Providing no-fee trash collection for some San Diegans when others have to pay for the same service is unfair, Mayor Jerry Sanders says. Well, at least for some people.

This afternoon, the City Council will discuss ending city trash collection for 14,200 customers who live on private streets, a move that will force those homeowners to pay private garbage haulers. The majority of residents who live on private streets already pays for trash collection.

Sanders called the decision, “an issue of basic fairness” in a statement Friday.

“For every one San Diegan who lives on a private street and gets free trash pick-up from the city, at least twice as many San Diegans on private streets must pay a private hauler to pick up their garbage,” the mayor continued. “The taxpayers in the second category subsidize the people in the first.”

Combined with other trash changes, the move will save the cash-starved city budget $1.2 million next year.

My frequent followers know that I’ve been pushing the Mayor’s Office to extend its argument about trash collection equity to its logical conclusion. Currently, single-family homeowners on public streets, about 60 percent of residents, receive no-fee trash collection from the city.

Those living in apartment complexes and multi-family homes, about 40 percent, have to pay a trash fee. A 1919 ordinance, known as the People’s Ordinance, restricts the city from charging for trash on public streets. It costs the city $34 million a year.

If the mayor is arguing that trash collection on private streets is unfair, it should follow that trash collection on public streets is inequitable, too. Repealing the People’s Ordinance, though, needs a vote of the people and in recent memory no politician has tried.

Friday afternoon on Twitter, the Mayor’s Office came close to admitting city trash collection was unfair. Here’s the conversation between myself, mayoral spokesmen Kevin Klein and Alex Roth and CEO Scott Lewis:

The conversation just about ended there. But my effort is not simply an academic exercise. An acknowledgment of city trash inequities from Sanders could spark a broad discussion on one of San Diego’s stranger tax policies, no matter if repealing the People’s Ordinance ever goes to a vote.

As if on cue Friday afternoon, the city’s independent budget analyst had no problem admitting the primary source of San Diego trash inequality.

“Thus, the People’s Ordinance gives rise to the inequitable provision of City refuse collection services among San Diego residents,” a report said.

We did a segment of our San Diego Explained series with NBC San Diego on trash collection recently. I’ll continue to promote any television piece that allowed me to go to a pig farm to explain trash history.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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