In the first of a series of weekend customer service sessions held by the city since receiving a flood of complaints over huge spikes in water bills, concerned homeowners spoke out.
It's the first of three weekend sessions planned in coming weeks to address residents' complaints that they were being charged by the city for more water than they actually used.
The sessions come after months of investigations and reporting by the NBC 7 Responds team.
NBC 7 Responds has been investigating high water bills since last July, when Beverly Bradley out of Pacific Beach reported her water usage shot up months after the city installed a new, smart meter to register her consumption.
Dozens of people showed up to the session Saturday to ask questions about their bills, including a retired couple from Rancho Bernardo.
Mel Neville has lived in the same house for 30 years with fairly predictable water bills, but he was confused after a recent bill showed water usage more than twice the normal amount.
The bill was also several hundred dollars more than the typical bill.
"I just can't take the responsibility for the one time shot with no explanation," Neville said. He said it was out of the ordinary considering his usage returned to the normal amount in following bill cycles.
Over the past months, the NBC 7 Responds team documented cases like this citywide.
The public utility department did receive high percentages of complaints in neighborhoods like Rancho Bernardo, Mira Mesa, and La Jolla.
Some of the cases were resolved quickly, but not all.
"Right away we noticed a series of what we call water misreads, where the water meters weren't read accurately, we've admitted to that, more than 300 cases resolved right away, but customers still experienced some unexplained spikes" said Brent Eidson, External Affairs Director for the Public Utilities Department.
At a council meeting last week, San Diego City Councilmembers questioned Public Utilities Department Director Vic Bianes, wanting to know what the water department is doing to address billing concerns from customers.
The water department said they are addressing every customer complaint and have doubled their customer service staff to meet call volume.
"Clearly this has all really helped from the customer’s perspective, to protect them, but the problem is we still do not know what’s causing this,” Alvarez said, “This is very concerning and it should be very alarming."
The customer service meetings were announced to address customer concerns.
The Nevilles ended up getting an adjustment to their bill at Saturday's meeting and recommend anyone else with concerns attend one of the next two scheduled meetings.
The meetings will be held on Saturday, March 24 at:
Public Utilities Department
9192 Topaz Way, San Diego, CA 92123
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
404 Euclid Ave., San Diego, CA 92114
2 to 5 p.m.
Over the last couple of weeks sessions have been held in Mira Mesa, Rancho Bernardo and La Jolla.