County to Push for Tax on the ‘Rich’

May 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to press for a change to state law that would allow the county to put a “millionaire’s tax” on the November ballot to fund the fight against homelessness.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl proposed the legislative push last week, but were denied the three votes needed for passage when Supervisor Hilda Solis chose to abstain.

On Tuesday, Solis opened the board’s meeting by saying, “We have resolved our differences and we have agreed to move ahead.”

The board also approved a related proposal by Solis and Supervisor Don Knabe, directing the CEO’s office to take a harder look at spending on homelessness, with an emphasis on how to more effectively serve single homeless adults.

A 34-page study by the CEO’s office in January found that the county spent nearly $1 billion on roughly 150,000 people who were homeless at one point or another between July 2014 and June 2015.

Services provided included health care, mental health care, welfare, law enforcement and probation services, with the study estimating that about 40 percent of those dollars were spent on just 5 percent of homeless single adults.

“The vast majority of these services are mainstream services,” said Phil Ansell, director of the county’s Homeless Initiative, meaning that the services are not designed specifically for homeless people or to directly combat homelessness.

However, homeless individuals end up using a disproportionate share of those services and the chronically homeless use even more, with the county spending an average of more than $50,000 per person on the most costly 5 percent.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich argued that the problem of homelessness cannot be solved “until the state changes the law that limits 72-hour holds” for mentally ill individuals and treatment for mental health problems is mandated.

Tuesday’s vote clears the way for the county to submit a trailer budget bill to state legislators asking for the authority to put the so-called “millionaire’s tax” on the November ballot.

If a majority of legislators support the bill by June 15 and if Gov. Jerry Brown signs it into law by June 30, then the board will have to decide whether to actually back a ballot measure that would require two-thirds voter approval for passage.

Pollsters commissioned by the county were confident about voters’ positive response to such a measure. A preliminary poll showed 76 percent support for such a tax, even in light of several other potential ballot proposals for new taxes or fees.

Ridley-Thomas said the board should pursue every option to fund its fight against increasing levels of homelessness, with more and more people living on the street in makeshift encampments.

“It is the most compelling issue confronting us at this time,” Ridley-Thomas said. “It is a crisis, no one can deny that.”

More than 100 community leaders and activists spoke out about the issue, most advocating for those who are homeless and many applauding the effort to review current spending.

“Some areas of Los Angeles County look like a bomb has hit,” community activist Glenna Wilson told the board.
County CEO Sachi Hamai has estimated that the county needs to raise about $500 million in ongoing revenue to effectively address the problem.

County staffers and pollsters considered several ways of raising that money, including a half-percent increase in sales tax, a parcel tax, redirection of Measure B revenues — designed to support trauma centers — and a marijuana tax.

The idea of a half-percent tax on personal income in excess of $1 million garnered the highest support, with 76 percent of voters polled in favor.

The board has the ability to raise local sales taxes on its own, but needs the state to give it the authority to place the “millionaire’s tax” on the ballot.

A half-percent bump in the sales tax would raise three times as much money — an estimated $746 million versus $243 million according to board documents — than the so-called millionaire’s tax. However, support for a sales tax increase polled at 68 percent — within the margin of error of the two-thirds of voters needed to pass any such measure.

Antonovich warned that a county millionaire’s tax would drive businesses away.

“Making the tax higher is taking those dollars from the job creators,” he said.

Solis said she wanted to increase funding options that didn’t rely on a tax increase, leaving open the question of whether she would ultimately support putting the millionaire’s tax on the ballot.

California millionaires are already paying a 1 percent tax on income in excess of $1 million, as mandated by Proposition 63, passed in 2004 as the Mental Health Services Act.

Last week, Brown endorsed a plan to issue $2 billion in bonds to finance the construction of housing for homeless individuals. paid for with Prop. 63 funds. The governor’s May Revision to the budget proposed $267 million in first-year funding statewide, which would fall far short of either a new local millionaire’s tax or a sales tax increase in terms of Los Angeles County revenues.

LASD Scandal Prompts New Policy

May 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who is suffering his first major embarrassment as sheriff over the departure of his chief of staff because of racially insensitive emails, says he will turn the episode into a teaching moment for his department.

