Los Angeles

LA City Council Approves Water Rate Hike

The City Council gave final approval Tuesday to increases in electricity and water rates for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers.

Under the water rate plan, the average customer will see a 4.76 percent annual increase, amounting to an additional $3 per month. A monthly bill of $57.79 for the typical residential water user will increase to an average rate of $72.90 at the end of the five-year period, according to an example provided in a staff report.

With the electricity rate increases, the typical single-family household in Los Angeles could see monthly electricity bills go up a total of $12 over five years.

The council only has the ability to affirm or deny the rate hike plans, which were previously approved by the LADWP board, which consists of members appointed by the mayor.

Tuesday's vote finalizes the council's tentative approval of the LADWP rate increases. Because the decision last week was not unanimous — Councilmen Mitch Englander and Gil Cedillo cast the dissenting votes — the rate proposals required a second vote.

The City Council also approved a set of recommendations aimed at helping LADWP to ensure the projected additional revenue will go toward projects and activity that improve or maintain the efficiency and reliability of water and power service.

Councilman Felipe Fuentes, who chairs the Energy and Environment Committee, said last week he has "reservations" about the electricity rate hike plan, but feels "we have to move forward."

"The consequences of not doing something really outweigh the impacts of what's being proposed," he said.

Utility officials say the rate increases are necessary to upgrade aging water pipes, make energy use more reliable and meet environmental mandates, though some in the city have noted that the hikes will not be nearly enough.

"These rate adjustments are frankly minimal" and are aimed at fulfilling environmental, legal and financial obligations, LADWP General Manager Marcie Edwards said.

But without taking steps to reorganize the utility to rein in bureaucratic and other types of inefficiencies, Edwards said she is "not willing to ask our customer owners for more" at this time.

City leaders are weighing a November ballot initiative that would change the governance structure of the LADWP, including bringing in full-time, paid members to the utility's board.

The rate hike plans had key support from Mayor Eric Garcetti, environmental groups, neighborhood council leaders and business groups such as the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

More than 2,000 letters protesting the rate increase were submitted, according to the city clerk, but they were not enough to constitute a majority opposition to the rate hikes.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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