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East of 17th Street (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — For the first time, City Hall is set to begin installing “pervious concrete” that allows rain water to percolate into the ground rather than flow into the ocean as it prepares to launch its 2011 alley improvement program.

Fifteen alleys in all parts of Santa Monica are scheduled to receive the upgrade this year, with the first project — the alley behind the 1500 block of 17th Street — set to begin on Monday.

The projects are partially funded with money from Measure V, the property tax increase voters approved in 2006 to pay for programs to reduce urban runoff and improve water quality.

“Our goal is to minimize the amount of storm water runoff that makes its way into our storm drains and eventually into the Santa Monica Bay,” Rick Valte, Santa Monica’s watershed program manager, stated in a press release. “Installing pervious concrete gutters minimizes the amount of runoff discharged from our alleys and will help us reach our clean-water goals.”

There’s no estimate of how much water the projects will prevent from flowing to the ocean, but Mark Gold, president of the non-profit Heal the Bay, said pervious concrete makes a big difference.

“What it means is less polluted runoff is going into the bay and polluting our beaches,” he said.

Gold serves as the chair of the Measure V Citizens Oversight Committee.

As a side benefit, the new alleys will provide better flood control, he said, since water will seep into the ground rather than forming ponds.

The alley improvement program is a significant benefit that residents are receiving under Measure V, Gold added.

“It’s a low impact watershed protection approach that goes far beyond just saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to require all new [projects] and redevelopment to do this.’ [It shows City Hall is] going to lead by example.’”

Pervious concrete has been successfully utilized most often in the wet climates of the Southeast and has only recently been implemented in western states, according to City Hall.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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