Attention Walmart shoppers: The price of cool, refreshing Santa Monica water is going up — that’s unless you say, “Not on my watch!”

City Council will hold a public hearing tomorrow night on a water rate increase that could see municipal water bills jump by nine percent this year (starting March 1) and 13 percent for each for the next four years. It’s a fait accompli unless “50-percent plus one” Santa Monica property owners/water customers file written protest petitions with City Council.

Protests must be in writing and include the property owner’s name, signature, and street address, parcel number or water account number and specifically state: “I am opposed to the proposed increase in water rates.” Petitions will be accepted at the City Clerk’s office until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, then at council meeting itself until the close of the public comment portion of the water hearing.

Emails and faxes are acceptable. Emails must include the completed, signed protest form attachment. You can scan the completed, signed form and attach it as a file to your email. Only one written protest counts per property.

Look for Kate Bransfield’s full page ad in the newspaper. It features a petition form you can fill out and fax (310 394-2962) or email ( as an attachment or personally deliver it to City Hall. You can mail your protest today to the City Clerk’s office, 1685 Main Street, Room 102, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Or, you can also drop off your completed form at Kate Bransfeld’s office, 1608 Montana Avenue before 5 p.m. Tuesday and she’ll deliver it to council chambers before the hearing.

Condominium owners who pay property taxes can file a protest even if their building has one central water tank. Renters with a master water service are ineligible to file a protest.

Only a property owner/metered water customer can officially oppose the water rate increase. If the protest fails and the rate increase is approved by council, the chances are, if you are a tenant in an apartment building with a master water service, you’ll experience a rent increase because landlords will push hard for approval to hang the additional water cost on us tenants or request including it in the annual general rent adjustment.

Now, I know all you renters out there have already received a notice from Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) about a possible rent increase if the protest fails, because it has renters’ backs. Right? Right!’ The silence from SMRR is deafening because they’re counting on tenants/ voters forgetting (when the next election rolls around) that it did nothing to thwart rent increases due to more costly water.

So run, walk, bicycle, take the Big Blue Bus (but, don’t drive – it’s not good for the environment) to City Hall and file a protest!

Critics not allowed

The Housing Commission met in the Main Library a week ago for a public review of its policies and plans regarding the state of low-income/affordable housing in the city. I don’t go to these meetings because they’re cheerleading sessions — in this case for as much low-income housing as the city can get.

If you attend these — and other city board/commission meetings — and ask some tough questions or criticize the stance a particular board or commission embraces, you’ll get the stink eye, be shouted down or minimalized — in other words treated like a gun-control advocate at a National Rifle Association convention.

A reader of this column emailed me that she had attended the Housing Commission meeting, asked an unpopular question and was ignored. She also said the commission was using 2000 census figures. Seriously?

Is traffic improving?

We all remember the “no net new car trips” that city traffic planners said would result once the now dead Bergamot Transit Village with hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space and nearly 500 apartments was built and occupied.

The latest traffic study from Planning Director David Martin (“City: Afternoon rush hour has improved“) claims “peak hour afternoon traffic dropped about 18.6 percent between 2007 and 2013” and “fell by 1.89 percent between 2011 and 2013.”

The devil is in the details and Martin’s latest tome is full of little demons. Take this line: “Traffic on all 10 major corridors studied by City Hall fell during afternoon rush hour between 2007 and 2013 but rose on some streets, like Lincoln, Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic, and Pico boulevards between 2011 and 2013.” In other words afternoon traffic actually increased on major thoroughfares.

“A slight increase in vehicle counts during the 2011 evaluation period can be attributed to the improving economy and other external factors,” city officials said. “The total 2013 counts show, by and large, relatively stable numbers from 2011 levels.”

Remember, that Santa Monica was suffering a serious economic downturn during the study’s earlier period. Another big problem: data is at least two years old, so it’s valid only from an historical point of view.

The proof is in the driving and that has become more difficult despite figures trumpeted by Mr. Martin. But, if his data is accurate, it proves that city traffic engineers have failed miserably in managing traffic and reducing congestion. It would also appear that City Hall’s $20 million 5-phase traffic signal synchronization project which is 90 percent complete is making things worse, too.

What’s next? Telling us that bus stops are major transportation hubs like light rail stations?

Bill Bauer can be reached at

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