Customers Complain of DWP Grass Rebate Program - NBC Southern California
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Customers Complain of DWP Grass Rebate Program

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers say a grass rebate program is slow and hard to navigate.

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    Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers say a grass rebate program is slow and hard to navigate. Consumer Investigator Randy Mac reports for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (Published Friday, Dec. 19, 2014)

    Just months after the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power increased its rebate for replacing lawn with drought-friendly landscaping, some customers who've signed up say the program is slow to respond and hard to navigate.

    In an effort to encourage removal of water-loving turf, the LADWP, in partnership with the Metropolitan Water District, pays $3.75 per every square foot of grass its customers remove.

    The recent .75 increase makes it the highest reimbursement rate for residential customers of any utility in Southern California.

    To qualify, customers must submit an application with photos of their lawn and their landscaping plans.

    Once their project is finished, they're supposed to get a check.

    "We spent approximately $2,500 to pull up the lawn, prep the ground, replace the sprinklers, buy the plants and plant the plants," Hollywood Hills resident Alan Winters told the KNBC4 I-Team.

    The LADWP promised to issue a rebate check for about $2,000 within a few weeks.

    "Three months later, we still had not seen anything," said Winters.

    The I-Team has reported on frustrations with another LADWP rebate program.

    Customers who've applied for rebates after installing solar panels told KNBC4 Consumer Investigator Randy Mac it's taking months to have their new system activated.

    In the case of solar panel rebates, LADWP officials said they weren't prepared for the increase in demand that came as the price of solar panels declined.

    In his struggle to be reimbursed for removing his turf, Winters only got results after making contact with a customer service representative, and calling her relentlessly.

    "I bugged her every few days for six weeks," Winters said. "About five months later, we got our reimbursement check."

    Penny Falcon, the LADWP’s water conservation policy manager, insisted Winters' experience is unusual.

    "Typically, it takes about six weeks to cut the rebate check," she said.

    However, Falcon admitted that red tape can slow down the reimbursement process.

    "It's a custom program, so there's a lot more parts to it," she said. "It requires a lot more time and effort on both the customer's end, but also on the staff side."

    Despite the delays, Winters is glad he took part in the program.

    "The good news is, we ultimately got the money we were supposed to get. The good news is, we’re saving $150 a month on our water bills," he said. "So it's a great program … that's very difficult to navigate."