San Diego City Council Approves Sewer, Water Rate Hikes (KPBS Midday Edition

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The increase will hit single-family homes hardest, while multi-family homes such as condos and apartments, as well as nonresidential rate payers will actually see a decrease of 5% and 12.1%, respectively.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Single family. Homeowners will bear the brunt of our sewer rate increase approved by the San Diego city council Tuesday, but council members who approved the hike unanimously say that’s only because single family units have not been paying their fair share of the bill. The rising rates are aimed at updating an old sewer infrastructure, which could collapse in some areas. The height will also add funds to the city’s pure water sewage recycling system. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune reporter David Garrick. David, welcome. Thanks for having me now, rates will start going up for single family homeowners next year, but not for multifamily units and businesses. Why is that?

Speaker 2: 00:41 Well, it turns out they did an analysis, which is required by state law to make sure that they’re not overcharging or undercharging anyone. Uh, and the analysis showed that the people live in condos and apartments and businesses have been overpaying for a long time, uh, based on the city’s previous calculations and that people who live in single family homes have been underpaying by a significant margin.

Speaker 1: 01:01 And how much will rates increase for a single family payer?

Speaker 2: 01:05 It will be 17% immediately. That’s in January of 2022. And then it’s about 31% over a four year period. Uh, so that’s a pretty steep, steep increase. And

Speaker 1: 01:15 How much has that in dollars and cents?

Speaker 2: 01:18 Uh, well, if you take a typical single family that uses, I guess, 700 cubic gallons, I, I always get confused on what they use, but basically a typical family, uh, in a single family home, their bill now is about $40 and 52 cents a month. And that’ll go immediately to $47 and 64 cents. And then it’ll slowly climb up to like 49 51 and then buy, it’ll be $53 in January of 2025.

Speaker 1: 01:43 And then rates actually go down next year for businesses. And multi-families tell us about that.

Speaker 2: 01:50 Yeah, well, I mean, you could look at it as, wow, that’s a frustrating if you live in a single family home to see if the other people go down on the other hand for about the last 10 years, it appears that people in condos and apartments have been overpaying. So in a way you could look at it from either direction, but yes, they will see an immediate dip, uh, 10, 12% for people in condos and apartments and then 5% for businesses starting in January

Speaker 1: 02:12 We’ll rates eventually go up over the five years for businesses and multi-families,

Speaker 2: 02:18 They want to try to correct it as soon as possible. So what happens is next year. So I think that that is correct, although it kind of flattens after that initial increase or decrease. So I would say if you’re in a business or kind of an department, the next five years is mostly stays breakeven.

Speaker 1: 02:31 This doesn’t seem like a particularly great time for the city to raise rates as people’s struggle out of the pandemic. What kind of rationale did city council members give for their vote?

Speaker 2: 02:43 They certainly recognize the fact that there are folks who are still struggling from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and that this is definitely not an ideal time to do that. Uh, unfortunately the city is in a weird spot on sewer rates. They haven’t raised them in about 11 years and they haven’t actually studied the issue since 2007. And that’s partly because of the great recession that happened back in oh 7 0 8. Uh, they had just adopted new rates at that time. And that turned out that the rates were probably too high. Um, so they didn’t feel they had any need for additional revenues. They just left it alone. And now 14 years later, it’s time to, to figure out what’s been going on with sewer rates. Uh, and so it really is a, they say a really needed increased infrastructure has aged a lot in that 14 year period. And the city has moved forward on this pure water program as a sewage recycling system, it’s going to make San Diego more water independent, but it’s also,

Speaker 1: 03:34 Here’s something council member Raul Campero said about raising the sewer rates.

Speaker 3: 03:40 We live in one of the least affordable regions in the United States, but we have a duty as elected officials to make those hard decisions that councils pass a fail to do, which is to present you the public with the current reality.

Speaker 1: 03:51 Let’s talk about that pure water program. David, how will the city’s pure water program benefit from this rate hike?

Speaker 2: 03:58 Uh, this rate hike will, uh, provide a lot of the money needed to build the pipeline and the treatment facility that are the key elements of pure water. Uh, pure water is part of the city sewer and water system. So it’s going to be funded by rate payers and raising rates on rate payers as part of the way to pay for

Speaker 1: 04:14 And how important is pure water to the city’s long-term sewage structure. And I guess overall a water structure

Speaker 2: 04:22 It’s essential. We live in a desert and we are constantly facing the threat of drought, that’s people and businesses and our economy. Uh, and this will create some water independence for San Diego. Uh, we’ll be less reliant on imported water. Uh, but on the other hand, as, as critics will say, is it is, it is quite expensive to do it this way. Uh, and so this is sort of the, the, the bill has come due on these, these rate increases. And for

Speaker 1: 04:44 Anybody who feels there was a certain unfairness in the sewage rate hike, it’s good to know a water rate hike is for everybody. It was approved by the council yesterday. How much was that and why?

Speaker 2: 04:55 Uh, it’s a 3% increase. It’s a pass through, they call it a, which means that it was basically an increase in the cost of imported water from the county water authority. And that the city says we’re just sort of passing it on to customers. And they also sort of to their own horn saying that it was a 5.6% increase and they only passed on 3%. Um,…

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