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Water, Sewer Rates Likely to Increase $4, $5 per Month

The city council will vote in May whether to raise water rates 12 percent and residential sewer rates 9 percent.

With water and sewer rates regularly increasing over the last few years, more increases are likely to occur again in the near future, according to the city. The city council will consider a $4 per month in water rates and $5 per month in residential sewer rates.

These rate increases are nothing new, as increases have been occurring over the past few years. This particular increase would likely be just one of regular increases in the future due to constantly rising costs of repairing, replacing, and maintaining these critical systems. The cost increases pay directly for the increasing service costs.

The city is hosting a community information meeting on Wednesday, April 4, 7 p.m. at the Public Works Services Building to provide more information about the rate proposals.

To protest these rate increases, residents must submit a written protest by 5 pm, Monday May 7, 2012, to Water/Sewer Rates, City Clerk, City of Redwood City, 1017 Middlefield Road, Redwood City, CA 94063, or may be presented to the City Council prior to the close of the Public Hearing that evening.

The increases cannot be approved if more than 50 percent of affected property owners submit a valid written protest. If approved, the rates will begin July 1 of this year.

“As difficult as these rate increases may be, I’m sure you’ll agree that no one wants to turn on their faucet and see it run dry, or experience a sewer line break in their neighborhood,” said city spokesman Malcolm Smith in a statement. “And it’s important to have these systems in a condition to resist damage when the next big earthquake hits.”

Smith added that the city’s rates are similar to or below the average for Peninsula communities.

The city is also working on the following regional and local projects, which are also funded by the rate increases:

Sewer projects:

  • $200 million over the next 10 years for Redwood City’s share of the replacement of outdated facilities at the regional sewage treatment plant
  • $100 million over the next ten years for the repair/replacement of the City’s aging sewer infrastructure

Water projects:

  • $80 million over the next 20 years for the repair, replacement, and maintenance of Redwood City’s drinking water system
  • $10 million annually over the next 30 years for Redwood City’s share of the seismic upgrade of the Hetch Hetchy water system, the sole source of drinking water (in the form of regular and significant increases in the wholesale cost of water) 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) owns the Hetch Hetchy water system and is raising the cost of water by 10 percent to Redwood City. These annual rate raises can be as high as 38 percent, such as last year.

To avoid these sudden large increases, the city tries to balance these raises by approving more steady, moderate increases every year, typically lower than the Commission’s increases, through its rate stabilization fund.

