Local News

Prop. 218 notices arrive in mail; community meetings ahead

By From page A1 | August 05, 2014

Community meetings

What: Property owners and residents can learn more about the Davis-Woodland surface water project and the proposed water rate increases

When and where:

* 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7: Patwin Elementary School multipurpose room, 2222 Shasta Drive;

* 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4: Valente Room, Davis Senior Center, 646 A St.; and

* 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8: Korematsu Elementary School multipurpose room, 3100 Loyola Drive

The city’s brochure detailing its newly proposed water rates is arriving in mailboxes this week, and a further discussion is coming to a neighborhood near you this month and next.

The notices are a far cry from last year, when the city’s consumption-based water rates were stuffed in property owners’ mailboxes — several pages of it. This time, the notice of the city’s new 13 percent fixed rate and 87 percent gallon-by-gallon rate is brochure-sized, not to be confused with those political mailers from the June 3 election.

Why so much smaller? City Councilman Brett Lee said it was a combination of the City Council’s work to simplify the notice and the simplified rates themselves.

“The city is proposing a more simplified, easier-to-understand structure that is already familiar to most residents,” Lee said in a message. “There are two components: a monthly fixed charge and a variable charge based upon the amount of water used. In previous rate structures, we have variable rates that have had different tiered pricing based upon usage levels. And just recently, our rate structure had a unique ‘look-back’ provision, which set the individual future rates based upon the individual’s previous usage.

“I think the City Council heard loud and clear our community’s desire to have a simple, fair, easy-to-understand rate system,” Lee continued. “As a result, the explanation of the proposed water rates does not require the same amount of space as the previous rate proposals did.”

Mayor Dan Wolk said he is proud of the rate structure described in the notice, something he had fought for on the dais.

“Our City Council worked diligently with the community, staff and our rate consultant to devise a rate structure that is fair, legal and financially sound,” Wolk wrote in a message. “In just over a month, our new City Council has made significant strides in the important area of water and I believe the Prop. 218 process will reflect that.”

If everything meets a property owner’s approval, that person will do nothing. That counts as a “yes” vote on the rates under state law. Should property owners not like what they read and hear, it gets more complicated. They will have until the closing of the public comment period at a public hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. to either get their protest mailed in or hand it to the city clerk at the 11th hour.

No oral comments will count as protests.

Written protests should be mailed to City Clerk, City of Davis, 23 Russell Blvd., Suite 4, Davis, CA 95616-3896. All written protests must contain a clear message that the property owner opposes the new rate increases and must provide the location of the identified parcel either by address, assessor’s parcel number or customer account.

The protests also must include the last name and signature of the property owner making the protest. If for some reason the property owner does not show up on the last assessment roll as the property owner, that person must provide a copy of the current city services bill.

At least one person in the community is calling for more information. Former Mayor Sue Greenwald is considering filing a public information request to get the statistics on the mean water usage comparison between single-family homes and multi-family residential buildings — read, apartment complexes — because she said the Prop. 218 notice shows only the first of five years.

Other supporters of Measure P, the initiative that successfully overturned the city’s old consumption-based rates and made the drawing up of new rates necessary, either had no comment or, like local attorney and former City Councilman Mike Harrington, hadn’t seen a Prop. 218 notice yet.

“It does not provide the information necessary for the citizen to evaluate the cross-class fairness of the proposed rates, i.e., how much more single-family homeowners are paying per gallon of water than multi-family landlords or commercial users,” Greenwald wrote in an email. “The last Prop. 218 notice did provide this information.

“It also does not have a chart which shows people how much the single family with median usage will pay in each of the years covered by the Prop. 218 notice following the first year. The previous Prop. 218 notice did provide those charts,” she wrote.

Table 3 of the notice shows a comparison for five years between residential, commercial, multi-family, commercial and large-scale irrigation, but they are by per ccf metered water charge and not an example of median water use by each class.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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