Workers have to hand pick trash from this pile of green waste at the Otay Landfill. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

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A new state law went into effect at the start of the year, requiring cities to curtail the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills in hopes of limiting how much of a harmful methane gas California sends into the atmosphere.

Cities across San Diego County, though, are still scrambling to comply with the law, days after it went into effect. Many have increased costs on businesses and residents in anticipation of launching a new waste collection service, but others, like the city of San Diego, aren’t at all clear how or when they’ll begin collecting food waste so that it doesn’t end up in landfills, as MacKenzie Elmer describes in a new story.

Carlsbad, Chula Vista and Encinitas are all charging more already, and the California League of Cities estimates that more than 90 percent of cities in the state will need to do so.

While cities figure out how to charge homes and businesses to cover the new service, there are other logistical issues that still need to be sorted out, too. The region needs to build the infrastructure to accumulate food waste apart from regular trash. Households need new bins in which to collect it. And cities or trash haulers need to figure out who needs new bins, and educate residents how to dispose of the food waste in the first place.

“It’s complicated but we’re charting new territory,” said Risa Baron, a spokesperson for Republic Services, one of the haulers that contracts with cities to haul refuse.

The state legislature passed the new law, SB 1383, in 2016, but the state won’t start cracking down on cities for lack of compliance until 2024. Once that happens, cities will have to start punishing businesses or residences for sending too much food waste into landfills. In the meantime, cities will need to build out the new services, and teach the region how to use it.

“We really want to focus on behavior change in homes and businesses … That’s really what the state legislation is all about,” said Jessica Toth, who leads the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, which contracts with cities for composting education and outreach.

Click here to read the full story.

The Day in COVID News

Firefighters with the San Diego Fire Department participate in a fire control exercise at a training facility on Dec. 16, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

COVID Hits Fire-Rescue Hard: As of Monday, more than 13 percent of San Diego firefighters were in isolation due to COVID. That led the department to declare an emergency brownout, limiting stations that have two crews to just one on a rotating basis.

Fire Chief Colin Stowell told NBC 7 that the initial plan called for three specialty units and three fire engines to go idle each day, though the department also had to pull an engine in Pacific Beach on Monday. NBC 7 obtained a draft plan suggesting as many as seven engines could brownout each day and heard from a union leader concerned about potential coverage gaps and exhaustion among city firefighters.

Stowell emphasized in interviews with NBC and the Union-Tribune that the department carefully considers which engines it can take offline and analyzes factors such as emergency call volume and the number of stations nearby that can help with calls.

But Stowell also acknowledged the situation is far from ideal — and he doesn’t expect it to improve for at least several weeks.

Update on the City’s Vaccine Mandate: 10 News reports that the city on Tuesday sent advanced notice of termination letters to at least some of the 900 city workers who were given a Monday deadline to get vaccinated or request an accommodation or special unpaid leave, resign or retire. The letters outlined a one-month due process period where those employees will be interviewed, meaning they won’t be fired right away.

Sports Changes Coming at San Diego Unified: Aaron Burgin of Full-Time Hoops broke the news on Twitter that San Diego Unified will halt workouts for off-season sports through at least the end of the month and expects to soon announce new rules about spectators, vaccines and testing for indoor sports. The Union-Tribune got a few more details.

New Policy for SDSU Games: San Diego State said late Tuesday that proof of COVID-19 booster shots will be required to attend a basketball game at Viejas Arena starting Jan. 18.

School Testing Woes: The Union-Tribune reports that districts, including Carlsbad Unified, Grossmont Union High and Lemon Grove, didn’t get promised rapid COVID tests from the state before students returned to school this week. So far, the County Office of Education reports it has only received half of those tests.

Exhibit A of Demand for Tests: NBC 7 reports that hundreds lined up in National City Tuesday after the city announced it was giving out 1,000 kits. The city ran out in an hour.

The Latest on Local Hospitals: There were 682 people in the county hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday. The county reported 7,786 new cases — a more than 41 percent positivity rate — and 11 deaths.

NBC 7 reported that the spike in COVID hospitalizations led the county to for a second day in a row suspend a key policy so patients could be redirected from packed emergency rooms to less crowded hospitals. Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune reported that “unprecedented numbers” of sick health care workers are significantly impacting efforts to care for the surge in new patients.

In Other News

  • California schools have reported a drop in the number of students experiencing homelessness since the beginning of the pandemic. But experts say districts are drastically undercounting, resulting in fewer resources. (inewsource)
  • State court officials have yet to settle on a repair plan nearly two months after a ceiling collapse led state court officials to close a portion of the Vista courthouse. (Union-Tribune)
  • The rabbi wounded in a 2019 attack at the Chabad of Poway has been ordered to serve 14 months in prison and to pay $2.8 million in restitution more than a year after pleading guilty of tax evasion and other financial crimes. (Times of San Diego)
  • The Union-Tribune reports that supporters of a 2020 city ballot measure aimed at expanding the Convention Center and funding homeless services and road repairs are cheering the latest court ruling elsewhere in the state suggesting that citizen ballot measures only require a simple majority vote. Still, our Lisa Halverstadt has previously heard from experts who argue Measure C’s authorization of city-issued bonds adds a wrinkle to the legal case that the measure passed with less than the typically required two-thirds vote.
  • The Boys and Girls Club of San Dieguito told 10 News it has a waiting list of families wanting to join for the first time in its 56-year history — and is struggling to fill openings needed to serve them.

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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