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Auditor Slams City on Stormwater Mess

Stormwater runs into Auburn Creek in San Diego. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Water bills in the city of San Diego may need to go up by about $9 a month on average to help the city deal with flood control and improve the quality of rivers and streams. A new city audit [1] looks into how poorly funded the city’s stormwater program is. Stormwater is a fancy name for water on the ground after it rains.

For years, mayors and city councils have refused to completely tackle this major infrastructure issue, the audit concludes. Now, stormwater is among the most underfunded infrastructure issues [2] in the city. This can lead to flooding, sinkholes, metal and bacteria-filled streams [3] and toxic coastal waters [4].

The audit shames city leaders for lacking the political will to raise a fee meant to fund stormwater projects.

In San Diego, the fee is 95 cents a month for single-family homes and hasn’t been raised in two decades. Now, the city is pulling $73 million a year out of the general fund to pay for projects, and it’s still tens of millions short of what is actually needed.

In 2016, a report recommended raising the fee [5], but so far, no city leader has done much to advance the issue.

In a response to the audit, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said if raising fees requires voter approval, the city would deal with that in 2022. The mayor leaves office at the end of 2020.

This post originally appeared in the June 20 Morning Report.