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San Diego City Council approves water rate increase

Running water
Posted at 6:25 PM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-21 20:04:18-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved what they call a pass-through rate increase for water that would go into effect at the start of 2023.

The city says it purchases roughly 90% of its water from the county's water authority. Every year, the authority increases rates due to maintenance, operations and water costs from metropolitan water districts.

The city says it needs to up rates for everyone in order to buy water, but there are many who believe the claim isn’t true.

Last year, the city voted to approve a 3% rate increase that took effect this year.

Tuesday, the council voted to increase rates again, saying the 3% increase for all customers would go directly to the San Diego County Water Authority.

“Whether you deliver 10 units or 11 units, the 11th unit doesn’t cost San Diego any more money,” said Steven Tindall, who is a partner at Gibbs Law Group.

Tindall represents single-family residents who are customers of San Diego in a class action lawsuit against the city.

During a trial last year, the court found the city had an unconstitutional rate system, charging customers more for water than it takes for the city to deliver the water.

“The judge issued a ruling, a judgement saying that the damages were over $79 million that San Diego was liable to the class for," Tindall says. "And in addition, it is not just the $79 million… Each month they do not change the rates, and they have not done so to make them constitutional, the judgment amount goes up by $643,000.”

During public hearing, the city addressed the case and said it was filing an appeal to protect its method of charging higher rates to the high-end users.

Tuesday’s decision to increase the rate does not pertain to the rate structure. But the city says it will help them pay off their cost increases, which is estimated at $14 million.

“We don’t take this lightly, raising rates. We are trying to keep things down the best we can, but it is clear to me that this adjustment is necessary because the people who we are buying the water from are raising their rates,” said Marni Von Wilpert.

However, customers like Maria Lopez, who has four generations living under her roof, weren’t happy with the decision.

“I already have four jobs to pay the bills, so if they increase the water, it’s just going to be more hard for the families,” she said.

The city says it will be giving all of their customers a 30-day notice before the rate increase takes effect. Tindall says as far as the appeal goes, it could take a year or two just to fight it, and the longer the city denies its mistakes, the more cost in damages it will accrue.