L.A. Sewer Proposition Likely to Flow to Victory

Times Staff Writer

If any measure on the Los Angeles city ballot Nov. 8 figures to be as popular as motherhood and apple pie, perhaps it is Proposition M . . . as in muck.

Proposition M is a sewer measure, always a winner in the past and again unopposed this time. A majority vote would authorize the city to sell $1.5 billion in tax-free municipal bonds to modernize, refurbish and replace thousands of miles of aging sewer lines, some of which are more than 100 years old.

Although sewage and waste water systems may seem an out-of-sight, out-of-mind type of issue, sewers proved their popularity a year ago when a $500-million bond measure for the first phase of repairs received a 78% “yes” vote.

This time, officials believe that the margin might be less, if only because the ballot is so long and more voters might feel like saying “no.” Even so, there is “high anticipation” of another comfortable majority, City Engineer Bob Horii said.


Last Stop

Proponents say Proposition M will help protect public health, eliminate sewage overflows and “heal” polluted Santa Monica Bay. Much of the money would go into the modernization of the Hyperion waste water treatment facility, the last stop for sewage en route to Santa Monica Bay.

Under a federal consent decree between federal environmental authorities and the city, Los Angeles faces a Dec. 31, 1998, deadline to have secondary waste water treatment in effect throughout the city. About 65% of solid matter is removed in primary treatment and about 95% in secondary treatment, Horii explained.

Currently, only about half of the 460 million gallons of sewage treated daily by the Los Angeles system receives both primary and secondary treatments.


Moreover, officials stress that the issuance of bonds is the most economical way of funding the repairs, saving the city up to $60 million in interest payments, and assuring that future users share in the cost. If Proposition M fails, officials say, the city may have to double or even triple sewer service bills to pay for the needed improvements. The typical family now pays a sewer service bill of $8.24 a month.

Mayor’s Chief Rival

The ballot argument in favor of Proposition M illustrates the breadth of the support for the issue. The signers include Mayor Tom Bradley; his chief rival, Councilman Zev Yaroslavksy, chairman of the council’s Finance and Revenue Committee; Edward J. Avila, president of the Board of Public Works; William R. Robertson, executive secretary-treasurer of the county Federation of Labor; Ray Remy, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Bob Hattoy, Sierra Club regional director, and Dorothy Green, president of Heal the Bay.

No opposing argument was submitted.