Delano Guardians v. City of Delano
In 2013, the City of Delano imposed a 75 percent utility rate increase over a five-year period to cover the debt accrued to fund large sewer and water infrastructure improvements. As a response to this surprising and extreme increase in a city where a large percentage of people live below the poverty line, a group of concerned residents mobilized to form the Delano Guardians.
Under California law, impacted residents and property owners can prevent rate increases if over 50 percent of rate-payers sign protests opposing the rates. Concerned over the impact this rate hike would have on vulnerable residents, the Delano Guardians organized, spread awareness and gathered signatures to prevent the increase. The City received over 5,000 protests, well over the majority needed to prevent the increase, but rejected over a quarter of them and imposed the increases. The Delano Guardians believed that residents did not receive proper notification about the rate increase, nor did the City follow the legal procedure to carry it out. To protect residents, the Delano Guardians committee decided to sue the City in 2014 and asked CRPE to represent them.
In April 2016 the Superior Court partially overturned the City of Delano’s steep water rate increase, siding with Delano residents, and finding that the California Constitution prohibits the City of Delano from charging utility ratepayers for general public services. The court also found that the City had inappropriately rejected a substantial number of valid protests, but ultimately allowed the City to rely on its own incomplete and outdated records to determine whether a person had a right to protest the rate increase.
CRPE on behalf of the Delano Guardians has filed an appeal of the other parts of the Court’s decision.