Some residents of West Hollywood’s Westside are opening their mailboxes to find stunningly large water bills from the City of Beverly Hills.
One local resident provided WEHOville with a copy of his latest bill, which totaled $455.98 for a two-month period ending Jan. 17, an increase of 214% from the previous bill of $145.
“Like most people, I have a tiny house and tiny yard, and there just isn’t 30% to cut back on,” the resident said in an email to WEHOville, citing the reduction in water usage that Beverly Hills is demanding. Without that reduction the city has begun to levy penalties. This resident’s bill showed usage of 18,700 gallons of water in the same two-month billing period last year and 19,448 gallons used in the latest two-month period. One factor in the usage increase was a water main break, for which the City of Beverly Hills said it would reduce the bill by $5.
“I have three people living on the property – two households,” said the resident, whose name WEHOville is not reporting in respect for his privacy. “I am writing an appeal to the City of Beverly Hills, but my phone call this morning to them doesn’t give me any hope. They basically said tough luck and that I would need to reduce my water usage.”
In October, Beverly Hills began applying penalty surcharges to the bills of water customers who fail to reduce water usage by at least 30% from the equivalent billing period in 2013. The penalty is not applied to so-called Tier 1 residential customers, those who use from 748 to 7,480 gallons of water in a two-month billing period. The penalties are:
— For customers who use between 71% and 87% of their 2013 baseline consumption target, the penalty is 1.59 times the base water rate.
— For customers who use 88% or more of their 2013 baseline consumption target, the first level penalty is 1.59 times the base water rate for usage between 71% and 87% PLUS an additional 3.08 times the base water rate for water usage that is 88% or more.
The Beverly Hills City Council also voted last year to increase water rates by 5% in November with an additional 5% increase in March 2016 if needed. The city argued that water conservation, which it is encouraging, also is reducing revenue needed to operate the water system. Beverly Hills provides water to an area of roughly 368 acres in West Hollywood whose approximate boundaries are Doheny Drive on the west, Sunset Boulevard on the north, Flores Street on the east and on Beverly Boulevard on south. The rest of West Hollywood is served by the L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP).
Last month the Beverly Hills council postponed action on another water rate increase presented by the city’s Public Works staff that would have had a major impact on residents of West Hollywood’s Westside. The council asked the staff to make a number of changes in the proposed increase including devising a different rate structure. It also raised concerns about how water charges would be allocated among residents of multi-unit buildings where individual condos or apartment don’t have their own water meters.
The proposal considered by the council would have boosted the overall average rates for single-family residential customers in WeHo by 22%. The exact increases would vary according to which of four tiers of water usage a homeowner fell into. Apartment and condo building owners would have seen their rates increase 52% on average. Businesses would have faced an average rate increase of 24.6%. The size of those increases reflects the fact that Beverly Hills charges its West Hollywood customers 25% more than its Beverly Hills customers.
Beverly Hills’ Public Works said the 25% surcharge levied on its WeHo customers is “in recognition that Beverly Hills has extended service out of the city limits to customers that had not contributed to the City’s General Fund which funded the initial construction of the City’s water system.” Beverly Hills established its own water utility in 1928 when it purchased the Sherman Water Company.
The LADWP, which serves 70 percent of West Hollywood residents, is planning to implement this year its first rate increase since 2008. If approved by the LADWP board and the L.A. City Council, the increase will also include a change from a two-tier billing structure to a four-tier billing structure for individual homes. Apartment buildings would still have a two-tiered billing structure. Under its current timeline, LADWP expects the first rate hike will go into effect during the first quarter of 2016. Incremental adjustments would be made on July 1, 2016, July 1, 2017, July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. The proposed increase has not yet been approved by the L.A. City Council.
Because of California’s serious drought, Gov. Jerry Brown last April signed an executive order implementing a mandatory 25 percent water cutback in cities and towns across the state from 2013 usage levels. It took effect June 1.
Some suggestions to help you comply with the 30% reduction in water use: Stop using the garbage disposal, use only electric razor, no more brush and soap; stop watering anything which grows in the ground – put your posies in pots; “if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” – flush only after 3 or 4 yellows; buy a tankless water heater which will not store water; share the shower with a friend….etc., etc. Our penalties have only been around $30 and that’s after cutting use by about 18% from 2013 on top of an increase… Read more »
Jason: Individual water meters for apartment units are cost prohibitive relative to their actual water saving potential. The state (and most cities) wont rebate their installation because the return on investment is so low. You might pay your shared water bill costs but that is a term in your rental agreement and not consistent across the state – some do, some dont. Mostly its apartment owners paying the bills and they’re the one’s agitating for someone to pick up the tab for installing sub meters. The cost to put sub-meters in apartments units across LA County would vary from $1-5k… Read more »
The penalty surcharge – level 2 has gotten the attention of the residents and HOA of our condo complex on Doheny. The water bill was $500 per unit for the two-month period. This breaks down to $125 per person, per month for our family of two. The trouble is that we collectively get one water bill and have no way of monitoring and adjusting our individual unit’s water usage. If the city and state have an agenda for condo units to cutback on their water consumption then we need to think about incentives for multi-tenant buildings to install individual water… Read more »
Nominations are in for Lynda & Stewart Resnick with their expanded acreage of formal gardens and orange grove fronting on Sunset Blvd. Of course hidden from the general public eye are their water hungry pomegranate, pistachio groves etc. part of their organic agricultural philosophy. ROLL, their corporate entity just keeps rollin.
We had a house guest last month and it cost us $30 more in penalties. Bev Hills Water is basing their numbers off usage in the year 2013 – and we traveled a lot that year…so our water usage was lower than most other years. While tracking our water usage on their website, I can see that our average usage is below that of our neighbors and consistently lower than what we used in 2013 (so we ARE saving) but it doesn’t matter. The City is trying to save water. The penalty system is flawed, but these penalties are sure… Read more »