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    16.    
City Council Regular
Meeting Date: 01/14/2020  

SUBJECT:
DISCONTINUATION OF RESIDENTIAL WATER SERVICE FOR NON-PAYMENT POLICY
RECOMMENDATION:
Adopt Administrative Policy, Section 4.11 - Discontinuation of Residential Water Service for Non-Payment to be effective February 1, 2020.
BACKGROUND/ANALYSIS:
Senate Bill (SB) 998 (Dodd), entitled “Discontinuation of residential water service: urban and community water systems” was signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018. This new legislation will impact current City policies and procedures related to discontinuing water service for delinquent accounts and must be implemented by February 1, 2020. 

SB 998 provides additional rules and procedures before residential water service can be interrupted and is intended to minimize the number of Californians who have their water service interrupted due to their inability to pay. Among the requirements the City would have to comply with under SB 998 are:
  • Adopt a written water interruption policy available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, and any other language spoken by 10 percent or more of the City’s population. The policy must be posted on the City’s website and be available in writing upon request.
  • The policy would have to contain:
    • Payment options including a plan for deferred or reduced payments and alternative payment schedules.
    • A formal appeals process for disputing bills.
    • Telephone number for customers to call to discuss options.
  • Residential water service could not be interrupted until accounts are at least 60 days delinquent.
  • Residential water service could not be interrupted until customer is notified at least 7 business days before scheduled interruption date.
  • Residential water service could not be interrupted if a customer meets all of the following parameters:
    • Provides certification from a primary care provider that disconnection would pose a health and safety threat,
    • Demonstrates they are financially unable to pay, and
    • Willing to enter into an alternative payment arrangement.
  • Offer a payment arrangement/amortization plan allowing at least a 12-month repayment period for outstanding balances to customers that meet the aforementioned parameters.
  • Notify tenants of a multifamily property served by a single meter 10 days prior to service interruption for nonpayment.
     
  • Report annual number of service interruptions for nonpayment on the City’s website and also to the State Water Resources Control Board.
 
In response to SB 998 staff is proposing Administrative Policy, Section 4.11 – Discontinuation of Residential Water Service for Non-Payment which meets the new requirements regarding disconnection of residential water service for nonpayment as required by SB 998. This Policy, if approved, will be located on the City’s website and will be available in all languages specified by law. Attachment No. 1 shows a comparison between the City’s current process and the proposed process to comply with SB 998. Please note that an additional 11 days will be added to the City’s existing delinquency/shut-off period.

Implementation of the Discontinuation of Residential Water Service Policy will require a future update to the broader Utility Billing Customer Service Policy. In recognition of the connection between these two policies, the proposed Discontinuation of Residential Water Service Policy states that it supersedes any other inconsistent policy, so this will give staff time to bring a well thought out revised Utility Billing Customer Service Policy to City Council.

At the January 28, 2020, City Council meeting, staff will present a municipal code update to ensure the Chino Hills Municipal Code is also in compliance with SB 998.
ENVIRONMENTAL (CEQA) REVIEW:
This proposed action is exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (California Public Resources Code §§ 21000, et seq., "CEQA") and CEQA Guidelines (Title 14 California Code of Regulations §§ 15000, et seq.), because it does not involve any commitment to a specific project which could result in a potentially significant physical impact on the environment; and, constitutes an organizational or administrative activity that will not result in direct or indirect physical changes in the environment. Accordingly, this action does not constitute a "project" that requires environmental review (see specifically 14 CCR § 15378(b)(4-5)).
FISCAL IMPACT:
The financial impact of adopting this policy is unclear at this time. Costs associated with translation services are estimated to be around $5,000. There will also be additional costs as a result of having to send shut-off notices in multiple languages. Staff anticipates being able to cover the FY 19/20 costs in the existing budget and will budget accordingly in future budgets. The impacts on revenues due to a lengthier delinquency period is uncertain at this time. Staff will reassess the impacts after implementation of SB 998, and will return to City Council if additional budget adjustments are needed at a later time.
REVIEWED BY OTHERS:
This agenda item has been reviewed by the City Attorney.
Attachments
4.11 Discontinuation of Residential Water Service for Non-Payment Policy
Attachment No. 1 - Billing Matrix

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