The department announced Sunday that Tom Angel has resigned over the emails, which were obtained from the city of Burbank by the Los Angeles Times under California’s open records act and reported on last week. No details about the search for a replacement were immediately announced.

The emails, sent in 2012 and 2013 when Angel was the No. 2 police official in Burbank, contained derogatory stereotypes of blacks, Latinos, Muslims and others. Some contained jokes that Angel had received and then forwarded.

McDonnell initially said he had no plans to discipline Angel but appears to have changed his mind about the viability of his chief of staff amid calls for Angel’s departure from black and Muslim community activists.

“This incident is one that I find deeply troubling,’ McDonnell said in a statement Sunday. “Chief Angel has offered his resignation, and I have accepted it. I thank him for his many years of service, and wish him and his family well.”

McDonnell said that despite the department’s recent effort to strengthen public trust and improve internal and external accountability and transparency, the incident “reminds us that we and other law enforcement agencies still have work to do. I intend to turn this situation into a learning opportunity for all LASD personnel.”

He said the department will also be assessing existing policies and systems to ensure “accountability and enhancing cultural and ethnic sensitivity and professionalism among our personnel.” This will include a new system of random audits of the e-mail accounts of department personnel.

“The law enforcement profession must and can demand the highest standards of professionalism, fairness and constitutional policing individually and collectively from its personnel,” McConnell said. “We are only as effective as the relationships, credibility and trust we have with our community; this is a fundamental point that I and LASD personnel take very seriously.”
Hilda Solis, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, praised the sheriff’s department.

“Sheriff McDonnell has done an admirable job of steering the department in the right directions with necessary reforms,” Solis said in a statement.

“We must move forward and strive for a law enforcement work culture that values diversity and promotes tolerance.”

Angel has told The Times that he did not mean to embarrass or demean anyone. He said it was unfortunate that his work emails could be obtained by the public under the state’s records laws.

“I took my Biology exam last Friday,” said one of the emails. “I was asked to name two things commonly found in cells. Apparently `Blacks’ and ‘Mexicans’ were NOT the correct answers.”

In Burbank, Angel had been brought in to reform an agency reeling from misconduct in its ranks, including allegations of brutality, racism and sexual harassment.

Jóvenes de YouthBuild Piden Apoyo al Condado de Los Ángeles

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Alrededor de 200 adultos jóvenes se reunieron afuera de la Junta de Supervisores el martes, con la esperanza de convencer al condado para apoyar un programa de trabajo y desarrollo para jóvenes.

Ondeando pancartas que decían “Trabajos no cárceles” y con camisetas con la palabra “imparable”, la exuberante multitud marchó desde la plaza Pershing Square como parte del Día Mundial de YouthBuild.

YouthBuild es un programa nacional de desarrollo de jóvenes basado en la comunidad que ofrece a personas de bajos ingresos de 16-24 años de edad la oportunidad de terminar la preparatoria y obtener un diploma, entrenamiento para trabajos—usualmente en la construcción—y eventualmente convirtiéndose en líderes comunitarios.

La organización recibe fondos federales y la supervisora Hilda Solís, quien supervisó el programa durante su mandato como secretaria del Trabajo bajo la administración Obama salió de la reunión de la junta para mostrar su apoyo.

“Es muy bueno ver a un grupo tan grande y comprometido llamar la atención de la necesidad urgente en Estados Unidos para la oportunidad para nuestros jóvenes”, dijo Solís después.

“He visto de primera mano cómo YouthBuild ha ayudado a crear vías de oportunidad”.

Los organizadores del grupo dicen que es tiempo para que el condado intervenga con apoyo financiero. Están pidiendo $15 millones para ayudar a financiar 21 programas en todo el condado.

“Podemos ayudar al condado a reconstruir la comunidad”, Rossie Johnson, presidenta del Colaborativo YouthBuild Región de Los Ángeles, le dijo a City News Service en los escalones del Hall of Administration.

Johnson dijo que los programas de YouthBuild pueden proporcionar soluciones a los múltiples problemas del condado, incluyendo la necesidad de vivienda asequible. En un momento en que el condado está reevaluando sus esfuerzos de justicia juvenil, YouthBuild también da a jóvenes adultos que salen de la cárcel o detención de menores las habilidades que necesitan para tener éxito en la comunidad.