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Jennifer Tegnerud April 03, 2012 at 02:10 PM
First it was the trash, now the sewer fee, 12% this year how much the year before, how much next year?? There is no ceiling to these rate hikes! I have a serious problem with how easy it is for RWC to raise any rates. "The increases cannot be approved if more than 50 percent of affected property owners submit a valid written protest." I just did this for the trash rates, now I need to write another letter, but unless 1/2 of RWC property owners do this it will pass. Who writes letters anymore, what about emails, or signatures collected? Whoever voted that to be the way to knock down a proposed rate increase, knew that there would never be 50% of property owners even aware of an increase, let alone writing in letters. The formal procedure of protesting needs to be changed. The problem starts with the letters we get in the mail that most landlords probably don't get or don't open. There needs to be banners above Jefferson on the train tracks about it, and people asking for signatures outside Whole Foods and Safeway, then we could stop all these increases! I'm not against valid increases every few years, but this seems to happen every year.
Sarah H. April 03, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Jennifer, I couldn't agree more! My bi-monthly water/sewer/garbage bill is now about $250!! Over $100 of that is just for sewer connection. It's outrageous! We use as little water as possible, and yet we are still somehow over each month from the baseline. We don't irrigate our lawn and minimally water what few outdoor plants we have. We'd love to put in a garden and make the place look nicer, but we'd be choked by the additional water charges. The sewer charges are what really get me though. You are correct, there needs to be a better way to protest. The flyer that came from the city looked like a piece of junk mail, so easily tossed. And the idea that we need 50% to submit a formal protest is daunting. So, yet another onerous increase will quietly pass. I really wish the city would stop nickel and diming us! Also, I think, and I could be wrong, but I believe those that live in the unincorporated areas of RWC (including Emerald Hills) pay much lower rates. Would love if someone could confirm that.
Alison White April 03, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I agree!! In the last 3 months I paid over $14,000 in plumbing repairs. Wonder if RWC contributed to my problem with their "so called" sewer repairs. Alison W. ps I use as little water as possible, yet rates continue to go up.
Jennifer Tegnerud April 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Don't get me started on our sewer lines, we spent over $5k repairing them in the last 2 years, and the last time Roto Rooter ran through our clean out he said there wasn't anything blocking our line, probably something in the main line, which is RWC responsibility. I have never seen them out cleaning the sewer lines. I would rather have them do that than waste money on street cleaning. I just looked at my water bill last year at this time to this year increased $50! Can't we create a generic letter where people can fill in their own address and sign their own name to protest. I would sit outside WF and do that, then personally walk the letters down to City Hall. I might just do it....somebody has to start!
2 steaming April 03, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I agree prices are out of hand and no public offical listens. They have their hand out for eveything they can take...forget who foots the bill
Sarah H. April 04, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Sad that there are only three people commenting on this. Where is the public outcry? These perpetual increases need to be stopped!
Sheila Neufeld April 04, 2012 at 08:02 PM
But yet the City employees have new cars/trucks to drive........wonder how they could afford them??
Barb Valley April 05, 2012 at 08:48 AM
@Jennifer, did you read the mailer the City sent to all Redwood City water and sewer customers explaining why a rate increase was being sought? I don’t understand how anyone could confuse a mailer with the City logo, a return address of a City Department and clearly addressed to Water/Sewer Customer with junk mail. The information was and is available on the City’s website plus the above article contains the same info. There was a community meeting this evening at the Public Works Office on Broadway where more information was conveyed and there an opportunity to ask questions and get answers. I know you weren’t there and neither were Sarah, Alison, 2Steaming, or Sheila. Too bad. @Sarah, How much is it worth to you to be able to flush your waste away? As far as not being able to put in a garden – think native plants. And check out the free Landscape classes the City offers. @Alison, you didn’t indicate what kind of plumbing repairs you needed but it is doubtful your problems were caused by the City. @2 steaming, public officials, i.e. the City Council, are residents of Redwood City and as such they are impacted by these increases as well.
Barb Valley April 05, 2012 at 08:49 AM
: Jennifer, the City is responsible from the cleanout to the main. They have no responsibility for the sewer lines on your property.. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t call the City to have them check if the problem was on their side before you called Roto Rooter.
Barb Valley April 05, 2012 at 08:50 AM
Sarah, perhaps the three people commenting are the public outcry.
Barb Valley April 05, 2012 at 08:51 AM
Sheila, you’re referring to City owned vehicles and not employees’ personal transportation, right? There’s actually a simple answer – the City budgets for them and I believe they are paid for from the General Fund.
