Saturday, November 1, 2008

Development Issue Elevates Water Board Election

An obscure water board election is drawing a bit more attention, thanks to a candidate who entered the race because of the proposed Ponte Vista housing development.

San Pedro teacher and football coach Pete Manghera is running against incumbent Rob Katherman for Division 2 of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.

Rob Katherman

Pete Manghera

The agency manages groundwater basins that provide more than one-third of the water supply for the district, which extends from the South Bay coast through the greater Harbor Area to southeastern L.A. County.

The five-member elected board of directors develops policies to ensure adequate supplies of clean, safe groundwater.

Katherman is a Torrance lobbyist who has represented local developers.

First elected in 2004, Katherman said he is seeking another term to continue towards the goals the board is pursuing, especially to make the Southern California groundwater supply fully independent from “imported” Northern California water.

“We’ve gotten part way there,” said Katherman. “We can see the goal line and I want to finish the job.”

Manghera is a lifelong San Pedro resident who has taught in L.A. public schools for 28 years. He is currently a history and government teacher at San Pedro High School and an assistant coach of the junior varsity football team.

Since 1994, Manghera and his brother have been producing “Pete’s Place,” a current-events program on public-access cable TV. San Pedro viewers can see the show on Cox Cable Channel 33 Saturdays at 6:30 p.m.

Manghera believes that the proposed 1950-unit Ponte Vista development on Western Avenue will put too much stress on area infrastructure, including the water and sewer lines.

Though the Water Replenishment District does not have jurisdiction over water usage in the cities it serves, Manghera said the office could be used as a “bully pulpit” to influence development.

“Cities are responsible for issuing building and construction permits,” said Manghera. “Water agencies need to talk to cities to urge them to develop in ways that coincide with the available water supply.”

Acknowledging that Ponte Vista was his primary motive for entering the race, Manghera said he is opposed to the development at the proposed size of 1950 homes.

“Even 500 homes at R-1 zoning will have an impact,” said Manghera. “Imagine what 1900 will do.”

Citing jurisdictional boundaries, Katherman said, “We don’t provide water to Ponte Vista. The [Los Angeles Department of Water and Power] does. We don’t have authority over how water is distributed. We’d be meddling in L.A. public policy that we have no right to do.”

For his part, Katherman has not taken a public position on Ponte Vista. He said the development should be the “appropriate number of units based on scientific evaluation” of factors such as traffic and energy, water and sewer capacity.

Manghera is backed by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, while Katherman has endorsements from the Daily Breeze and the L.A. County AFL-CIO labor federation.

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