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Local holds onto water board seat

Former Planning Commissioner Maria Mehranian is reappointment to regional body.

November 30, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com

La Cañada Flintridge resident Maria Mehranian navigated the shoals of local government during her eight years on the city’s planning commission, but now she’s knee-deep in water issues.

Mehranian left the Planning Commission in 2008 to join the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, and on Monday was appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to another four-year term.

An urban planner by training who specializes in large infrastructure projects as a managing partner at the Cordoba Corporation in Los Angeles, Mehranian is no longer guiding La Cañada development. But she said that the water board’s mission to improve water quality affects all residents of L.A. County, including her hometown.

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“It’s an issue that does not only belong to the L.A. region or the state of California or the city of La Cañada, but it’s a universal issue, and we need to be very smart about it,” she said. “And everything that I’m learning about water at the large scale of the state also applies to La Cañada.”

Mehranian’s return to the water board wasn’t guaranteed. First, Brown had to appoint her, despite her being a hold-over from the prior administration, and then her appointment required confirmation by the state Senate. That confirmation came last week.

Not all of the existing board members were re-appointed. According to the water board’s website, four of the 10 spots are waiting to be filled.

The board’s mission is simple, said Sam Unger, executive officer of the agency.

“The water board’s mission is to protect and enhance water quality,” Unger said.

He cited the improvement of water quality at L.A. beaches and in the L.A. River as two of the projects the Water Board has undertaken during Mehranian’s first term.

“She’s very intelligent she asks good questions, she has good judgment, she’s patient, and very effective,” said Unger. “She knows what issues to focus on so that the board makes good decisions.”

Mehranian said the panel’s next major role is to determine how the county can improve its utilization of storm and groundwater.

“We don’t look at ground water and storm water as debris or waste, but how we [can] store it and we treat it and are able to use it smartly for years to come, so that we reduce our dependency on imported water,” she said.

These are measures that could be applied to La Cañada, which has worked to become a more water-smart city in the last few years, said Mehranian.

“If we could create more permeable spaces that could retain the water, as opposed to letting the water shed and end up in the ocean, [that would be] very good,” she said.

Mehranian said during her time on the city’s planning commission, tighter regulations were put in place for development to improve environmental impacts as well as public safety. She sees the city as moving in the right direction.

“I’m happy that I see the city start embracing some of the sustainability ideas in the development code,” she said. “Especially in La Cañada, where we have the issues of the mudslides after the fire.”

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