Jennifer Tegnerud April 05, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Barb, having a 3 month old and just having paid all my taxes and a $450 water bill doesn't leave me much extra time or cash this time of year to hire a babysitter so I can attend the meeting. So, to address your comments, I did read the mailer, and it upset me to read about yet another rate hike when year over year it is around 9%. If you read my first comment correctly, the real problem is how hard it is for us to protest. But who is going to protest when RWC does NOT inform the land owners effeciently. RWC is on large part a rental market, many landlords don't even live here. My neighboring duplex is run by a property mngmt company and the owner is in Texas. These mailers get thrown into the mail addressed to all the addresses in RWC. The research is not done to actually find the address and send them to the actual parcel owners. I know this because my notice would go to a different address. I just happen to live in the property I own so I get the notice. Here is the other issue, I rented here for 9 years.I had to pay my water and trash bc my landlord did not pay it for me. So better yet, RWC should inform the person who pays the bill of an increase. Informing landlords who push the water and trash on to their tenants won't argue against an increase they don't pay. I promise if more of the bill payers got these letters of rate increase intent, there would be more protests. Again, protesting should be easier than it its, but it starts with informing the right people first!
Jennifer Tegnerud April 05, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Barb, I would rather pay Roto Rooter to come clean out my line first, than wait how many days of not being able to shower or use the toilet, until the city comes out, who would probably then tell me it's my line and not theirs.
Jennifer Tegnerud April 05, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Moreover I found this document form when they hiked the rates last time. In it it down at the bottom under "Other Billing Facts" it (http://www.redwoodcity.org/finance/utility/pdf/Fact_Sheet_Rates_Billing_August2011.pdf) clearly states that using less water won't effect your bill because as much as 85-90% of it is FEES, only 10%-15% is usage. So trying to lower my water by planting indigenous plants like palm trees, morning glory vines or lavender bushes(which is what my tiny yard consists of) is not really in the end an effective way at all to lower your bill. In fact the main issue I see is how out of control we as homeowners are when it comes to reducing our water bill at all, $45 which is 10% of my bill is my entire water fee, so I can't just not use water to reduce my bill. I can understand that there are upgrades and work to be done on the water lines etc, but can't their be another way of finding the large sums of money like bonds or something else rather than raising our rates every year, rates we can't lower by using less water because they are fixed.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 05, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Something we are leaving out of the equation. The water is bought from the San Francisco owned Hetch Hetchy system, which has been raising rates faster than we have.
Sarah H. April 05, 2012 at 03:35 PM
But, Lou, the sewers are 100% RWC, and that's the part of the bill that irks me the most. Almost half of my trifecta of water/sewage/garbage bill is just for the sewer connection. I rent my home and I am responsible for this bill. Rents are going up, PG&E is going up, RWC utilities are going up. Add in the rising costs of telephone and cable, as well as Internet services (lack of competition there), and one must budget at least another $500-600 a month on top of their monthly rent, or mortgage payments, for the most basic of utilities. I really don't understand why the sewer rates must go up and up and up. Also, I am again interested in knowing if and what the difference is in these utility bills for those in unincorporated parts of RWC.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive April 07, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Not sure why yours is going up by that much. We have two houses on our property -- one a rental -- and the combined increases you mention are less than $50 per billing period (once every two months for water, sewer and trash) for us. So You might want to check into the city about what you are being charged.
residentwithopinions July 22, 2012 at 05:00 AM
I don't know about you guys but I just got my new bill and I am appalled at my hikes. My water service charge went up $10 my Sewage went up $19.12 and my cost per unit went up $0.31, so my overall bill is $46 MORE than the last bill which $30 is non adjustable. Are kidding me? This is a big problem, and the problem is how easily the city hands down these hikes to us even if they are just passing down the hikes from Hetch Hetchy. RWC I will be moving to another city very soon if you continue to raise our rates like this, it is UNBELIEVABLE, in this economy that you would gouge your residents and stick us with the bills yet give out how many salaries over $250k and a $12000 raise to the city manager! ABSURD! I am fuming!
Sarah H. July 24, 2012 at 04:51 PM
RWO, I also just got my new bill. The sewer portion of bill is $115.76. That is just the sewer!!! My sewer bill is higher than my water bill. This is INSANE!
Stacy Robertson August 28, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Here I am, another RWC resident pissed off about the enormous water/garbage I'm recieving. I remember a few years back thinking $115 was a lot now $256!! IT'S RIDICULOUS! I'm a single parent and I cannot afford that kind of water/garbage bill....heck, thats almost my car payment!! It's a joke and there is nothing we can do about. All I can think of to make my bill lower is to cut back on watering plants, minimize when washing dishes and taking showers and baths. UGH this is not right!

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