“Estamos muy bien con las poblaciones de reentrada”, dijo Johnson, haciendo alarde de una tasa de reincidencia del 1 por ciento bajo un programa reciente de subvención.

Más tarde, dentro de la sala de audiencia de la junta, uno de los estudiantes de YouthBuild llamó a la organización “un hogar para la redención”, diciendo a los supervisores que al pasar por los campamentos de los desamparados por la tarde fue un recordatorio de lo que pudo ser.

Otro joven, Marco Antonio Vivar, dijo que sin YouthBuild él “estaría en una celda de cárcel o estaría en un ataúd”, pero en cambio es parte del liderazgo de la organización y se graduará con una licenciatura en ciencias de la computación e ingeniería.

A nivel estatal, el 13,8 por ciento de los jóvenes de 16 a 24 años de edad están fuera de la escuela y sin trabajo, de acuerdo a YouthBuild, pero Johnson dice que las cosas están mejorando en la industria de la construcción.

“Queremos que nuestros jóvenes tengan esos puestos de trabajo” y terminen como “ciudadanos productivos que pagan impuestos”, dijo.

A nivel nacional, YouthBuild informa que el 77 por ciento de los inscritos obtiene un diploma o certificado reconocido por la industria y el 61 por ciento consiguen un trabajo o van a la universidad.

Youth Group Call for ‘Jobs Not Jail’ Spending

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

About 200 young adults rallied outside the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, hoping to convince the county to support a youth jobs and development program.

Waving signs reading “Jobs Not Jails” and wearing T-shirts with the word “Unstoppable,” the exuberant crowd marched from Pershing Square as part of Global YouthBuild Day.

YouthBuild is a national community-based youth development program that offers low-income 16- 24-year-olds the chance to finish their high school diploma, train for jobs — often in construction — and ultimately become community leaders.

The organization gets federal funding and Supervisor Hilda Solis, who oversaw the program during her tenure as labor secretary for the Obama administration, stepped out of the board’s meeting to show her support.

“It’s great to see such a large and engaged group drawing attention to the urgent need in America for opportunity for our youth,” Solis said later. “I have seen firsthand how YouthBuild has helped create pathways to opportunity.”

The group’s organizers say it’s time for the county to step up with financial support. They are asking for $15 million to help fund 21 programs countywide.

“We can help the county rebuild the community,” Rossie Johnson, chair of the Los Angeles Region YouthBuild Collaborative, told City News Service on the steps of the Hall of Administration.

Johnson said YouthBuild’s programs can provide solutions to multiple county problems, including the need for affordable housing. At a time when the county is re-evaluating its youth justice efforts, YouthBuild also gives young adults leaving jail or juvenile detention the skills they need to succeed in the community.

“We’re very good with re-entry populations,” Johnson said, boasting of a 1 percent recidivism rate on a recent grant program.

Later, inside the board’s hearing room, one of the YouthBuild enrollees called the organization “a home for redemption,” telling the supervisors that walking past homeless encampments this afternoon was a reminder of what might have been.

Another, Marco Antonio Vivar, said that without YouthBuild he would have “been in a jail cell or I would have been in a casket,” but instead is part of the organization’s leadership and set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering.

Statewide, 13.8 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds are out of school and out of work, according to YouthBuild, but Johnson says things are picking up in the construction trade.

“We want our young folks to be in those jobs” and end up as “productive, tax-paying citizens,” he said.

Nationally, YouthBuild reports that 77 percent of enrollees attain a diploma or industry-recognized certificate and 61 percent get a job placement or go on to college.

L.A. County Supervisors Frustrated By Pace of Exide Cleanup

April 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

County workers have moved quickly to assess soil, arrange cleanup and reach out to 500 families living near the now-shuttered Exide Technologies battery recycling plant, where a recent study found children have higher levels of lead in their blood, a public health official told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Staffers have focused on homes in East Los Angeles, Commerce and Maywood, sending out a dozen three-person teams to sample and test for lead, Department of Public Health Interim Director Cynthia Harding told the supervisors.

The board, frustrated by the pace of the response from state regulators, recently asked DPH to intervene.

Harding said her department sampled and tested 500 properties in less than three weeks.

A contractor for Exide took about 2 1/2 months to assess 50 homes, while the state Department of Toxic Substances Control managed to get to the same number of homes in two weeks, according to Harding.

