'Water wasters of Beverly Hills', and other DWP rate issues

Scolding and shaming the rich and powerful water wasters in Beverly Hills. The city was supposed to cut down on its water usage by 32% compared to its 2013 rates.

But the city didn't meet its mark and now it's sending letters to the biggest offenders. More than 80 letters went out, scolding and penalizing some of the most wealthiest residents.

Among them, actress Amy Pohler who was fined $2,200 dollars for over usage.

Director Brett Ratner is also a big offender, he says there were multiple leaks found on his property and is working to replace all the pipes.

Media mogul David Geffen is perhaps the worst offender, using 1.6 Million gallons of water over two months. That's 60 times what an average LA family uses. He was charged more than 30,000 dollars. His usage did decrease 56% the last billing cycle and he's asking the city for permission to drill a well on his property. Water conservation advocates say the problem is too many people, not enough water to keep up with demand.

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

The council voted 12-2 last week in support of the LADWP board's decision to increase the rates over the next five years.

Because the decision was not unanimous -- Councilmen Mitch Englander and Gil Cedillo cast the dissenting votes -- the rate proposals need to return for a second vote today. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson was not present for the votes last week.

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 would increase to an average rate of $72.90 at the end of the five-year period, according to an example 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.

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.

Edwards' statements came as city leaders are weighing a November ballot initiative to change the governance structure of the LADWP, including bringing in full-time, paid members to the utility's board.

The rate hike plans have 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.

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