By Anne Haule
On Wednesday the League of Women Voters of San Diego called for a revote of a hundred year old law.
Representing the League was Beryl Flom, who addressed the city of San Diego’s Rules Committee regarding the overhaul of a law called the People’s Ordinance. She requested the measure be placed on the November ballot.
Originally enacted in 1919, The People’s Ordinance allowed the city to take over food waste and trash collection from a private company that sold it to pig farmers. It was amended in 1986 to prohibit the city from imposing a fee for trash hauling service.
The People’s Ordinance only applies to single-family households who put their bins on public streets — not multi-unit buildings, businesses or commercial establishments — and requires $47 million from the General Fund to operate. Twenty-three percent of the city’s trash is collected from about half of the city’s households through the People’s Ordinance.
City Council President Sherri Lightner chaired the June 15 meeting, which was attended by committee members, Vice Chair Marti Emerald, and councilmembers Myrtle Cole, Mark Kersey and Chris Cate. They referred the matter to the Environmental Services Committee.
Marti Emerald stated it was time to rescind the People’s Ordinance for a number of reasons – including the fact that it would be consistent with the recently adopted Climate Action Plan. She also said it’s unfair to provide free services to single-family homeowners only, and that the city could use the additional revenue generated by charging all residents for refuse collection.
Also in support of a revote of the People’s Ordinance, which the League states “would clarify and equalize trash collecting services for all residents and businesses,” are the Grand Jury, Countywide Integrated Waste Management Citizens Advisory Committee, Zero Waste San Diego, the City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, the Stakeholder’s Plan contracted by the City Council, the Environmental Services Department, the San Diego Taxpayers and the San Diego County Apartment Association.
Referring the matter to the Environmental Services Committee means the initiative would likely not be placed on the November ballot.
Following are some notes of interest, which were part of a document provided by the League of Women Voters to the public at the meeting:
- During the recession in 2008, the amount of trash collected fell 40 percent and the tipping fee income at Miramar Landfill fell correspondently. This was due to a less robust economy and a significant increase in recycling and reduction of trash.
- In 2011, AB 341 set the recycling goal for the state to 75 percent by 2020. San Diego responded by mandating recycling in larger buildings and businesses. The city also passed an ordinance to require 50 percent recycling for Construction and Demolition materials (C&D); this was recently increased to 65 percent.
- In 2013, the city did a waste composition study and found that 76 percent of what goes into the landfill could be recycled or diverted, which indicates education and collection of the three waste streams needs to be increased.
- Automated black and blue cans are offered to all qualified residents. Automated green containers are offered to 40,000 out of 289,000 households due to limited funding. However 150,000 of them have greens collection without automated containers.
- The costs involved in providing expanded automated greenery collection is $13.6 million in containers, $4.3 million in trucks and $6 million per year in increased operating costs, for a total of $23.9 million. The result would be a diversion of 20,000 tons from the landfill per year.
- The Zero Waste Plan was approved by the City Council in 2013 and the first implementation plan dated June 2015 includes amending the franchise agreements, maximizing education, increasing enforcement, and allocating additional resources to the City Recycling Ordinance (CRO) including a Resource Recovery Park and expanded Greenery.
- The estimated cost of the Resource Recovery Park is $10 million in capital costs. Operating costs would be paid using the income from fees.
- AB 1826 mandates organics out of the landfills starting with the largest producers of food waste. Thirty-nine percent of the waste dumped at Miramar Landfill is organic material.
- San Diego may have to truck organics to Orange County, Hemet and Victorville because there are not enough digesters and compost sites. Some food can be given to charities.
- Beginning in April 1, 2016, AB 1826 requires that those who generate eight cubic yards or more of organic waste must separate it from their trash and pay for its collection. By January 1, 2019, those with more than four cubic yards of solid waste will be required to separate and pay to have organic materials collected. The city has just amended the Solid Waste Collection Franchise Agreements to require private haulers to comply with AB 1826.
- It is argued that the People’s Ordinance is no longer fair because approximately half of the city’s households do not live in single family residences on public streets and have to pay for trash collection. This is due to the tremendous growth of multifamily buildings.
- The Environmental Services Department is faced with less income from Miramar Landfill due to competition from private landfills and decreasing trash as people recycle and repurpose. Their proposed solutions are to increase fees at Miramar for the franchised and private haulers; raise the fees for multifamily buildings, commercial and businesses; or require the haulers to only use the Miramar Landfill, but they will price Miramar right out of the market as we approach zero waste.
- If it passed, the League recommends that the City devise a “pay as you throw” fee schedule and continue to do the collection from single family households which they do very efficiently.
- The League suggests improvements include providing hauling service of trash, recyclables, greens and organics for every residential and business unit in the city.
- Fees would be reinvested into programs aimed to reach zero waste and improve greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal.