With little fanfare, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday voted to relieve Woolsey Fire victims of more than $2 million in fees that would otherwise have been imposed by local Waterworks District 29.
Third District Supervisor Sheila Kuehl put forth a motion for the Tuesday, July 23, meeting that would waive fees for water system improvements, after lobbying by local nonprofit the Malibu Foundation. Kuehl later wrote she hoped the fee waiver would “aid the ongoing recovery efforts and ease the burden of those rebuilding.”
The fee waiver (or refund, where applicable) would apply to residents and business owners seeking to rebuild without increasing the water load allowance, except where mandated for updated fire codes. The fees being waived include “water supply charges and other fees,” and is not a complete waiver of water fees but takes away a large percentage of the fees levied by LA County.
“For example, the district’s water system infrastructure improvement costs, which are recovered by the levying of various water fees and charges as specified in the rules and regulations of the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts and the Marina del Rey Water System, are required to be paid before reconstruction is allowed on damaged properties because of the upgrades in district infrastructure required to meet current fire-flow standards, which are higher than when these homes were originally constructed,” introductory information from the supervisor’s motion read.
“Typically, these water supply charges and fees are levied on new or redeveloped structures. However, because of the devastating event of having their homes and properties destroyed by the Woolsey Fire, these water supply charges and fees become applicable to the fire victims when they rebuild their homes,” the motion read. “These water fees and charges would add to the already heavy losses faced by those residents displaced by the fire and may present a barrier to some who seek to rebuild.”
The estimated savings to Waterworks District 29 customers seeking to rebuild after the Woolsey Fire total about $2.2 million, according to county estimates.
Kuehl did not speak about the item at the meeting, where the motion was not discussed by supervisors before it was approved; however, she wrote about the program in a blog post dated July 23.
“This week, the board passed my motion authorizing the Department of Public Works to waive certain water fees and charges in Waterworks District 29 for properties destroyed in the Woolsey Fire. In Malibu alone, the Woolsey Fire destroyed 670 structures with an estimated market value of at least $1.6 billion,” Kuehl wrote on her blog at supervisorkuehl.com. “This motion will provide some relief to those who have already borne the brunt of the Woolsey Fire’s destruction. It will waive certain water fees for fire rebuilds, which totals $2.2 million. I hope this will aid the ongoing recovery efforts and ease the burden of those rebuilding.”
Reaction to the decision was positive in Malibu, including on the part of local Realtor and Malibu Times columnist Paul Grisanti, who called the development “exciting news!” in his guest column this week.