Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 2:31 pm | Fair 70º


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Santa Barbara Council Approves 3 Percent Rise in Water Rates

The council also makes progress on amendments to the Conejo Slide Area Ordinance

The Santa Barbara City Council has agreed to a compromise between the Finance Committee and city staff by raising water rates 3 percent for the next fiscal year.

The council also agreed with the city staff’s recommendation to increase wastewater rates 4 percent and to suspend the Sewer Lateral Incentive Program that has subsidized $2.7 million for repairs to private laterals since 2007. Laterals are the pipes that connect a private building’s sewer system to the public main.

“This year in particular is a tough year for rate increases,” said Councilman Das Williams, chairman of the Finance Committee. “So we should minimize rate increases.”

Water Resources Supervisor Bill Ferguson asked the council for a 3.5 percent increase in water rates because the Zaca Fire increased the amount of particulate in the local watershed, forcing the city to spend about an additional $2 million on water treatment.

“We never adjusted rates to account for that,” City Administrator Jim Armstrong said.

Ferguson also said a 3.5 percent increase was needed for the Water Fund to maintain the reserves required by the council and to pay for unfunded future projects to continue refurbishing more than three miles of pipe every year.

The council also made progress on several amendments to the Conejo Slide Area Ordinance to allow four homes that were destroyed in the Tea Fire to be rebuilt.

The amendments will allow Lynda Dye, an ecologist with the National Park Service, to live in and expand her home, which is a recognized historical landmark even though it is still located in the landslide area.

The amendments will be up for adoption next week.

“I’m pleased that it has come this far,” Dye said. “It’s nice to have the ability to add on to it if I wanted to.”

Grover-Hollingsworth & Associates, a geotechnical consulting firm from Westlake Village, was hired by the homeowners to conduct a survey of their properties’ geology to prove it wasn’t unstable.

Chief building official George Estrella repeatedly expressed concerns about the construction of sheds, walkways and walls within 25 feet of the slide area, saying the load could cause “detriment” to the slide area.

Mayor Helene Schneider thanked city staff members’ for working toward the conclusion of adopting the amendments.

“I just want to underline that so the people’s lives can move forward, and that’s so important,” she said.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne will be a junior at Chapman University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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