Council Approves New Water Rates

Despite the threat of a lawsuit from one of its members, the Los Angeles City Council gave final approval Wednesday to new water rates that will benefit residents who live on large lots, have large families or reside in hotter parts of the city.

The restructured rates will now be sent to Mayor Richard Riordan, who is expected to approve putting the new billing system into effect June 1.

Council members voted 9 to 4 in favor of the revamped costs, which will mostly benefit residents of the San Fernando Valley.

Opponents of the measure iterated their argument that the new rates will penalize water users in poorer parts of the city and give a break to more affluent residents.

"It's unconstitutional," said Councilman Nate Holden, adding that he will file suit over the changes if the mayor approves them. "It does not provide equal protection under the law."

But backers of the new system said it would correct an inequity created in 1993 when the council adopted a two-tier pricing system to impose a high rate on heavy users and a lower rate for more frugal consumers.

The formula was aimed at promoting water conservation, but resulted in high bills for many Valley residents, creating "inequities even greater than the ones you're pointing out," Councilman Joel Wachs told opponents of the new system.

The new rate structure is based on a complex formula that factors in lot size, household size and climate type. The higher tier applies when a household uses more than 125% of the water consumed by similar-sized households citywide.

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