Town Square

Post a New Topic

Palo Alto utilities customers could see $17 a month increase

Original post made on Mar 3, 2023

Utility bills in Palo Alto are expected to increase this summer, though city leaders are expecting to avert the type of sharp spike that gas customers have experienced over the past two months.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 3, 2023, 8:10 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2023 at 8:57 am

Nayeli is a registered user.


Utility prices have ALREADY risen drastically over the last year! Why in the world would Palo Alto consider raising prices even higher?!?

I've read comments here and on websites like NextDoor. Despite the overwhelming majority of people upset at rate increases, there are still a tiny fraction who defend price increases (or those who try to pretend like it's "not a big deal").

There should be a law that restricts rate (and FEE) increases to less than 5% year-over-year. In fact, each and every presentation of such proposals (both in Palo Alto and throughout the state) should include an expected per-household cost.

If a politician proposes a new gas tax or rate increase, they should be required to explain just how much more each and every person will be paying.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2023 at 9:08 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Inflation over the last 18 months has hurt many families -- even in Palo Alto. We are forced to absorb increases in gas prices, grocery prices, energy prices, interest rates, tuition/fees, licenses, etc. Yet, the total increases are far exceeding any increases in our paychecks.

Yes, the rates went up recently (for a few reasons). Yet, how forthcoming are those explanations? How much is attributable to natural macro changes versus specific state or local policy changes? It is a bad time to justify any changes when people are experiencing this current inflationary pinch (or grab).

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2023 at 10:49 am

Online Name is a registered user.

$17 a month?? Surely you're joking when many of us have already seen bills over $1,000 -- and that's before the latest round of increases.

But then again you once reported that some had utility bills of $88 dollars a month which is totally impossible when there's a $50 a month utility user tax, a $30 water "connection" fee!

Fully one third of our bills are surcharges, taxes, connection fees etc and an investigation of CPAU charges is long overdue and shouldn't be dismissed with articles claiming our bills will rise by piddly amounts when in fact they're skyrocketing after years of being overcharged by $20,000,000 a year.

By the way, when are we going to get our rebates from the Miriam Green lawsuit? How about covering that.

Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2023 at 11:30 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

Outrageous!! Let's put that transfer tax back on the ballot, now that more of us understand it. Not everyone who lives in Palo Alto is made of money.

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Mar 3, 2023 at 1:32 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

I'll just keep posting these 2021 figures until I'm blue in the face, or when the new figures come out. This is why the City needs to charge us more to pay for utilities. We are paying nearly 3 million dollars a year for dead weight.

Edward Shikada City Manager $573,307.57

Molly Stump City Attorney $487,795.83

Dean Batchelor Director Utilities $457,631.76

Tomm Marshall Assistant Director Utilit $435,273.72

Debra Lloyd-Zannetti Utilities Compliance Mana $424,822.57

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 3, 2023 at 1:39 pm

mjh is a registered user.

Palo Alto transfers about $20 million a year from the profit it makes from our entire utility bill to the general fund, not from just gas overcharges. A few decades the city used to charge Utilities a small annual amount to recover expenses. Then during a budget turndown the council looked at the Utility’s reserve fund and decided our utility bills could be a cash cow for city hall. Since then our bills have been increasingly padded, most recently amounting to approximately $20 million a year siphoned off to the city’s general fund. The gas overcharges represented only a part of this profit. When the city claimed they had historically always transferred money from our gas bills to the general fund to justify bringing the measure to the voters last election, this was true. Except what they didn’t tell you that this used to be small annual amount to recover city expenses. For those paying Palo Alto utility bills, it would be more honest if this hidden tax was a line item on our bills.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2023 at 4:19 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@mjh, excellent point about breaking out the fees, taxes, surcharges etc. as separate line items esp given the city's propensity for secrecy and for laughably whitewashing the increase as "$17 a month"! Accuracy and honest from government matters as much as "quality journalism."

Years ago when the Miriam Green lawsuit and overcharges was being discussed on NextDoor and the CPAU spokeswoman Elvert? was giving evasive happy talk responses to specific questions about the reported $20,000,000 in overcharges she PRIVATELY to individuals raising questions instead of to the entire group.

So we did her job as "spokesperson" and revealed the amount -- which she'd confirmed privately -- to the entire group.

You can wire our #300,000 "communications" fees to our Swiss bank accounts with no unfunded pension liabilities!

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2023 at 4:47 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

So much of our utilities bill is basically tax as others have said. There is very little we can do to reduce our bill as even when away on vacation we still have to pay for every line item, including trash pick up which we are not using.

How about giving us the option to have less pickups? How about we can opt for twice a month pickup? How about being able to have vacation holds on pick ups? No, the utilities is just a money grabbing government agency, not a service provider with the needs of its customers as a priority.

