Sun. May 19th, 2024



Just in time for Monday, Sept 16th, City Council meeting, Attorney Tim Bittle sent in this email about the Prop 218 protest over the 60% increase in water rates:

Prop 218 allows any tenant to protest a proposed fee increase if he is “directly liable to pay the … fee.”  (Cal. Const., art. XIII D, § 2(g).)  A tenant could be “directly liable” to pay water and sewer fees under the terms of his lease, whether or not he is the named subscriber in the city’s billing records.  Many cities allow only one name to be listed as the subscriber.  In such cities, landlords may require a husband and wife to both sign the lease, making them both directly liable to pay utility bills, even though only the wife, for example, is listed as the subscriber in the city’s billing records.  If that were the case, a protest signed by the renting husband should be counted even though his name is not on the city’s billing records.
State statute is even more lenient than Prop 218 with regard to who may sign a protest.  Gov. Code section 53755(b) provides, “One written protest per parcel, filed by an owner or tenant of the parcel, shall be counted in calculating a majority protest.”  Section 53755 contains no requirement that the tenant be directly liable to pay the fee.  If the only written protest for a parcel is submitted by a tenant, whether or not he is directly liable to pay the fee, the statute says it “shall be counted.”
Donna, feel free to forward this email to your city council, city attorney and/or city manager to warn them that if the raw number of protests received is sufficient to defeat the proposed fee increase, and they disqualify tenant protestors merely because they are not the named subscriber in the city’s billing records, the city may face a lawsuit from us.
Timothy A. Bittle
Director of Legal Affairs
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Crescent City’s staff photographer, Janice Wilson attended the meeting.  She read Tim Bittle’s e-mail to the City Council, City Manager and City Attorney.  In fact, I heard City Attorney, Bob Black, give the council the wrong advice.  He stated that a renter who’s water/sewer is included in their rent could not submit a protest.  In further follow-up, Black said that the language in the resolution they passed stated that renters would have to submit a copy of their lease agreement.
During my public comment I told the council my lease agreements run 10 pages.  Did they expect a protester to submit all 10 pages?  I’m still waiting for an answer to that question.

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