LA to double sewer fees, which most landlords can’t pass on to tenants

City Council approves price hike already “baked into the budget” of Mayor Karen Bass

LA’s Doubling of Sewer Fees to Hit Landlords Hard
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass with Valley Industry and Commerce Association's Stuart Waldman and Daniel Yukelson of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (Getty, VICA, AAGLA)

Landlords in Los Angeles are about to get whacked with double sewer fees.

The City Council has voted 11-4 to double the fees over the next four years, despite the objections of business groups who say landlords will be disproportionately affected, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Councilmembers Monica Rodriguez, Kevin de León, Imelda Padilla and Heather Hutt voted against the rate hike.

“This sounds like a jam job,” De León said of the rate hike process.

The increase was trumpeted by the Bureau of Sanitation to fund the rising cost of construction and materials. The bureau said that labor costs will rise 24 percent over five years because of worker pay raises backed by Mayor Karen Bass and the council.

Bass’ proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 depended on the rate hikes. Rodriguez told the council that the higher fees were “baked into the budget,” and called for an independent analysis from the city’s Office of Public Accountability.

Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, urged the council to support the increase — the first since 2020, when the council sidelined discussion of higher fees because of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, this is one of those situations where we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place,” said Yaroslavsky, who called the fee raise “not insignificant.”

The city will notify 850,000 parcel owners about the rate increase: if most object, the hike fails because they’re considered a property use fee under Prop. 218, according to officials.

Under the increase, the bimonthly sewer charge for a typical single-family home will increase to $92.04 in October, from $75.40, according to sanitation officials. By July 2028, the rate would rise to $155.48, more than double the current rate.

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For apartment buildings with four units or less, the typical charge will rise to $177 in October, from $145, and $299 in July 2028.

For buildings with five units or more, typical rates would go up to $1,047.84 in October, from $858.40, and to $1,770.08 by July 2028.

Landlords whose units are rent-controlled, meaning most of the city’s apartments, generally can’t pass on water costs, which are linked to sewer costs, to their tenants, according to city officials.

Before the council vote, business groups accused the city of failing to properly explain the need for the fee increases.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, also called the fee hikes “rushed.” He accused officials of failing to do enough public outreach.

“This is the wrong way to do something that increases rates so drastically,” Waldman told the Times.

Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said landlords were barred from raising rents for several years because of the pandemic, while facing other rising costs.

“Such an increase on this massive scale will prove to be yet another straw that breaks the back of the city’s rental housing providers,” Yukelson told the Times. “There’s no end in sight for such a mismanaged city with its bloated salary and overall cost structure, wasted resources and insatiable appetite to seek new and higher taxes and impose significantly higher fees on ratepayers.”

— Dana Bartholomew

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