Unfortunately we do need our utilities and they know that. They can charge what they like and we are forced to pay even if it means doing with less discretionary spending money left in our pockets. We are seen as bottomless sources of income to every whim of their choosing and very soon there is going to be rebellion.

Posted by Morgan
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 3, 2023 at 5:07 pm

Morgan is a registered user.

If the Utility department is not making enough money to support itself then why is it transferring ANY money to the general fund?

And, "because they can" or "because the city needs money" is not a good reason.

The city can't use an inelastic food such as utilities to fund their careless spending. What is the city doing to cut costs from the general fund?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2023 at 6:46 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

I just got my utility bill and was admiring all the creative fees etc and wondering why for gas there's a Winter Distribution Charge ($153.35), a separate transportation charge ($19.82) a monthly service charge of $11.54 just for gas and separate from the overall Utilities User Tax of almost $40, and both a carbon offset charge (9.96) AND a Gas Cap and Trade Compliance fee ($10.93).

Apart from my commodity charge, those equal $205.77 so it wouldn't matter how cold I let the house get and how much I tried to conserve! Check your bills and you'll see the commodity charges are quite reasonable vs all the add-ons!

Serious questions:1) Who benefits from the Public Benefit fee for electricity? 2) What's a Hydro Rate Adjuster fee 3) Why are we paying a month;y service charge for gas? 4) What's the difference between a Gas Distribution Charge and a Gas Transportation Charge? 5) What's a Winter Distribution Fee and how does it differe from Gas Distribution and Gas Transportation?

Posted by Moctod
a resident of University South
on Mar 3, 2023 at 8:39 pm

Moctod is a registered user.

This article reads like a copy from ther Palo Alto Utilities staff press release.

Does anyone really believe that the increases to waste water, natural gas, water and electricity will amount to $17. per month? Sure.

Please do some research and read the 360-400 pages from the Palo Alto city staff rubber-stamped by the Utliities Advisory Commission on March 1st.

This was posted a week ago, how do these raises amount to $17, per month?


Sewage- 9% per year for each of the next five years.

Water rates- 3% increase

Natural Gas-
Transfer 18% of yearly gas revenues to the general fund for the fiscal years 2021 to 2024.

Increase the gas cost rates for tier one and two by 21.4%

Increase gas distribution rates by 8%, 7%, 5%, 5%, 5% for the fiscal years 2024-2028.

Electric- (Here is the one bone, or, I should say, one half of a bone) The recent Hydroelectric rate surcharge decreased by 50% on July 1, 2023.

However, all residential electric rates increased by 14% effective July 1, 2023.


It is interesting to note that both the Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Alto Daily Post article on these raises read like the same hand-out from the city bureaucracy....Only a raise of $17, to be exact.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2023 at 9:27 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

So the news about the drought is that officially we are not in a drought although that doesn't mean the drought is over.

All these higher water rates, surcharges for using less, and fixed amount drought levy, should be reduced. I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 4, 2023 at 12:03 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Speaking of the drought, when I was reviewing my recent utility bill and noticed the drought surcharge field I was reminded that CPAU kept charging us that surcharge for months after the governor had declared the drought was officially over. It took concerted public pressure for them to finally remove it and even then we never got a refund or an apology or even an "oopsie" excuse.

Serious question, what DOES the Utility Advisory Commission do?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2023 at 11:10 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Here we are sitting in a storm. Watching the evening news they are telling you where the power outages are. In PA we have electricity. We have hot water and heat - thank you gas. Los ALtos has power issues. What anyone can learn from this adventure in weather is that being totally dependent on electricity is a losing proposition. We need to get off that theme - it is failing all over the state. And be happy that in our city we have electricity, and gas for heat. So who in this city is pushing for being totally dependent on electricity? We need names here - we need to know who is being a disrupter of a system that is working.

You can read about someone who is shooting transformers and putting whole areas out of service. The people who are pushing for change are not taking into consideration the number of people who are loose and being a problem.

Posted by Crescent Park Rez
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2023 at 7:06 am

Crescent Park Rez is a registered user.

Like resident 1 - Adobe meadows said - it could be worse. I’m grateful I’m not a PG&E customer who will start charging a base connection based on your household income thanks to AB205 which our state legislature slipped in the reconciliation bill last June. PG&E, an investor owned utility - not a public one - is essentially taxing people. What else is it if it’s based on income?

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Analysis/paralysis: The infamous ‘Palo Alto Process’ must go
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 2,285 views

Common Ground
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 1,826 views

The Time and Cost Savings of Avoiding a Long Commute
By Steve Levy | 6 comments | 1,631 views

Planting a Fall Garden?
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,102 views


Sign-up now for 5K Run/Walk, 10k Run, Half Marathon

The 39th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 29. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually. Proceeds from the race go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.