“We did 50 homes a day,” Harding told the board.

DTSC is also working on cleanup, and Harding said the agencies were coordinating, via weekly meetings, to “make sure we’re not stepping on one another’s toes.”

Harding said 83 percent of residents received results of county soil tests the next day, along with information on available health resources. The balance of the residents weren’t home when county employees stopped by multiple times.

Public health nurses were sent to visit the 45 homes where lead levels were found to be at hazardous waste levels, above 1000 parts per million.

All but eight of the 500 homes, four of which had no soil at all, had levels at least in excess of the DTSC threshold for remediation, Harding said.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said state staffers failed in their outreach to residents. They didn’t explain how residents should protect themselves from potentially contaminated soil and didn’t bother to tell families who had to vacate their homes during cleanup about vouchers for temporary housing, she said.

“DTSC really has to pay attention to what the needs are of this community,” Solis said.

“There are many people who have already suffered enough.”

In addition to continuing community outreach on soil testing and health education, county officials continue to press for faster action by the state and have thrown their support behind bills which call for $176.6 million in funding for cleanup.

Solis characterized it as a David and Goliath-like fight.

“We’re David and we’re up against some very big lobbying guns up there,” Solis said.

The $176.6 million in funding for further testing and environmental cleanup has been approved by the state Senate and is pending a vote by the Assembly.

State officials said the money would pay for testing of residential properties, schools, day care centers and parks within a 1.7-mile radius of the plant, and fund cleaning of as many as 2,500 properties with the highest lead levels.

The study performed by the state Department of Public Health at the request of DTSC found that children under age 6 who lived near the plant ¬– which was permanently closed in March 2015 – were likely to have more lead in their blood than children in Los Angeles County overall.

According to the study, 3.58 percent of young children who live within a mile of the plant had levels of 4.5 micrograms of lead or more per deciliter of blood. Among children who lived between one and 4.5 miles of the plant, 2.41 percent had 4.5 micrograms or more.

According to DTSC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 5 micrograms or greater to be an indicator of significantly high lead levels requiring public health action. California’s baseline, however, is 4.5 micrograms.

Although the study focused on proximity to the plant, researchers found that the age of housing was a contributing factor to lead levels, noting that homes closer to the facility tend to be older. The age of housing is significant, since lead levels in paint were not regulated until 1978.

When Exide agreed to close the lead-acid battery recycling plant, it committed to pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods. Of that amount, $26 million is meant to be set aside for residential cleanup.

As of last August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million was due to be paid by March 2020, according to state officials.

Se Extiende Financiación para Ruta de DASH Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

La Junta de Supervisores del condado de Los Ángeles aprobó el martes una recomendación de la presidenta de la Junta, la supervisora Hilda L. Solis para ejecutar un acuerdo de financiación por tres años con la ciudad de Los Ángeles para el servicio de transporte público DASH Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles.

Desde 2007, el condado, en cooperación con la ciudad de Los Ángeles, ha co-financiado el servicio de autobuses DASH de la ruta Boyle Heights/Este de Los Ángeles, que sustituyó a la línea de metro bus 255.

La ruta Boyle Heights / East LA DASH asegura que los residentes en el Este de Los Ángeles seguirán teniendo acceso directo al hospital del condado Medical Center (LAC + USC) y el Hospital del Doctor Este de Los Ángeles.

County Moves Forward On Water Conservation Plan

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors moved forward Tuesday on two plans aimed at increasing local water supplies in a time of sustained drought and pressure from federal regulators.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl authored two motions, one seeking to coordinate the capture of stormwater runoff countywide and the other calling for a netzero water ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county.

Federal and state regulators are tired of waiting for the county and its 88 cities to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act, Kuehl said, adding that penalties could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We’re required to do it,” Kuehl said, proposing a Drought Resiliency Work Plan focused on capturing rainfall and preventing runoff of trash and toxic substances.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich said water conservation efforts should focus on building new reservoirs funded with state water bonds already approved by voters.

Kuehl said a broader approach was needed and she was “trying to find the fairest way to pick up this tab because we’re not going to avoid it.”

Antonovich was concerned that the drought plan would look too much like a 2013 effort to fund stormwater projects through a fee on property owners, despite protests to the contrary.

“The property owners will still have to pay,” Antonovich said, adding that would hurt seniors on fixed incomes.

