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The Santa Monica City Council will have its last meeting of 2014 Tuesday and there are a few important items it will look at: raising water prices, the Big Blue Bus’ proposed Expo Light Rail integration plan, and a possible requirement for paid lobbyists to register with the City.

The City Council meets at City Hall (1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401) Tuesday, December 16. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. while the public meeting begins no earlier than 6:30 p.m.

The Rising Cost of Water

The good news is that Santa Monicans water use is expected to drop by about 20 percent. However, there is a cost to conservation and City officials are proposing a 13 percent rate hike by 2016 for water users in Santa Monica to avoid a deficit in the City’s water fund.

“Due to declining water sales and increased capital funding needs, the City’s cost to provide water service is projected to exceed the City’s water revenues without additional water rate increases,” according to the staff report.

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Officials note in their report that the City hasn’t raised water rates since 2008, but thing have changed since then.

“Presently, revenue requirements are driven by the need to augment conservation plans, offset reduced revenues due to declining water sales, and increase capital program funding to address the needs for continued infrastructure investment and Sustainable Water Master Plan requirements,” according to staff. “Council’s recent adoption of city-wide mandatory water conservation will result in a 20% reduction in water sales.”

Even with the proposed rate increase, officials noted, Santa Monica’s water rates will still be significantly lower than neighboring Los Angeles, Culver City, Burbank, and Glendale.

Big Blue Bus Gets Ready for Expo

Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus will present to the City Council Tuesday its revised service plans to integrate the Expo Light Rail more effectively into the municipal transit agency’s service area.

The Big Blue Bus originally presented the proposed Expo integration plan in July and has since revised the plans based on several community meetings and a comprehensive customer survey.

The plan includes the addition of several new north-south lines to connect neighborhoods, the VA hospital, SMC, and other destinations, to the Expo stations. It also includes the elimination of routes made redundant by the coming light rail or the addition of new lines. The whole plan is available here.

The Council won’t be giving final approval to the revised plan Tuesday, but instead will be giving feedback on the revisions. The Big Blue Bus anticipates that the plan could go before the Council for final approval in March.

Registering Lobbyists

Santa Monica’s newest Council member, Sue Himmelrich, and its newly appointed Mayor Pro Tempore, Tony Vazquez, will ask staff to look into the possibility of requiring paid lobbyists to register with the City.

Vazquez and Himmelrich’s request would require lobbyists “representing clients who seek benefits or contracts from the City to register with the City and provide other information that will help promote transparency,” according to the City Council agenda.

Neighboring Los Angeles already requires to lobbyists to register. According to Los Angeles City’s website, “Any individual who directly communicates with a City official for the purpose of influencing ‘municipal legislation’ (as defined in the ordinance) and who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours in any consecutive three-month period engaged in lobbying activities must register as a lobbyist with the City Ethics Commission.”