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Rising water rates puts HOA at crossroads

Posted at 4:30 PM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 08:46:42-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As San Diegans continue to battle soaring inflation, a proposed hike in water rates could drive the cost of living even higher next year.

Now, one group of homeowners could decide to pay for a big change now, to avoid more increases later. They're the 192 owners at The Lakes at Carmel Del Mar, a condo complex that has five lakes and winding walkways surrounded by grass.

"It's a huge selling point, people come in, like to see units off the street, and then they walk in and that's often one of the big driving factors to purchase here," said Gordon Gilbreath, vice president of the complex's Homeowner's Association.

Gilbreath said all that natural beauty comes at a cost. The HOA monthly fee has grown to $425, largely because water bills keep rising.

And starting January 1, the San Diego County Water Authority is proposing to increase wholesale rates by 5.2 percent for treated water, which is what virtually all San Diegans. The agency says the proposed increases are due to inflation, higher energy costs from SDG&E and cost increases by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The Water Authority's full board will vote on the rates June 23rd, and that could mean yet another potential increase in monthly HOA fees.

Now, it appears some owners have had enough. There's a new proposal to take out 80 percent of the grass in the Lakes complex, and replace it with drought tolerant landscaping.

Up front, it could cost $150,000 to $200,000 dollars, but savings would come in the form of less water use and potential rebates.

"The last few meetings it's actually been pretty contentious," Gilbreath said.

The owners will soon have to decide -- put in the desert type look, or continue the tradition of all that grass growing. A vote could take place in the next couple of months.