In March 2013, the Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, championed by former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky as a way to pay for stormwater runoff projects, was defeated on a 4-1 board vote.

The failed measure proposed an annual fee — estimated at $54 for a typical single-family home — to pay for green infrastructure.

Opponents objected to the fee, calling it a tax on rain, as well as to the allocation of funding, selection of projects and the process for approving the measure.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, “It wasn’t a pretty picture … three years ago … We’re trying to get it right now.”

The board directed the Department of Public Works to report back in 45 days with a plan and to submit a recommendation for funding the plan 90 days out.

No details of any plan or funding mechanism were outlined in Kuehl’s motion, co-authored by Supervisor Hilda Solis. However, the board vote anticipates submitting the plan to voters in November if adopted by the board.

Kuehl also proposed requiring new housing and commercial developments to show no net increase in total water consumption.

A net-zero water ordinance or water-neutral development could be achieved with drought-tolerant landscaping, low-flow plumbing fixtures and water recycling, Kuehl said.

If projects can’t get to zero on their own, developers could achieve the goal by subsidizing projects to retrofit water use at schools or hospitals.

Supervisor Don Knabe expressed concern about the ordinance’s impact on the county’s efforts to expand the supply of affordable housing and solve a crisis of homelessness.

Developers agreed, saying the ordinance would slow new construction and hike home prices.

Several business advocates urged the board to slow down and do additional studies on the economic impact of a net-zero ordinance.

“This appears to be another attempt to ram through legislation in a rush,” said Dustan Batton of the Los Angeles County Business Federation or BizFed.

Kuehl objected to the suggestion that more research should be done before moving forward with an ordinance.

Environmental activists agreed, with a Heal the Bay representative saying it was unfair for residents to have to severely cut back water use to meet state goals while major construction projects move forward “without any clear accounting” for their drain on local water supplies.

The board’s vote was 4-0 to proceed in crafting an ordinance over the next year, with Antonovich abstaining.

County Approves Art Grants

April 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $500,000 in arts grants for organizations focused on delivering mental health, disability, environmental, homeless, immigrants rights, youth and veterans services.

The Arts Commission fielded more than $1.3 million in requests for funding from 78 eligible organizations under the first Community Impact Arts Grant program.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said the program is designed to “assure access to the arts for all,’’ making art available to residents outside of museums and other traditional settings.

There are practical reasons to broaden access, Solis told colleagues, saying that one in six jobs countywide is in the arts.

“A diverse pipeline, one that begins at an early age, is critical,” Solis said.

Grant applications were scored based on artistic merit, service to the community, evaluation methodology and fiscal and administrative competence.

Those chosen are set to receive, on average, 57 percent of what they requested, according to the commission.

Nonprofit organizations will use the monies to pay for classes, workshops and exhibits covering music, dance, photography, jewelry making, writing, painting and theater.

The commission is expected to announce specific grantees within the next day or so.

L.A. County Sets Up Strike Team to Oversee Oil Wells

March 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to set up a “strike team” to ensure that oil and gas wells in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County are operating safely.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis say that regulations governing wells are inconsistent and it’s the county’s job to keep residents safe.

“We have spent too much time reacting to environmental crises, one catastrophe after another .. (including the) Athens Tank Farm, Aliso Canyon methane leak (and) Exide battery recycling facility,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We have a job to do and I think it’s ours to do.”

There are 1,687 oil and gas wells in unincorporated areas of the county, 95 percent of which are run by a dozen operators, according to a report by the Department of Regional Planning that relied on data from the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

Nearly 60 percent of those wells are part of the Inglewood Oil Field, which operates under a broad set of regulations that mandate air and groundwater monitoring, emergency response plans and other protocols. But the balance are subject to regulations that vary from site to site.

The strike team will be charged with evaluating the remaining wells and recommending additional oversight or operational changes needed to keep residents safe.

The board also asked its lawyers and land planners to update zoning codes to ensure that future oil and gas facilities do not operate “by right.”
Historically, where zoning has permitted this type of industrial use, operators haven’t had to pull any special permits before drilling.

“Drilling should not be allowed by right in any zone,” Ridley-Thomas said.

A Montebello resident told the board she was worried about how Southern California Gas. Co. officials were going about decommissioning a gas storage facility in her neighborhood.

