July 24, 2013
Sewer Tax Increased over Residents’ Objections
The long heralded pilot shuttle service that was to link the businesses in the Hayden tract with the Expo Line rail station and downtown Culver City took an abrupt turn off the highway Monday night when veteran council watchers asked if anyone had bothered to check with the workers in the largely industrial area to see if there was even a need.
The motion failed on a vote of 2-2 with one abstention. Council members Andy Weissman and Mehaul O’Leary voted in favor with Mayor Jeff Cooper and councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells in opposition. Vice Mayor Jim Clarke abstained.
Seth Horowitz, General Manger of the Culver Hotel, spoke enthusiastically about the proposed shuttle, “All the businesses in downtown are very aware of the prospect of getting people to the downtown in a quick and efficient manner.” Horowitz told the council he had spent time talking to business owners and employees in the Hayden tract about the pilot program.
“There is tremendous enthusiasm from the employees of the prospect once they understood what was being provided.”
Steven Rose, former mayor and current President of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce commented in opposing the plan. “The way it’s being planned is backwards. The DBA and the Hayden Tract need to know what the costs are and what the burdens are on property tax owners. Why the Hayden Tract businesses were not asked where the stops should be. You need to outreach the Hayden Tract.”
He questioned how the shuttle would be continued after the nine month pilot program ran out.
Sahli-Wells commented that she didn’t see how the pilot program would be funded at the end of the nine months, saying she did not feel it was a good use of public funds.
While Weissman said he was “skeptical” of the program he was willing to proceed with the pilot program. He commented that he had spoken with Haden Tract business owners who were opposed to the shuttle and did not want their employees leaving work for extended periods of time for lunch. He recognized the lake of dining facilities in the industrial areas.
Cooper said he was disappointed as he has not seen the droves of people coming to Culver City since the Expo line opened. “There are plenty of other ways people can get downtown.” He indicated that the Downtown Business Association should look towards ways of funding a shuttle if they want it.
Clarke was concerned that if the pilot program fails it will be another 20 years until it is tried again. Clarke articulated his concern by saying the last thing he wanted to hear was, “Oh my God there goes that shuttle with nobody on it again.”
It was approximately 20 years ago the city leased a trolley to run riders up and down Culver Boulevard. The program was short lived especially after Jody Hall-Esser, the city’s Chief Administrative officer at the time, was waiting with the public information officer to ride the shuttle in front of city hall and the driver blew right by them.
Staff said the shuttle would have to generate 140 riders per hour in order to cover costs.
The proposed shuttle would have operated between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm during weekdays only. The pilot program would have cost the city approximately $200,000.
The council increased sewer rates on Culver City residents and business owners by a vote of 5-0.
The increase will raise sewer rates each year for the next three years with the increases averaging four percent per year.
Forty letters of protest were received by the city clerk along with two speakers who cited increasing city sales taxes and a struggling economy as reasons to reject the tax hike.
The city claims the increases are needed to adequately fund the cost of providing sewer services in the city. Increased cost from the City of Los Angles to treat the waste along with projected salary increases and capital improvements were cited as the need to raise sewer taxes.
Sewer taxes were last increased in 2007/08. The increase is will be retroactive to July 1, 2013 and will be shown on property tax bills mailed in October.