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Battle again brewing over low-flow retrofits

February 15, 2010|By Christopher Cadelago

CITY HALL — Burbank Water and Power officials are again forging ahead with an ordinance requiring homes and commercial buildings be fitted with low-flow plumbing fixtures and appliances as a condition of resale. And again, Realtors are strongly opposing the measure.

The City Council is scheduled to review the ordinance March 2 after months of meetings between utility officials and representatives of the Burbank Assn. of Realtors in which the sides failed to strike a compromise.

It also comes as all multi-family residential, commercial and industrial water customers face steep fines if they fail to certify that certain water-saving fixtures have been installed on their property effective June 30.

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Burbank Water and Power reserves the right to inspect all properties for compliance and impose a surcharge on water bills for 12 months. If non-compliance continued, the surcharge would double, according to a notice sent to customers Jan 20.

City executives maintained that the installation of low-flow toilets, urinals, faucets and shower heads at the point of sale would save 7.5 million gallons in the first year alone, said Jeanette Meyer, the utility’s marketing manager.

Accumulated water savings over five years could top 112 million gallons, according to utility estimates.

Councilman Dave Golonski, a proponent of the measure, noted that agents would only need to give written notice of the requirements to the buyer and seller prior to the transfer of property title. The amended proposal places compliance in the hands of the seller before the close of escrow, he said.

“I think it’s something that we need to do,” said Golonski, pointing to the fact that Los Angeles has had similar measures in place for more than 21 years. “And I don’t really think it’s a burden on the Realtors.”

But legislative representatives for the Burbank Assn. of Realtors strongly disagreed with the premise, arguing that now is not the time to impose greater financial burdens, particularly when potential savings have been “greatly inflated.”

“It’s a green issue. It’s a marketing issue. It’s the right issue — we all agree that we need to conserve water,” said Darin Chase, of Chase Company Real Estate. “But I see no reason why something like this can’t be put off until one year’s time.”

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