When officials in the South Bay's two sanitation districts used dwindling reserves to augment the meager revenue derived from selling reclaimed water and sewage byproducts, there could be only one outcome: a new sewer fee for residents, which is expected soon.
And while the anticipated fee of $12 a year represents no more than the cost of a good dinner to some, the district says it has received hundreds of calls from residents seeking information about reduced charges that are available to single-family homes under special circumstances.
"We feel the charge is reasonable," said Gary Yoshida, a supervising engineer with the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts. "Sewer service is essential, and frankly, for $1 a month, we think it's a good deal."
Yoshida said the charge is necessary because the two districts have depleted most of their pre-Proposition 13 reserves and are unable to raise enough revenue to meet their budget.
Prop. 13 Cited
When Proposition 13 passed in 1978, Yoshida explained, sanitation districts were cut from state funds, and each district was left to scrounge its own operating revenue. Since 1979, he said, both Sanitation District 5 and the South Bay Cities Sanitation District have dipped into shrinking reserves.
"We don't have any alternative," he said of the $12 fee. "It's a health and safety situation. If we don't have the funds, we can't provide the service. If we can't provide the service, we'll be in violation of state and city sanitation codes.
Of the 15 sanitation districts, Yoshida said, 10 have already instituted the service charges, and the remaining five, including the two South Bay districts, are all expected to follow suit soon.
For the first year, Yoshida said, the district will charge only enough to make up the difference for what reserves can't cover. The following year, he said, charges are expected to stabilize at $20 to $24 a year.
Yoshida said the service charge is expected to yield more than $2 million from the two districts, which together cover Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Rolling Hills, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale and Lomita. Parts of El Segundo, Culver City, and Los Angeles city and county are included as well.
Lower Charge of $7.20
Residents owning single-family homes who can prove that they produce substantially less sewage than average, Yoshida said, will be eligible for a reduction to $7.20 a year.
Information meetings for residents of District 5 will be held Tuesday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at South Coast Botanic Gardens; Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Torrance City Hall, and Thursday from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Hawthorne High School.
Residents in the South Bay Cities District can attend information meetings on Feb. 12, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Center Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, and on Feb. 13 at Malaga Cove Intermediate School in Palos Verdes Estates.
The Board of Directors for the two districts will vote on the service charges at a Feb. 20 public hearing at 1 p.m. for the South Bay Cities District and at 2 p.m. for District 5. The hearing will be held at Torrance City Hall, City Council Chambers, 3031 Torrance Blvd.