New water rules pass

After nearly a year of back-and-forth between Realtors and city officials, an ordinance requiring all buildings to be retrofitted with water-saving fixtures upon resale narrowly passed this week.

The ordinance — approved 3 to 1 on Tuesday with Councilman David Gordon dissenting and Mayor Anja Reinke abstaining — requires toilets, urinals, showers and faucets to meet California Plumbing Code requirements as a condition of escrow.

The rules found a cold reception from the real estate community early on, but City Hall was quiet when the ordinance was approved.

Since the first introduction of the regulations to the City Council, the ordinance has been modified to require both the buyer and seller to certify compliance with the retrofits. The real estate agent or broker also does not have to certify the installation — a major sticking point among agents who argued it was unfair to hold them legally accountable.


Darin Chase, a past president of the Burbank Assn. of Realtors who spoke out against the legislation last year, said despite the changes, the ordinance came at a poor time.

“It’s hard to sell anything right now. My clients need every penny,” he said. “Ideally, we would have liked to phase something like this in starting as early as next year.”

The retrofit measures, ensuring that toilets and urinals flush with a maximum amount of water and equipping showerheads and bathroom and kitchen aerators with a maximum flow rate of water, will remain tied to state requirements. Sellers, who are responsible for the cost of the installations, will not be required to put in more retrofits when the code changes in July 2011.

The city ordinance also includes a compliance expenditure cap of one-tenth of one percent of the selling price.


“There is no need to go beyond the cap,” Jeanette Meyer, marketing manager for Burbank Water and Power, told the City Council at a hearing earlier this month.

If residents would like to install the water-saving showerheads and kitchen and bathroom faucets themselves, Burbank Water and Power will provide residents with the fixtures for free.

The utility also offers a “Green Home” house call for in-house appointments with customers about their conservation practices, as well as a rebate for installing high efficiency toilets that will comply with 2011 state regulations.

“I think the residents of Burbank have really stepped up to the plate as far as conservation efforts go,” said Councilman Dave Golonski. “We’ve tried to attack this problem at every angle and make it easy for them to conserve.”

Burbank utility customers have cut their water use by roughly 10%, putting the city on track to meet state conservation mandates.

This ordinance is among the few mandatory regulations, as most conservation efforts have been voluntary by the citizens of Burbank. But the drop in water use — a revenue source for the utility — also prompted an increase in rates of 13.5% to help cover the gap.

“We know water is a concern, and it was tough because a lot of entities wanted this to happen,” Chase said. “We’re glad if this helps and are happy though to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.”