Mayor Seeks Water Citation Relief for Residents

 3,217 Administrative Citations (fines) for “excessive water use” were issued to SJC customers in October, November and December of 2015 and applied to customers’ February water bills. Water fines for the First Quarter, the dryer months of July, August and September, totaled 2,166, but were not issued, according to City staff. The fines result from Governor Brown’s Emergency Executive Order that cities reduce water consumption by 28% annually during the drought. Failure to meet the reduction goal could result in hefty fines to the City.

City staff say they calculate fines quarterly based on the “budgeted amount” of water customers used in 2013, rather than on their actual usage. However, Proposition 218 states that the City may not charge more for water than what it actually costs to deliver it to customers.

Mayor Pam Patterson believes part of the problem may be the City’s tiered water billing formula, for which the City was sued in the past. During the April 19 City Council meeting, Patterson stated, “Despite the clear language of the Governor’s Order, it appears that the City of San Juan Capistrano is imposing punitive measures against its residents beyond that which is required by [the] Executive Order. In fact, it appears that, once again, the City continues to base its water charges on a tiered system already found to be in violation of Proposition 218 by the California Appellate Court. ” As a result, Patterson, who is an attorney, introduced a resolution which seeks to reduce rates by reviewing and if necessary revising, the City’s tiered billing and water citation formulas.

 In addition to the tiered billing, the method used by City staff to calculate water usage may also contribute to excessive water fines. Mayor Patterson pointed out that the Governor mandated a 28% annual reduction, not quarterly as is now being imposed by the City. Patterson said that if residents were sent a warning in each month or quarter that they failed to achieve the mandated 28% reduction, they would at least have an opportunity to reduce their water consumption by year’s end. As it stands now however, the mayor said residents are fined before they even have an opportunity to cut back on their water usage and therefore avoid the fines. 

I am troubled by the many complaints the City has received from residents who are being fined for excessive water use. Our residents have already been subject to illegal and unreasonably high water rates levied by the former council majority, so I want to find a way for the City to give the residents some relief from this additional financial burden and to make sure our rates comply with the state mandate and with the law,” said Patterson.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I agree the city of SJC creates the water rates based on a formula they feel is fair. The city of SJC creates the water bill structure. They are not qualified to set the rate, add fees, and make arbitrary decision based on a standard of water usage in 2013. They have never been a water company. They create bills and collect monies. Residents have been complaining for six years about high water bills that exceed surrounding cities. There was a lawsuit and after months of 200.00 water bills, I finally received compensation of $80.00. This in no way compensates me for the over water billing including fees for ground water which we do not have access to. My irrigation system has been turned off for three years now. All of my fruit trees are dead. Add to that my home backs to a constructions site which generates dirt and dust daily. I have no choice but to hose off the patio furniture. I have communicated with the developer and he said, "get a lawyer." I am so disgusted with the way our city is being run. Every single developer should be forced to set up an escrow account with a fund for damages to surrounding properties. And, the city water department needs to be run by people who actually bill us for what we use each month not some tier based on consumption in 2013. End of rant.

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