LET’S FIX THE FIXERS - Living in the Glassell Park area in northeast Los Angeles, we've been like most Angelenos trying to save water and energy. First we drained our old pool a couple of years ago to save water. Then we set our thermostat to 78 or 80 degrees to save energy. We got the DWP superefficient shower heads. Now, at the urging of Governor Brown and the Mayor, we let our grass die to save water and be good little Angelenos.
To put this in context, we have already suffered two power blackouts in the last couple of years, including three full days without power after very high winds hit our area. We have watched our sewers back up as gentrification, house flipping, upgrading, and building have ripped through our area, even as the DWP denies there is nothing wrong. And we have also recently seen water pipes break in our area--not surprising since it is one of the older parts of Los Angeles.
So here's our reward: Mayor Garcetti recently went on a radio show and explained how we should turn the water off when we brush our teeth. Really? Even as crews are running around fixing up the neighborhood the Mayor used to live in (over by the reservoir in Silver Lake,) and even as the Mayor entertains the high and mighty at the City’s Mansion in Hancock Park.
After reading Jack Humphreville’s article about the proposed 30% DWP rate increase, I started laughing. Honest.
You see, I think that Jack is an optimist. With the DWP infrastructure on a 300-year replacement cycle (yes, that’s 300 YEARS,) even the proposed rate increases won't begin to actually fix the problem. And if you live in northeast LA, which is one of the oldest areas of Los Angeles, do you really think that the DWP is going to replace pipes and poles simply based on how old our infrastructure is? Fat chance. The relatively affluent, politically active, and influential (meaning give money to campaigns) folks are going to call their Councilmembers and get the goodies as usual.
What you and I will get, just like the last time there was a water shortage, is another rate increase. See if this sounds familiar: "Since you have been so good about conserving water, we have discovered that we have less revenue, so in order to make up for the revenue shortfall, we will be adjusting rates upward." Have a nice life.
The other reason I'm writing this article is that I had one of those “aha!” moments the other day. As I was trying to drive from downtown through Echo Park to Glassell Park on Glendale Boulevard, it was almost impossible. First, there, is massive building going on. I mean thousands and thousands of apartment buildings and condos and god knows what else going up like crabgrass on steroids, from downtown LA all through northeast Los Angeles. Everywhere. And the reason I was having a heck of a time driving was because of all the potholes and lane closures there are so the City can rip up our streets to provide these new developments DWP services.
“Aha!” I thought -- how much are these developers actually kicking in to pay for infrastructure, including the repair of the streets that are being destroyed so they can build. And exactly where does our City Council think the water is going to come from? God? The Tooth Fairy? And most important of all, are these developers actually paying a dime to fix the DWP infrastructure so that they can get reliable services, including the water that we don’t have? You know—the same pipes that are already bursting under the current pre-development loads?
Humbug. Readers will know that I’m a fan of math. So, add thousands and thousands of new people in LA, subtract the current crumbling water and sewer system, and guess what? We are so screwed. Remember, recent DWP estimates are that it would cost between 12 to 15 billion dollars to fix our current DWP infrastructure. The rate increase that is being talked about isn’t even a rounding error. It’s what was already needed before the developers gave us the coup d’ gras.
You and I know that the “city-electeds” bend over backwards to grant variances and other goodies like cheap land and tax incentives so that developers can build ugly edifices housing thousands of folks with absolutely no concern for our water and power needs. I think these officials all plan on being termed out of office before it really hits the fan. If you don't believe me, just take a look at any of the CityWatch articles on how many millions (that's right, millions) of dollars the City Council members have extracted from the DWP for their own pet projects…projects that have absolutely nothing to do with running a utility company.
There, I feel better. Maybe, like the Mayor says, if we all turn off the water while we brush our teeth and let our grass die, we’ll save enough water for the development projects.
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Secondary editor: Linda Abrams.
Vol 13 Issue 59
Pub: Jul 21, 2015