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03 • 11 • 2014

Ventura Approves Curb Cuts to Reduce Runoff

Make curb cuts an acceptable, standard, low-cost solution to urban runoff pollution.

The Ventura County Surfrider Chapter, having already worked with G3/Green Gardens Group on a retrofit of a property’s landscape, wanted to address runoff in public rights-of-way, e.g., street. The parkway – the area between the sidewalk and street – typically has a curb that directs runoff to a stormdrain. The Chapter worked with G3 and the City of Ventura to pilot a parkway curb cut design and installation at a residence. G3’s design has now become a standard for the City (which they want to test out on more sites). The result is that the City of Ventura has released guidelines for property owners to pull a no-cost permit to cut the curb and plant a bio-basin, i.e., tree with mulch and plants. The permit appears to be the only one in the country that has no cost, just requires a simple drawing and has a quick turn-around.

The curb cut project led to an asphalt-removing project at a local elementary school. The Chapter is now working with the City on implementing the standard design in two upcoming, City green street projects.

All that is required to make the cut is that the property owner:
(1) Provides a drawing, which can be done by hand, following the G3 design;
(2) Shows proof of property insurance or use a licensed contractor. This can be done at the Building and Safety Departments Plan Check Counter at City Hall, and no appointment is needed, nor any fee.

The parkway curb cuts and basins provide multiple benefits:
(1) Turf grass and irrigation in the parkway typically lead to overspray and runoff into the street, leading to to dry-weather runoff, which is believed to be a greater source of runoff than wet-weather;
(2) Cuts in the curb allow runoff to be absorbed, filtered and used to irrigate plants such as trees;
(3) Trees provide shade, reducing the urban heat island effect.

Approval of this no-cost permit is a potentially precedent-setting action by the Ventura Public Works Department that should facilitate future similar projects in Ventura and perhaps elsewhere in Southern California.