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City Council Doubles Water Rates

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica

Santa Monica Apartments

Santa Monica College
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Santa Monica, CA 90405
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By Jorge Casuso

January 30, 2020 -- Santa Monica residents, landlords and businesses will see their water and wastewater bills double over the next five years after the City Council approved new rates Tuesday.

City officials say the rates -- which affect 93,000 residents and 2,700 businesses -- will eliminate costly imported water and continue to pay to replace the city's water pipes.

“Local Santa Monica water will be even more dependable and more affordable in the long run," said Mayor McKeown in a statement issued after the vote.

"Our long-term investment in local water sources and infrastructure will save Santa Monicans money when distant water imported through quake-vulnerable aqueducts and pumped over mountain ranges becomes ever more expensive,” McKeown said.

Under the new rate structure, water and sewer bills will increase an average of 17 percent each year over the next five years ("City Council to Consider Doubling Water Rates by 2024," January 27, 2020).

That amounts to a $36 increase on an average bi-monthly bill for a single family home, a $48 increase for an 8-unit building and an $87 hike for a commercial building each year.

City officials say that even with the "substantial" increase Santa Monica's rates will remain among the lowest in the region because half of its water comes from 10 wells the City bought a century ago.

As part of the new rates, a drought rate structure will be established in case of a statewide emergency, City officials said.

Most neighborhood groups opposed the new rates, saying they are skeptical they will help meet the City's goal of eliminating imported water by 2023.

"Residents have taken the lead in water conservation, having sharply decreased their water usage, to an extent much greater than the City predicted," the North of Montana Association (NOMA) wrote in a letter to the Council.

"The City, on the other hand, has failed to establish a record over the last 5 years that leads to confidence among residents that it has a workable plan, that it has set out goals it can realistically achieve and that it has a full grasp of the current situation."

The letter was quoted by other neighborhood groups who wrote to the Council opposing the increases.

Opponents of the new rates warn that proposed developments in the City's planning pipeline will make the goal of being water self-sufficient a moving target.

"The City will never achieve water self-sufficiency if it continues to allow rampant, ill-advised development," wrote former Planning Commissioner Geraldine Kennedy.

"Developers surely make more per square inch by building hotel room sized units (and) packing in more users of water."

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