2019 Water Quality & Flood Protection Initiative


The City's Clean Water Program has maintained storm drainage infrastructure since the 1990s and:

  • Protects homes, properties, and streets from local flooding
  • Ensures beaches and Bay are protected from trash and pollutants

The City's stormwater fees that fund the Clean Water Program have not increased in 15 years, while costs have increased significantly. Today, the Clean Water Program is running a deficit of approximately $1 million each year.

Four key elements to the Clean Water Program include:

  1. Operations & Maintenance
  2. Water Quality
  3. Capital Investments
  4. Coastal Flooding & Sea Level Rise Protection

What does the Clean Water Program do?

The Clean Water Program uses a multi-faceted approach to prevent stormwater pollution. Program elements include:

  • Street Sweeping
  • Public Outreach and Education
  • New Development Design Review
  • Industrial and Commercial Facility Inspections
  • Construction Site Inspections
  • Illicit Discharge Inspections and Response/Enforcement
  • Trash Load Reduction
  • Heavy Metals and Legacy Pollutant Controls
  • Storm Drain System Cleaning and Maintenance
  • Storm Drain System Improvements and Upgrades (e.g. pump stations, storm mains)
  • Participation in the Alameda County Clean Water Program
  • Contributions to a Regional Water Quality Monitoring Program

Storm Fund Finances

The City historically has funded its storm drainage program primarily through two sources, the General Fund and the Storm Water Utility Fee established in 1992. Although it was increased in earlier years, the last inflation adjustment, authorized in 2001, was implemented in 2005. Due to changes in State law, the City can no longer increase the fee without the approval of property owners through a ballot measure. For that reason, storm drain fees have not been increased in 15 years. As a result, the City has needed to limit capital expenditures and keep operations and maintenance activities to a less than desirable level of service, mostly responding to storm-related emergencies and basic regulatory compliance.

With a $1 million deficit, depleted fund balance, and over $30 million in capital needs, the Fund is currently unsustainable, with revenues far below Program costs.

How is the rate structured?

The most widely used method of establishing storm drainage rates is to use the average or median single-family residential parcel (SFR) as the basic unit of measure, or benchmark, which is called the single-family equivalent, or SFE.

The metric for the fee structure is impervious surface area. Impervious surfaces are land surfaces that repel rainwater and do not permit it to infiltrate (soak into) the ground.

Based on a random sampling of parcels, the average impervious area was determined to be 59.33%. Therefore, the median parcel in Alameda contains 2,843 feet of impervious surface area.

Lot sizes are measured in acres, with Small under 0.08, Medium between 0.08 and 0.14, and Large over 0.14.

Initiative Timeline

Proposition 218 Requirements:

  • Ballots must be returned to the City by 6:00 pm on November 25.
  • Ballots will be counted on November 26 starting at 9:00 am at City Hall in Room 360, and the process is open to the public.
  • The initiative must be approved by a 50% simple majority of property owners to pass.

What happens if we don't take action?

The Fund will be depleted, reducing the level of service. This means:

  • Reactive, not proactive program
  • Longer response times
  • Reduced storm drain maintenance
  • Less street sweeping
  • No stormwater capital project

Additionally, the risk of catastrophic failure will increase and the City will be less able to adapt to the climate crisis and sea level rise.

Relevant Legislation

The Stormwater Fee is a property-related fee. Property-related fees are subject to the requirements of Articles XIIIC and D of the State Constitution, which were approved by voters in 1996 through Proposition 218, as well as the Proposition 218 Omnibus Implementation Act (Government Code Sections 53750 – 53758).

For more information on Proposition 218, please visit the Legislative Analyst's Office website: https://lao.ca.gov/1996/120196_prop_218/understanding_prop218_1296.html