Residents and businesses on the western side of West Hollywood will see their water rates increase in March thanks to a 4-1 vote Tuesday night by the Beverly Hills City Council. However, their overall water bills will likely go down slightly thanks to elimination of a special surcharge for West Hollywood customers.
With that vote, water rates will change from a simple structure charging for tiers of water use to a more complex one that retains the tiers, but redistributes the rate burden among customer classes (single-family homes, multi-family buildings and commercial businesses), service areas (Beverly Hills vs. West Hollywood) and services used.
The vote also ended the 25% surcharge Beverly Hills has been charging its West Hollywood water customers for the past 90 years. However, thanks to the new service area and customer class distinctions, West Hollywood residential customers will still pay approximately 16% more than Beverly Hills residential customers, while WeHo commercial customers will pay about 13% more.
Under the changes, Beverly Hills will instead charge West Hollywood customers an extra $.82 per hundred cubic feet (HCF) (748 gallons) of water to cover things Beverly Hills residents pay via property taxes, such as public safety services, governmental facilities and right-of-way maintenance connected to the water system.
Additionally, all customers, WeHo and Beverly Hills alike, will pay a “reliability” charge which will cover infrastructure upgrades as well as finding new sources for water. That reliability charge is $.23 per HCF for Beverly Hills and $.38 per HCF for West Hollywood.
In total, West Hollywood customers will now pay $.97 more per HCF than Beverly Hills customers. So, with the 25% surcharge eliminated, a single-family home in West Hollywood will see its bi-monthly bill for using 15 HCF drop from $139 under the old rate to $117 under the new rate.
West Hollywood City Councilmember Lauren Meister, who has been leading the charge against the 25% surcharge for years, was pleased by the Council’s vote.
“It’s moving in a positive direction. The fact that the difference between Beverly Hills has gone from 25% to an average of 13% to 16% is definitely the right way to go,” Meister told WEHOville after the vote.
However, Meister is still concerned Beverly Hills is not giving West Hollywood customers credits on their bills for expenses the City of West Hollywood incurs when there are water infrastructure issues in West Hollywood.
“It doesn’t seem fair if there’s a water main break in West Hollywood, it’s our fire department that comes to see what’s going on, not your fire department. It’s our sheriffs that are there moving traffic, not your police department,” Meister told the Beverly Hills Council. “We don’t feel that is something that has been considered.”
The only other West Hollywood resident speaking during the public comment period was Marquita Thomas. She spoke against the 25% surcharge, saying,“it’s time to end what is essentially a Robin Hood in reverse policy and eliminate the surcharge altogether.”
A Beverly Hills city staffer reported the city had received a total of 20 letters opposing the rate hike, eight of which were from WeHo customers.
Beverly Hills Vice Mayor John Mirisch cast the only vote against the hike. Mirisch has a long history of voting against any type of fee increases the city implements.
Beverly Hills provides water service in West Hollywood to the area bounded by Sunset Boulevard on the north, Doheny Drive on the west and Beverly Boulevard on the south, while the eastern boundary varies greatly but goes as far east as Flores Street in some areas. Residents living in other areas of West Hollywood get their water from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LA DWP).
Beverly Hills began providing water to that area in1928 when it purchased the Sherman Water Companywhich was servicing the then unincorporated area that would eventually become West Hollywood. To pay for the cost of the purchase, Beverly Hills imposed the 25% surcharge on West Hollywood customers.