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Head of L.A.'s water and power utility steps down

October 2, 2009 | 12:14 pm

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's top executive, H. David Nahai, has resigned from the agency effective immediately, the mayor's office announced this morning.

In a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Nahai said he was leaving to take a position as an advisor to former President Clinton's climate initiative.

Nahai had served two years as a DWP commissioner before Villaraigosa elevated him to the post of chief executive and general manager in 2007. Ever since, he had been under fire from an array of forces.

He drew strong criticism from the head of the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents thousands of DWP workers, who accused Nahai of doing too little to secure the passage of Measure B, a solar power ballot proposal that narrowly fell short of passage in March.

Neighborhood councils also complained of a proposal to increase electric rates. Residents of the San Fernando Valley have been upset in recent weeks over the DWP’s water conservation measures, which limited sprinkler use to two days per week. And residents across the city were perplexed by a string of water main breaks, including one that resulted in a sinkhole that gobbled up a portion of a fire truck.

Nahai did have support from environmental circles, however. Last spring, a series of environmental leaders sent Villaraigosa a letter urging him to ignore the complaints and keep Nahai.

"I would like to thank David Nahai for his four years of service at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where he led the team responsible for increasing the city's renewable energy portfolio, reducing water consumption to record levels, and putting us on the path to be coal free by 2020,'' Villaraigosa said in a statement released this morning.

Villaraigosa has asked the DWP's board of commissioners to temporarily appoint his top environmental advisor, David Freeman, as interim general manager of the utility. Freeman is a former DWP general manager and also served as president of the city harbor commission.

-- Phil Willon and David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall