Nov 272016

LADWP Class Action Customer Billing Settlement




In a hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Elihu Berle granted preliminary approval to the proposed settlement of class action litigation involving customer overcharges and complaints related to the implementation of LADWP’s new customer billing system in September 2013. The system was designed and implemented by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC).

The settlement that was preliminarily approved by Judge Berle is the product of multiple mediation sessions conducted by the highly respected United States District Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian (Ret.) between the plaintiffs, represented by Landskroner Merriman, LLC and LADWP, represented by the Los Angeles City Attorney and outside counsel.

Under the terms of the settlement, every customer who was overcharged will receive a credit, or a refund if they are no longer an LADWP customer, for the full amount they were overcharged. An independent third-party expert appointed by the Court will review the amount of credit or refund for accuracy. Any customer who disagrees with the amount of the credit or refund can have their claim reviewed by an independent Special Master who will consider the merits of the claim and make a recommendation to the Court. If the customer disagrees with the Special Master’s recommendation, they can choose to have it reviewed directly by the judge overseeing the settlement. This process provides multiple layers of review to ensure every refund or credit is fair and accurate; making good on a promise by LADWP to refund every penny customers were overcharged.

The total amount of overcharges to be credited or refunded is currently estimated at $67.5 million. LADWP and the City continue to pursue legal action against PwC to recover costs associated with the failed implementation of the billing system, including overcharges and legal costs.

“We are very pleased with Judge Berle’s decision today because it moves us a step closer to reimbursing every affected customer every penny they were overcharged,” said David H. Wright, LADWP General Manager. “We remain committed to holding Pricewaterhouse Coopers accountable and are seeking full reimbursement of all of the overcharges and costs caused by the failed system they designed and delivered to LADWP.”

The settlement is still subject to final approval by the Court and a court-ordered schedule whereby every affected customer is notified by mail. A hearing to approve the notice and claim form will be held in mid-December. If all goes according to schedule, customers should begin receiving notification letters in the spring and refunds and credits next summer.

To learn about the status of the settlement and the steps LADWP will follow as set forth by the Court, customers and the public can visit or call 844-899-6219.



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Oct 312016

2016 Quality of Life Awards Award Of Excellence Bestowed Upon Owens Lake Trails Architectural Elements

The Architectural Elements on Owens Lake, part of the Owens Lake Trails Project, were honored with the Award of Excellence at the 2016 Quality of Life Awards of the Southern California Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) last week.

Each year, the Award of Excellence is given to the one project which, “represents an outstanding advancement in leadership, contribution, understanding, and/or achievement in the field of landscape architecture and that improves the quality of life in Southern California and beyond.” In addition to the prestigious Award of Excellence, the Owens Lake Architectural Elements, designed by NUVIS Landscape Architecture and owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), also received an Honor Award in the Landscape Art design category from a pool of 92 submissions.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to see this valuable community project receive such esteemed recognition,” Nelson O. Mejia LADWP’s Owens Lake Project Manager said. “The landscape architect honored the lake’s past as it worked to shape the space’s future, creating an art piece that is in harmony with the surrounding view shed while providing an important habitat benefit to the lake’s visiting migratory bird species. By working with the local community, tribal leaders, and state and local offices, the Owens Lake Trails and Architectural Elements are an exceptional example of what can be created through strategic collaboration.”

The Owens Lake Trails consist of three trailheads that provide the Eastern Sierra region with a new wildlife viewing destination as well as education about LADWP’s dust emission mitigation efforts. The trails have attracted new tourism to the area, improving local business, creating recreation opportunities, and increasing public dialog on water conservation.

Owens Lake Architectural Elements are located on a 700 acre parcel within one of the Owens Lake Trailheads, the Plaza Trailhead, began with State Agencies’ and LADWP’s commitment to meet the following goals: provide public access and hiking trails, create bird and mammal habitat, and preserve cultural resources while still meeting the dust emission controls. NUVIS Landscape Architecture, adhering to the approved dust mitigation palette (shallow flood, gravel cover, and managed vegetation where soil conditions allow), designed a solution which evolved into Architectural Elements named the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are large land forms in four size variations that provide topographic variation for both plant and animal diversity. Although the project did not start out as an art commission, the design developed into a composition of simple materials and forms inspired by the Owens Valley.

“Imagine Owens lake before the water was diverted to serve the people of Los Angeles,” said Perry Cardoza, the landscape architect who designed the Owens Lake Architectural Elements. “It was a large body of water in a vast valley with 80 mile per hour winds blowing across its surface. Old photographs show the lake having the appearance of a small sea filled with whitecaps during its windy season. Our team, in collaboration with LADWP’s biologists, designed a monument to the lake’s past which solves the challenge of providing habitat for shorebirds, small mammals, and invertebrates, while meeting the strict dust control requirements.”

The American Society Landscape Architects is the national professional association for landscape architects, representing more than 15,000 members in 49 professional chapters and 72 student chapters. The Quality of Life Design Awards celebrate innovative design solutions, as well as stewardship of the land exhibited by firms and individuals who have made a positive impact on our evolving human and natural landscape.

This above article is about recognitions for Owens Lake Trails Architectural Elements. The Owens Lake Trails project itself has a story worth knowing. It seems that the road to the awards wasn’t smooth and the final outcome isn’t only an aesthetic asset but a benefit to natural environment. Interesting? Read more.



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Oct 262016

Cactus Jungle by Wolf Kesh

Two Years In, Angelenos on Track to Meet Mayor’s 2017 Water Conservation Goals; New UCLA Study Reinforces Importance of Turf Removal, New Rebate Helps Customers Continue to Save

Two years after Mayor Eric Garcetti signed Executive Directive 5 (ED 5), putting in place strong, emergency drought response measures for the City of Los Angeles, water customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) remain ahead of schedule in meeting citywide water conservation goals.

Water use by LADWP customers remains down approximately 20 percent from 2014 levels, meeting the goal for 2017 as set forth in ED 5 and the LA’s Sustainable City pLAn ahead of schedule. LADWP water officials attribute much of the success to Angelenos’ continued actions to reduce outdoor watering and replace water-thirsty turf with drought tolerant landscapes. Approximately 50 percent of residential water use in Los Angeles is attributed to uses outdoors and LADWP’s turf replacement rebate program has resulted in 37 million square feet of turf being removed in the City of Los Angeles, saving 1.6 billion gallons of water each year. That’s enough water to supply 15,000 LA households each year. LADWP currently provides participating customers a rebate of $1.75 per square foot to rip out turf and replace it with California friendly landscaping. The rebate level has been maintained by LADWP even after the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) eliminated its additional $2.00 per square foot rebate in 2015.

A study released by UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation shows that $1.75 per square foot is a reasonable amount that pays off for both residential households who utilize the rebate and LADWP ratepayers.

The Luskin Center’s report, Turf Replacement Program Impacts on Households and Ratepayers: An Analysis for the City of Los Angeles, answers two questions: Under what conditions does participation in the turf replacement program provide financial benefits to households? And is the turf replacement program a reasonably cost effective investment for utilities and ratepayers?

In order to assess the economics of lawn replacement from the household perspective the report measures the impact of different rebate levels, turf replacement costs, climate zones (determined by different evapotranspiration rates across the city), and future expected water pricing on household financial benefits. The report calculates the payback periods for ratepayers based on varying levels of household participation in the turf replacement program and different levels of rebates. Rebates offered at $1.75 result in a payback period for typical households and ratepayers of approximately 10 years, comparable to other investments like solar.

“Angelenos are the water heroes of California — we’ve pulled up 37 million square feet of thirsty turf, more than two-thirds of the state’s target, and reduced our water use 20 percent” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We have made amazing progress in the two years since I signed an Executive Directive to respond to our drought, and the study released Monday shows that our incentives are working. But we can always do more, and I’m proud of our Department of Water and Power for making sensible, effective improvements to our turf rebate program.”

“Turf replacement programs, when well designed, are an essential conservation tool for communities to become more drought and climate resilient,” J.R. DeShazo Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at the University of California at Los Angeles said.

To further the benefits of its turf rebate program, LADWP recently updated the program guidelines. The amended terms and conditions will continue to promote the installation of native and California Friendly® low water-use plants while ensuring each project incorporates sustainable design elements that benefit the customer and help contribute to the City’s future water conservation goals.

Changes to the turf rebate program include:

  • No longer providing rebates for the installation of synthetic turf;
  • Increasing California Friendly plant coverage required from 40% to 50%;
  • Limiting the amount of rock, gravel, or decomposed granite to 25% of the total project;
  • Incorporating rainfall capture techniques in project designs;
  • No longer permitting the use of synthetic or chemically treated mulch;
  • And recommending the use of biodegradable (natural/organic) weed barriers (instead of synthetic weed barriers).

“These turf rebate guideline changes allow LADWP to push an already positive sustainability program for our environment to an even higher, healthier standard,” LADWP General Manager David Wright said.

The program changes will assist LADWP customers in better capturing, conserving, and reusing water to prevent runoff on their property and reduce water demand. In addition to these water-saving benefits, by requiring program participants to minimize the use of materials such as gravel, pavers, decomposed granite, and synthetic turf – materials that often create a “heat island” effect on properties by absorbing the sun’s heat – LADWP aims to lower surface and temperatures on properties. This added benefit may assist customers in limiting energy use by reducing the need for air conditioning.

To learn more about LADWP’s turf rebate and other water conservation programs, please visit

The Luskin Center study can be found at:

Photo credit: Wolf Kesh



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Aug 242016


More than five billion gallons of water will be saved each year at a new stormwater capture facility now under construction in the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Nury Martinez, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works today broke ground on the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project — a $29 million expansion of an existing facility that will double its capacity to capture stormwater for local use.

“We have to expand our local water supply, and that means investing in stormwater capture,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project will double the amount of water we capture at this facility — an important step toward securing L.A.’s future in this historic drought. I’m grateful to our County partners for working with us to conserve and capture a precious resource.”

L.A. Builds New Stormwater Capture Facility: currently, the Tujunga Spreading Grounds can capture and store about 8,000 acre-feet, or 2.5 billion gallons of water a year. Once the enhancement is complete in 2018, that capacity will expand to 16,000 acre-feet, or 5 billion gallons — enough water to supply 48,000 Los Angeles households every year. In addition to conserving water, the enhancement will provide new open space and a walking path for neighborhood residents.

“While we’re building an environmentally sound improvement for our city, we’re also beautifying the neighborhood nearby,” Councilmember Martinez said. “I’m especially proud that LADWP worked with the community to mitigate construction impacts on neighborhood residents by implementing a conveyor belt system to transport dirt off site, thereby taking trucks off our neighborhood streets and limiting traffic congestion.”

The enhancement is part of LADWP’s Stormwater Capture Master Plan, which aims to expand Los Angeles’ local water supply and reduce the city’s reliance on imported water. It also advances several of the objectives outlined in Mayor Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn, including the goal of increasing local stormwater capture to 150,000 acre-feet per year by 2035.

“In the past, most stormwater was allowed to run off to the Pacific Ocean. Those days are over,” said LADWP General Manager David Wright. “With the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project, we ensure that these valuable water resources don’t go to waste. By doubling this site’s capacity, L.A.’s greatest local water asset, the San Fernando Groundwater Basin, remains replenished with Los Angeles water for Angelenos to drink.”

LADWP plans to continue implementing stormwater capture projects that reduce the amount of runoff lost to the ocean and make more local water available to Angelenos. These projects include large-scale spreading grounds enhancements like the Tujunga enhancement, as well as smaller projects like green streets, rain gardens, and rain barrels.

The Tujunga project is designed and managed by L.A. County Public Works. The department operates 14 major dams and 26 spreading grounds on behalf of the L.A. County Flood Control District, including the Tujunga Spreading Grounds facility.

“Capturing stormwater to recharge local groundwater supplies has always been part of the Flood Control District’s mission,” said Gail Farber, director of LA County Public Works. “But the severity of the current drought and the challenges of climate change, population growth and an unreliable imported water supply require the combined attention and effort of the entire region. The City of Los Angeles has been a fantastic partner in this regard.”

Aug 202016


Mayor Garcetti announces that LADWP has exceeded annual water main replacement goal

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has replaced more than 32 miles of deteriorating water main across the city over the last year, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today.

The figure tops LADWP’s goal for the 2015-16 fiscal year by more than 20,000 feet, marking the first step in an aggressive effort to replace more than 520 miles of pipe over the next decade. Water main replacements are a critical investment because they produce a dramatic reduction in leaks — enabling more water conservation and fewer service disruptions.

“Every drop counts when we’re in drought conditions, and L.A. can’t afford to let rotting pipes and bursting water mains get in the way of conservation,” said Mayor Garcetti. “These water main replacement numbers show us what we can do to effectively fortify our water system with smart investments. I am confident that we can build on this success in the months and years to come.”

LADWP was able to surpass this year’s water main replacement goal in large part because of a sensible rate increase package approved earlier this year. That plan has enabled LADWP to invest in the city’s water system now and plan for years of future progress.

In addition to planning 520 miles of water main replacement over the next 10 years, LADWP aims to reduce its system-wide water pipe replacement cycle from 225 years to 120 years by 2020.

“LADWP’s top priority is to provide safe and effective water and power service to our customers. Our leak rate in 2015 was less than the national average, with about 17 leaks per 100 miles per year compared to the national average of 25. But we know we can do better,” said LADWP General Manager David Wright. “By continuing to ramp up replacement of aging infrastructure, we hope to lower that rate even further — saving water and improving distribution citywide.”

“My office is working hand-in-hand with LADWP on proactive and necessary infrastructure repairs throughout the Hillsides and San Fernando Valley,” Councilmember David Ryu said. “Investing in our City’s water system will lead to a reduction of pipeline breaks, improved water quality and enhanced fire protection. Additionally, taxpayer dollars will be saved by immediately investing in our water mainlines.”