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Residents Get Final Chance to Protest Santa Monica’s Proposed Water Rate Hikes

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

February 6, 2015--Conservation could come with a price hike for residential water users in Santa Monica when City Council members vote this month on raising residential water rates.

If approved, proposed water rates for some 22,000 customers could jump by 9 percent in the first year, followed by a 13 percent increases for the next four years, City officials said.

“It compounds year to year and at the end of five years it equates to a 78-percent increase,” said Santa Monica Water Resources Manager Gil Borboa.

Although the Council approved the rate hikes in concept at its meeting on December 16, “it’s not a done deal,” Borboa said.

Residents and property owners can still submit a written protest against the increases, he said. Letters must include the person’s name and address and must specifically state that the writer is opposed to the proposed increases. 

This week, a flyer posted at Santa Monica High School asked parents to complete an opposition form and send it to City Hall before February 24, when the City Council will vote on a resolution adopting the rate hikes as law.

Property owners, including owners of condo units, can submit one written protest per property, according to the notice.

“State law requires that public notification be given at least 45 days before the public hearing, at which time the Council will take final action to approve the rates,” Borboa said.

If a majority of property owners in the City -- more than 50 percent -- submit written protest before the February 24 meeting, “then the rate increase will not happen,” he said.

Rate hikes are needed, officials said, in part to offset projected revenue losses from water savings.

Last year, the City Council approved mandatory water restrictions that also required a 20 percent overall reduction in Santa Monica’s water consumption.

As a result, water sales are expected to decline. That revenue drop will “adversely effect” the City’s Water Fund, which pays for the distribution system, according to a City notice outlining the hikes.

“The proposed increases will improve the financial position of the City’s Water Fund” and “reduce the risk of revenue shortfalls from projected reduced water sales,” the notice said.

Some of the rate increases, however, also will go to pay for “sustainable programs that will help the City reach its goal to become self-sufficient in water resources by 2020,” Borboa said.

If adopted, the rate hikes would go into effect March 1.

Even with increased water rates, residents could still reduce their bills overall by meeting the City’s 20 percent reduction goal, he added.

“It actually does work out that way,” said Borboa. “If people reduce water usage, they’ll pay less for water and will feel very little impact from the rate increase.”

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