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February 12, 2012

Redondo Beach Sewer Rates

Redondo Beach is in the 218 process, with a 218 hearing scheduled for later this month, at which the city council will decide if they should raise the sewer rates. This 74-page PDF has the most info on it, including the minutes of the city council meeting where it was discussed in December 2011. They started building their sewer system in the 1930s, but most of it was built in the 1950s and 1960s. It has 112 miles of mainlines. They say that in 2003 they "established wastewater rates." That seems to suggest that the sewers were paid for out of other taxes before then, but I hope I misunderstand that. They issued $10 million in bonds in 2004 to update and improve sewer infrastructure.

The proposed rate increases for single-family residences in terms of percentages:
2012-13: 41.4%
2013-14: 30%
2014-15: 22.6%

Sounds terrible doesn't it?! But it ain't so bad when you realize that the current sewer rate is only $7.25. The proposal is to increase that to $10.25, then $13.25, and finally to $16.25. It's even better for people in multi-family dwellings. An apartment renter in a building with fewer than 4 units pays only $5.64 currently. If there are more than 3 units the sewer rate is only $3.88.

To put that in perspective. MSWD's SFR sewer rate was $22.43, increased to $26.57 in January 2011, and should be increasing to $31.23 right about now I think.

The city council considered tying the sewer rate to the amount of water used at a residence, but besides the usual inequity of higher sewer charges for people who are putting a lot of water on their landscaping, Redondo Beach has another issue. Water there is supplied by Cal Water, not the city. The city gets water usage data from Cal Water on an annual basis and it collects the sewer charges via the property tax rolls. Sewer charges based on water rates, then, could lag one to two years behind the actual usage. In addition, the city engineer says that Cal Water would levy a 20% surcharge on the sewer fee - just for providing the data, I guess.

And, wouldn't you know it, someone is circulating a petition to stop the increase. If Kim Fine can get 10,000 signatures, then that kills the increase. To her favor, she is doing this hard work fully in compliance with 218 as written. This makes her the moral superior, in my eyes, to a handful of people here in the Coachella Valley who ignored the 218 process and then tried to initiate a referendum when things didn't go their way.

Her reason for opposing the increase, according to the linked Daily Breeze article is "I understand why the city needs the money. But they just need to be more responsible in how they get it." She says it unfairly targets small households. Those who use less water should get rebates, she said. I think she means she wants the sewer rates tied to the water usage.

Filed under California | permalink | February 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM

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