WeHo Westsiders Face Significant Increases in Their Water Rates

Residents of the west side of West Hollywood will see their cost of water climb with rate hikes approved last week by the Beverly Hills City Council.

The Beverly Hills council voted to increase rates by five percent in November of this year with an additional five percent increase in March 2016 if needed. In addition, residents and businesses that have not achieved mandatory reductions in usage will find themselves levied with a penalty. The Beverly Hills Drinking Water Enterprise serves an area of 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 the city is served by the L.A. Department of Water and Power (DWP).

beverly hills, west hollywood, drinking water enterprise
The Beverly Hills Drinking Water Enterprise service map

The rate increases are intended, in part, to compensate for a decline in revenue because of drought conservation measures. “The City is projecting a revenue shortfall based on increasing costs to operate and maintain a reliable water supply and decreasing revenues due to conservation efforts,” said a staff report to the Beverly Hills City Council. The staff report projects a decline of $5.7 million in revenue because of conservation and an increase in expenses of $1 million, part of which will pay for the addition of a Water Resources Manager and other staffers.

The owner of a single-family home with three people who consumes an average of 33,000 gallons of water every two months currently would expect to be billed $261. With the November increase that bill will go to $274 and then to $288 in March. However the extra penalty levied for not meeting water reduction guidelines, which currently is in force, could increase that bimonthly bill to $416 for a homeowner who doesn’t cut his usage by 23 to 30 percent from its 2013 level.

Sam Baxter, West Hollywood’s assistant city manager, wrote a letter to the Beverly Hills City Council expressing WeHo’s objection to the rate increase.

“West Hollywood residents are already paying 8% more than Beverly Hills residents for the use of water,” Baxter’s letter said. “The proposed additional rate increase imposes an unfair burden on West Hollywood residents.

“The demographics of West Hollywood are unlike those of Beverly Hills. West Hollywood has a denser population with more multi-family dwellings. Comparatively West Hollywood residents do not use water for irrigation or ornamental landscapes but use more water for personal use.”

Baxter also cited steps West Hollywood is taking to comply with Gov. Jerry Brown’s order that water usage be reduced statewide by 25 percent because of the drought. He noted that the city bans watering turf or ornamental landscapes within 48 hours of rainfall, prohibits use of drinkable water to clean the air during construction projects and provides one-on-one outdoor landscaping advice to those residents served by the DWP.

Beverly Hills has been providing water to the area for decades. In 1928 it purchased the Sherman Water Company, which provided water to the then-unincorporated west side of what was to become West Hollywood. In 1948, Beverly Hills started receiving water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) http://www.mwdh2o.com/, which now serves the rest of West Hollywood. It also operates four groundwater production wells of its own which supply about 10 percent of its water supply.

West Hollywood City Councilmember Lauren Meister has followed the Beverly Hills Enterprises’s efforts to reduce water usage and raise fees in recent months, attending Beverly Hills City Council meetings to speak on the issue.

Meister said she didn’t think conservation by existing residents would solve the drought problem if the city did not stop approving new development projects that bring more people to West Hollywood and increase the overall consumption of water.

“So, if current customers have to continue to conserve water, and current customers’ rates keep rising, yet new, large developments with higher water usage are still being approved, does that mean we, the current customers, are basically subsidizing these projects?” Meister asked.

Meister noted that developers of new projects routinely receive a letter from the Beverly Hills Enterprise acknowledging that it will provide the project with water. But, Meister said, such letters really only indicate that the Enterprise will provide the pipes to supply the water and don’t address the impact of new construction on overall water use.


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Manny
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Manny

@dp freedrick….Is that also the case with DWP?

dp freedrick
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dp freedrick

One of the reason’s WeHo West residents pay more for water than their Beverly Hill’s neighbors is that the City of West Hollywood does not pay into the maintenance fund for pipe and infrastructure upkeep – so that is just another cost the City skirts and passes on to residents.

Disco Dan
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Disco Dan

West Hollywood residents are essentially ignorant of compliance (gas leaf blowers, yard sales, etc.). And there are far too few city employees to illuminate the residents. Assuredly, this is a result of over-development. The fear of the future is well founded.

fine7760
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The article stated Beverly Hills puchased the Sherman Water Company. Where did Sherman get their water from and perhaps if it’s wells in West Hollywood we could gouge them for the water taken?

Rudolf Martin
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Rudolf Martin

I’m sure there are the usual 20-40% of us conserving water out of concern for the collective good but the majority seems unconcerned, I see sprinklers happily sprinkling all over my block, neighborhood and all over our city, often in the middle of the day, mostly just rinsing sidewalk and cars. I do not doubt there is also some unfair gouging from BHDWE that should be addressed but the crux of the problem will only be solved with a more progressive price structure that takes occupancy into account, goes easy on reasonable users but raises rates to much more punitive… Read more »

Lynn
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Lynn

Did Council Member Meister speak at any of the BHCC Meetings and if so which ones?

Truth be told...
Guest
Truth be told...

Maybe we needed a better negotiator.. Meister was not effective.

Lynn
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Lynn

It would be interesting to know the amount of Lynda Resnick’s ( family of 2) water bill with her Gardens of Versailles and orange groves on three parcels of Sunset Blvd. Perhaps she might consider subsidizing BH’s expenses undertaken in their conservation efforts and then set an example for appropriate water consumption. We won’t get into her agricultural interests in San Joaquin for the POM pomegranate groves etc.

Manny
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Manny

So let me get this straight….We pay more for using less….and now that we’re asked to use even less, we’ll pay even more…..and if we use more, so that BH can make money, we have to pay more than more.

Forget all this talk about getting our own police department….how do we get from under the sewer that is Beverly Hills Water?