L.A. City Council lets DWP rate hike stand

A divided Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to let a planned 4.8% hike in electricity rates go into effect July 1, despite complaints from some members that they did not understand the proposal when it was approved by the DWP two weeks ago.

The council voted 9 to 5 to conduct another review of the planned rate hike, one vote shy of the total needed to assert jurisdiction over a decision by the Department of Water and Power.

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who previously opposed the hike, was absent. He walked into the council chamber moments after the vote, saying he favored an effort to take control of the rate hike but was unaware that such a plan had been proposed.

“I did not have any idea that there was a voting issue,” said Parks, who had been excused from the council session so he could attend the funeral of former Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and two meetings in his South Los Angeles district.

Tuesday’s vote took place after councilmen Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz said they thought the increase would only be in place for three months. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and DWP officials said the increase would be permanent.

“There was very little discussion, if any, of this being a permanent rate hike,” said Koretz, who represents part of the Westside.

Councilman Tony Cardenas said he knew all along that the increase would permanently increase the DWP’s surcharge on electric rates, taking it from 5.09 cents per kilowatt-hour to 5.69 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The rate hike was approved by Villaraigosa’s appointees on the DWP board on April 15, ending a standoff between the mayor and the council. During that dispute, the utility threatened to withhold $73.5 million from the city’s cash-strapped budget unless its proposed rate hike went through.

One week later, Councilwoman Jan Perry -- in tandem with Parks -- introduced a motion seeking to clarify whether the increase lasted more than three months. Perry opposed the increase two weeks ago.

When the issue reached the council floor Tuesday, Perry asked her colleagues to take control of the rate hike a second time. Five council members voted against that request: Richard Alarcon, Janice Hahn, Herb Wesson, Eric Garcetti and Cardenas.

After Parks walked into the chamber, Councilman Dennis Zine tried to revive the debate but had no success.

Tuesday was the council’s last day to assert jurisdiction on the 4.8% increase.