Yvonne Watson, who is also a Sierra Club advocate, said the utility was unable to tell residents when it would finish shutting down the facility, which it first agreed to close in 2000.

“You don’t have anything to worry about, everything’s safe,” Watson said SoCalGas officials told community members in a presentation last week that she called “a joke.”

SoCalGas has stopped operating the Montebello gas storage facility and sealed a majority of the wells, but is still working to recover “cushion gas” that maintains pressure in the remaining wells.

“This is precisely why I co-authored this motion,” Solis said in response to Watson’s safety concerns.

Based on a suggestion by Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the county will also establish a five-member advisory panel of experts to work with the strike team.

Each supervisor is expected to appoint one member by May 1.

On Antonovich’s recommendation, the board also voted to send a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to create a multi-agency task force led by the Energy Department to investigate the cause and effects of the Aliso Canyon gas leak in Porter Ranch.

Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed such a task force last week, asking that it also determine whether the facility can continue to operate safely.

County Begins Own Soil Testing Near Exide

March 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Tired of waiting for state regulators, county teams are working in neighborhoods affected by contamination from the now-closed Exide battery plant to test soil and offer resources to residents, the Board of Supervisors was told Tuesday.
Supervisor Hilda Solis said residents deserved quick action.

“For over three decades, the Exide battery plant operated on a temporary permit. During that time, the company rained arsenic, benzene and lead down on its neighbors,” Solis said. “For too long, the concerns of nearby residents went unheard or were ignored.”

The Department of Public Health has a dozen three-person teams testing soil at 45-50 homes per day, the department’s interim director, Cynthia Harding, told the supervisors.

The Exide plant permanently closed in March 2015, but “left behind a legacy of environmental contamination in Maywood, Huntington Park, Boyle Heights, Commerce and East Los Angeles” reaching out in about a 1.75-mile radius, Harding said.

Though gaseous plant emissions are no longer an issue, lead contamination in the soil, which can cause developmental delays and cognitive impairments, remains a concern.

The county estimates that up to 10,000 homes could have lead contamination, with about 10 percent of those expected to show levels qualifying as hazardous waste.

In one bit of good news, the deputy director of the department’s Health Protection Division said only about 6 percent of the homes evaluated to date have shown that highest level of contamination.

DPH teams, which work with an outside contractor, offer results to residents one day after testing soil outside their homes, according to Solis.

“They’re going to get results the next day,” Solis said. “That’s something that (the Department of Toxic Substances Control) should have been doing all along.”

If lead contamination is found, public health nurses meet with families recommend blood tests for any children living in the home. Those tests are provided free of charge by the county.

To date, 398 homes have been tested by county workers and officials hope to reach a goal of 500 by March 15.

“It’s really critical that all 10,000 homes get assessed,” Harding told the Board of Supervisors.

Even more important, Solis said, is finding out from state regulators, “How immediately will they begin the cleanup?”

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed an additional $176.6 million for further testing and cleanup, but those funds are subject to approval of the state budget.

As of year-end, DTSC workers had removed more than 10,000 tons of contaminated soil, analyzed more than 20,000 soil samples from hundreds of properties and cleaned up 186 residential yards.

The fallout from the contamination could also have an affect on property values, County Assessor Jeffrey Prang said Monday.

Prang said he will review the values of properties affected by lead and other contamination from the Exide battery recycling plant to see if any tax relief could be offered to their owners.

“I have deep concern for those affected by Exide’s contamination of their property,” Prang said. “It is my responsibility to ensure all properties are fairly assessed and provide tax relief when warranted. Consequently, I have ordered my office to identify any and all avenues to help property owners during this difficult time.”

Affected properties are thought to be in Boyle Heights, Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, Commerce and other areas.

Property and business owners typically need to fill out a form to request such a review, but Prang’s office will go ahead and pull up the assessment records to take another look, according to Prang spokesman Michael Kapp.

The decline-in-value review looks at whether a property’s current market value is less than the assessed value as of Jan. 1 of the previous year.

Any tax relief would not affect this year’s tax bill, but may affect a future bill, Kapp said. There is also a possibility that depending on when the property was purchased, the decline in value may not be enough to result in a lower tax bill, he said.

Property owners with questions about the review can call the assessor’s office at (626) 258-6001.

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