro project manager.

Diaz pointed out the comparative ease of expanding operations at an existing yard as opposed to building one from scratch. “With environmental analysis, we are always focused on evaluating different alternatives.”

In response to complaints that the plans for the proposed Metro site near Fusion Center were not sufficiently communicated to residents, Diaz said that Metro purchased commercial mailing lists to reach all residents and businesses within a half mile of each site and that perhaps these lists were not updated or accurate when they were sold.

Aside from notification problems, Fusion residents were not quiet about the wide range of reasons they oppose the yard near their community. One by one, speakers approached the microphone to voice health concerns, risks to property values and noise pollution from a facility that would sit 50 feet from Fusion homes.

The proposed yard will cover a minimum of 15 acres to accommodate a train storage facility, several new buildings and a paint and body shop to service a minimum of 60 train cars.

Air contamination was one of the factors included in Metro’s environmental impact report. Contaminants such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide are predicted to be higher if a maintenance facility is built, but the report does not claim to draw direct health implications from the results. For example, the study reported that carbon monoxide emissions would not exceed the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards, resulting in a “less-than-significant” projected impact at any of the four sites.

“A lot of the impact that we’re concerned about is really hard to quantify,” said Joel Reeves, a Fusion homeowner and realtor with Shorewood Realtors. “My concern as a real estate professional is that when industrial goes in next to a residential area … the feel is not welcoming, not family-oriented. At Fusion, we’re trying to create that family atmosphere.”

The six non-Fusion speakers included residents and professionals from Redondo Beach, Westchester and Inglewood. Some urged Metro to more strongly consider the location along Arbor Vitae Street between Airport and Aviation boulevards instead of their communities because it would be the least intrusive to residential areas.

Other groups expressed concerns with land use and property sales. Rob Antrobius, vice president of AMB Property Corporation in Redondo Beach, stated that his company would not be willing to sell their land to Metro for the maintenance facility if the location at Marine and Redondo Beach boulevards is selected.

“Typically, what happens is that if we decide that we want to purchase a site, more than 90-something percent of the cases, we do an appraisal, an offer is made and there’s a sale based on that offer,” Diaz said. “In the other percent of the cases, we might explore the possibility of eminent domain.”

“We try to avoid that as much as possible,” he said.

Diaz and Metro representatives told residents that over the next few weeks, they will take the public comments about the proposed facility locations into consideration when presenting final evaluation results to the Metro Board of Directors this spring for their decision.

The next meeting for public comment will be held March 31 at Inglewood City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m., and the deadline for public input is April 11 at 5 p.m.

Read more coverage of the maintenance yard debate:
Hawthorne residents caught off guard by Metro project

Photo credit: Lisa Rau

Hawthorne residents caught off guard by Metro project

imageA proposed new Metro rail yard has raised concern among Hawthorne residents, who say they were not sufficiently notified about the site. They fear the site may bring health risks to the surrounding residential communities.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority will discuss the matter Tuesday at a public meeting.

The long-planned light rail will connect the existing Green and Expo Metro lines, but the project comes with some baggage. The new rail will need a maintenance facility to service the trains that are expected to serve up to 21,300 riders per day. Since approval of the $1.4 billion project in 2008, Metro has surveyed dozens of possible locations along the 8.5-mile route from Exposition Boulevard to Los Angeles International Airport for the facility’s home, and they have narrowed it down to four possible sites.

There’s just one catch: one of the candidates was a last-minute add.

The proposed Hawthorne location sits near Marine Avenue on a stretch of Aviation Boulevard with an eclectic mix of industrial steel and glass from Northrop Grumman buildings interspersed with grassy athletic fields, the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and residential areas such as Fusion Center, a gated community of about 500 residents that already borders a Metro maintenance yard.

If selected for the new yard, the existing facility, known as Division 22, would expand from 3.5 to 15 acres to accommodate an additional 60 train cars for painting, cleaning and other services.

“The proposed maintenance facility expansion proposes no use of residential property, only industrial land,” said Roderick Diaz, project manager for the light rail and maintenance facility location survey.
“The types of uses at the maintenance facility would not be significantly different than the uses at the existing Division 22 maintenance facility in Hawthorne.”

The Aviation Boulevard site, however, was not identified in the initial public meetings held by Metro, which discussed the three other proposed locations in Inglewood, Los Angeles and Redondo Beach.

The Division 22 expansion was formally added to the list in November, and the Fusion Homeowners Association maintains that it did not receive a formal notice from Metro about the selection.

Metro released an environmental impact report to several community organizations to inform them about potential noise pollution, traffic and environmental hazards, but Fusion Center was not included in the distribution list.

“Expanding this maintenance yard that’s right next door to our community—literally right on the other side of the wall—is going to lower our property values and reduce the standard of living. It would probably reduce everyone’s home value by five percent,” estimated Steven Johnson, the president of the Fusion Homeowners Association, who cited traffic and noise pollution as major disturbances to the community. “The notice about the MTA’s open house meeting for public comment only came to us less than two weeks ago.”

Fusion board members also expressed concern about the possibility of an increase in electromagnetic radiation, an impact that is not regulated by the State of California, and thus, not included in Metro’s environmental impact report.

In 2007, Southern California Edison conducted a test for electromagnetic radiation at Fusion Center after residents expressed concern that the existing maintenance yard might be producing unhealthy levels of the contaminant. Using standards set by the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, readings were normal across the community, except on the northern side that faces the yard. The council recommends a safe reading of 0.9 milligauss; the northern side produced readings of 3.8 milligauss.

“It’s conflicting for me because I really support light rail,” said Bonnie Shrewsbury, a Fusion homeowner who was one of the residents who received a notice from Metro in December and attended a public meeting regarding the project. “But I don’t want them expanding the yard next to us. I hope nobody takes this as we don’t support the Metro. We’d just like them to have their yard somewhere else.”

The Hawthorne location is the only one of the four under consideration that would abut a residential community. The proposed facility will cover a minimum of 15 acres, provide 272 new jobs and create several new buildings, including a paint and body shop.

“It’s important that the city leaders listen to the residents and look out for increasing their quality of life,” said Hawthorne City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Alex Vargas. He visited Fusion Center in January at the request of residents who wanted Hawthorne council members to see for themselves how close the facility would sit in relation to the community.

“There are alternate locations where Metro can locate these yards without surrounding residences,” he said.

In mid-February, the Hawthorne City Council passed a resolution to formally oppose the maintenance facility, which will be discussed at Tuesday’s Metro’s meeting.

“The resolution will be considered with other comments received during the public comment period,” Diaz said. Metro expects to complete the locations survey by the end of April. In May, the Metro Board of Directors will select a location for the facility.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 6661 Imperial Hwy from 6-8 p.m. Public comments during the meeting will be limited to two minutes per person, and a follow-up public meeting will be held on March 31. The deadline for comments to be considered by Metro is April 11 by 5 p.m.

Photo credit: Lisa Rau