Palo Alto residents will be asked to swallow higher water rates starting next month to help pay for a colossal regional effort to repair the aged Hetch Hetchy water system.
With little discussion and few protests, the City Council unanimously approved on Monday, Sept. 19, new water rates that would add 25 percent, or about $18.31, to the monthly bill of the average water customer. The smallest customers, meanwhile, will see a 10 percent increase, which will add about $2.91 to the average bill.
The new rates would further increase what are already some of the highest water bills in the region. According to a report from Ipek Connoly, a senior resource planner in the Utilities Department, the city's water rates are about 14 percent higher than the average surrounding city. The lone exception is Menlo Park, where water rates are about 14 percent higher.
The main driver behind the latest increase is the $4.6 billion project undertaken by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to fix up the vast network of pipes, reservoirs and dams that makes up the Hetch Hetchy system. Palo Alto is one of 26 municipalities that draw its water from the Hetch Hetchy through the SFPUC.
The council agreed that the rate hike is necessary to ensure a clean and reliable water supply.
The council also voted, with few questions and no public opposition, to add a $4.62 fee to all residential refuse bills. The city adopted the rate increase to help cover a projected $3.7 million deficit in the refuse operation. The new fee is a stop-gap measure aimed at keeping the Refuse Fund's budget balanced while staff and consultants consider more dramatic changes to the refuse rate structure.
The new refuse rates, like the water rates, are scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1.
Palo Alto police see spike in auto burglaries
A series of recent auto burglaries are being investigated by Palo Alto police, including at least three that were grand thefts involving cash and jewelry, police said.
Thieves struck 11 vehicles since Sept. 15, according to police reports, breaking into unlocked cars and smashing car windows.
Items taken included GPS units, laptop computers, iPods, DVD players, cash and jewelry, Agent Max Nielepko said.
Burglars stole a laptop computer and other items from a vehicle in the 400 block of Bryant Street (between University and Lytton avenues) on Sept. 15 and smashed a car window in the 400 block of Portage Avenue on Sept. 16, taking a suitcase, computer bag and other items.
On Sept. 17, a total of seven vehicle break-ins included three vehicles in the 800 block of Northampton Drive (near Barbara Drive and Seale Avenue) and one in the 1400 block of Pitman Avenue (near Center Drive and Dana Avenue), which police termed grand thefts because the losses in each incident were greater than $950.
Nielepko said the grand thefts involves "some significant money values," but detectives are withholding details about these thefts as the investigation is ongoing.
Additional break-ins that day included two vehicles in the 900 block of Blair Court (near Elsinore Drive and Oregon Expressway) and one in the 1800 block of Mark Twain Street (at Embarcadero Road). Two other auto burglaries occurred on Sept. 19, in the 100 block of El Camino Real at the Stanford Shopping Center and the 600 block of Hansen Way near El Camino Real. In the latter incident, the thief or thieves smashed a window and stole an iPod, according to police.
"The police department recommends very strongly if at all possible not to leave valuables in vehicles. If you absolutely must store valuables in a vehicle, secure them in the trunk where they can't be seen or easily taken," Nielepko said.
"The unfortunate thing is that many of these crimes are somewhat preventable," and residents should always lock their car doors, he added.
President Obama coming for town hall meeting
President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a Town Hall meeting on the economy at Mountain View's LinkedIn on Monday, Sept. 26, the company announced.
The president plans to answer questions about job creation and the economy from LinkedIn members across the country.
"Following the Town Hall, White House Administration officials will continue to engage in the conversation with LinkedIn members about putting America back to work," according to a press release.
LinkedIn is a social-networking site for professionals to connect, look for jobs and make referrals.
Obama is also scheduled to appear at a fundraiser at a private house in Woodside on Sunday, Sept. 25.