Annenberg Foundation donating $500,000 to assure water for center

$500,000 donation from Annenberg Foundation to aid drought-stricken ranch for developmentally disabled adults

The Annenberg Foundation said it will donate $500,000 to keep the water flowing at a home for developmentally disabled adults in the Santa Clarita area.

Wallis Annenberg, the philanthropic foundation’s president and chief executive, decided to make the contribution after reading about a water crisis at the Los Angeles Residential Community, known as LARC Ranch, in The Times.

Amid California’s crippling drought, the aquifer beneath LARC Ranch is empty, and LARC’s wells have run dry. A permanent solution is both expensive and tangled in a bureaucratic mess involving multiple government agencies. In a statement Wednesday, Annenberg said she elected to make the contribution both to assist the residents of LARC Ranch and to send a message that such bureaucratic tangles often impede progress.

“I was surprised to discover that this remarkable facility, the Los Angeles Residential Community, had perfectly viable solutions to their water crisis but were unable to implement them, in part, because of red tape,” Annenberg said. “I am fortunate to be in a position to help, and to help immediately. That said, the public sector is also at its best when entrepreneurship, urgency and pragmatism win out over process and protocol, especially when addressing the needs of the most underserved members of our community.”

LARC Ranch, founded in 1959, serves 103 full-time residents on its 65-acre campus, as well as 80 day-program clients.

Earlier this year, LARC’s wells began to run dry, as the aquifer beneath Bouquet Canyon emptied. LARC has resorted to trucking in water from the city of Santa Clarita — more than 1.4 million gallons to date.

LARC is on pace to spend about $150,000 trucking in water this year, and administrators have grown increasingly concerned about their budget. Annenberg’s donation will ensure that LARC has sufficient access to water while a permanent solution is reached.

When the aquifer ran dry, LARC administrators initially hoped an infusion of reservoir water would flood Bouquet Creek and refill the aquifer. But multiple government agencies have been mired in a complex dispute involving potential flooding, a clogged creek bed, land ownership and environmental regulations.

LARC has also explored digging three miles of pipes to tap into Santa Clarita's municipal water supply, but that could cost as much as $3 million. LARC's annual budget varies but is typically $4 million to $5 million.

LARC Executive Director Kathleen Sturkey said the facility is enormously grateful for the contribution, but said fundraising must continue to pay for a permanent solution.

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