L.A. City Council Approves Water and Power Rate Increases

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Search under the cushions of your couch for an extra seven-and-half bucks a month. If you live in Los Angeles, you're gonna need that money to pay your water and power bill in a little more than a year. The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to give final approval to proposed rate increases for water and electricity. KPCC's Brian Watt went to City Hall for the vote.

Brian Watt: Exactly how much water and power bills will rise over the next few years depends on how you run the numbers. The City Council voted to let the L.A. Department of Water and Power, or DWP, increase base electricity rates by 9%, and base water rates by 6%. The higher rates would take full effect in July of next year. But Councilman Richard Alarcon, the lone "no" vote against the power rate hikes, felt that DWP hadn't come clean on exactly how much more its customers would be paying for power.

Richard Alarcon: It's that kind of deception that creates the kind of distrust that creates havoc in our community and, and really gets them angry at the city of Los Angeles, and also the DWP.

Watt: The L.A. Times had reported the DWP has already been upping electric rates 1% every three months since 2006, and could continue doing so, on top of the increases the City Council was approving. Put it all together, said the Times, and bills could go up 23% over a four year period. The DWP's General Manager David Nahai said those 1% increases covered the rising costs of things like the natural gas needed to fuel the DWP's power plants. And Nahai reminded the council members that they had authorized those increases.

David Nahai: And what is shocking is that anybody is shocked.

Watt: That irked Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

Janice Hahn: I think it's a little disingenuous for you to say you're shocked that we're shocked. I think that's probably what bothers people a lot, is that attitude.

Watt: Nonetheless, Hahn voted for the electricity rate increases. But she joined Alarcon and Dennis Zine in opposing the water rate increases. The DWP says it needs the extra money to upgrade equipment that dates back 60 years. Humberto Camacho of the Pico Union Neighborhood Council said he didn't mind paying more for electricity.

Humberto Camacho: But I need to have something in writing that the Department of Water and Power within six months is going to repair so many miles of cable, and also, that nothing is gonna go wrong.

Watt: Angelenos can expect to pay an average of seven and a half dollars more per month for water and power by the summer of 2009. Nick Patsouras, who chairs the DWP's board of commissioners, says he takes the added responsibility very seriously.

Nick Patsouras: To some of us, seven and a half dollars a month may be a glass of wine. Some people, some seniors living on social security, it's a lot of money.

Watt: So Patsouras said he won't approve any more rate increases until the Department of Water and Power proves to its L.A. customers that it's using the new money to upgrade aging equipment properly.