trash pick up san diego
A side-loader city of San Diego sanitation truck collects trash in a residential area in North Park on Dec. 23, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the March 18 Morning Report. Subscribe here for free.

Over half of homes in the city of San Diego get free trash pickup, a right installed by San Diegan voters in 1919 called the People’s Ordinance. 

But apartment buildings, businesses and any home not on a public street have to pay for private trash pickup.

Now the San Diego City Council wants to test whether the will of the people has changed with a new ballot measure slated for this November. It would allow the city to charge trash pickup fees to homes currently getting free city trash collection — and perhaps in the future reap funds that other municipalities count on to pay for things like public safety and infrastructure.

The City Council Rules Committee voted Wednesday to start drafting that ballot measure, according to reporting by KPBS. Taxpayers currently pay for free trash pickup to the tune of $43.2 million this fiscal year. Come 2027, if the People’s Ordinance remains intact, that cost could inflate to about $75 million, auditors predict. 

That cost will skyrocket in the coming years as cities across California begin to institute mandatory food recycling collection to help cut down on the production of planet-warming methane in landfills. The city of San Diego is expected to build a new organics recycling facility at a cost of at least $50 million. Plus, the city has already spent millions in the current city budget to order 43 new sanitation trucks, hundreds of thousands of green organic waste carts and hire another 40 sanitation workers. 

Lisa Halverstadt and Scott Lewis contributed to this reporting.

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  1. The “FREE” trash service in San Diego is not “FREE” and anyone that believes that is delusional.
    The cost of trash service is built into other fees to compensate for the “FREE” trash service and council should present these pending new charges before that a add yet another “TAX” for processing trash.
    This new “TAX” should be deducted from exciting fees before a charging a new “TAX”

    1. It is free for single use family homes, they are not paying a service fee. It comes out of the taxes that everyone pays for, yet not everyone gets the free service. The fees you are talking about are levied on the Multifamily homes who are serviced by franchised haulers.

      1. I understand what you are saying. Perhaps I misinterpreted Mr. Dawson’s words. I believed that he was implying somehow that single family homes were paying some unknown fee maybe covered by some aspect of their property tax. Anyway, free or not free, I worry over the City squandering any excess revenue.
        Daniel Smiechowski candidate who cannot win because of bias toward his name.
        My name is Dan Smiechowski, I will only promise the voters of District 2 three things:

        I will use the office of City Council to send a message from San Diego to the rest of America


        I will propose a charter amendment to stop the sale of City owned land.

        I will advocate that all future new hires for City Government have as their pension plan Social Security


        Vote for America Vote for Dan

  2. Didn’t Jerry Sanders and his clan try to outsource this service years ago? Didn’t he bring in Ronnie Froman to help outsource this service to his campaign contributors? You know, Laidlaw, Waste Managment, Republic, Allied Waste, etc. They called it ‘managed competition.’ It was more about privatizing the service to his buddies. The plan was to get private companies to bid the services. Of course the bids wouldn’t include any retirement benefits or health care. The City would sell all the equipment to their ‘friends’ for 10 cents on a dollar. Once the private contractors took over the contracts they’d be free to ‘stick it’ to all homeowners. You know trucks break down, diesel fuel costs went up, and the landfill almost filled to capacity! We’ll probably have to increase costs monthly because we’ve got to haul the trash to Jacumba! We’ll have to charge more for that. Of course if the current City workers still want jobs, they could apply to the new contractors. Sorry, no retirement benefits or health care is available. Incidentally, if the City workers don’t get the new contract, they could rebid for it in a few years. Oh wait, the equipment was all sold off for 10 cents on a dollar. Who’s going to pay for all the new equipment? Oh there’s nobody willing to do that, so sorry they’re all out of work. Wait, Isn’t this the same Jerry Sanders, that conspired with Carl DeMaio and Kevin Faulconer to ramrod the illegal Prop. B? Oh and what about the illustrious Ash Street fleecing of the taxpayers? Bring your ballot initiative so we can work hard to defeat it!!!

  3. My understanding is that homeowners pay for trash pickup through our property taxes. Wouldn’t this be double taxation?

    1. I pay the same property taxes you do but my trash pick up is not free. The less wealthy in multi family buildings are subsidizing you.

      1. Correct. Every property owner in a given neighborhood pays the same tax rate, but for some—primarily single family homeowners—that taxation pays for trash collection and recycling. All others pay, through collected rent or HOA fees or perhaps direct billing, for their trash/recycling collection by private companies.

        Whether everyone gets that service through the taxes paid on the property or everyone pays separately for private servicing, equity requires that all residences be treated equally. When this ordinance was enacted long ago, most people lived in homes receiving City trash collection, but in the decades that followed the proportion residing in multi-family buildings increased substantially, and with it the fraction who paid for commercial collection expanded.

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