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

San Diegans agreed this election cycle that the city should be able to charge everyone for trash collection. While the city could impose it as soon as a 12-month cost of service study is complete, it’ll likely take a lot longer.

Recall that until Measure B passed this month, most single-family homeowners could expect the city to collect their waste at no charge. Now the city has the legal grounds to study how much trash collection should cost every resident, and pass a new fee for that service. 

Any new fee governments charge for a service goes through what’s called a Proposition 218 process, which typically involves hiring a third-party consultant to crunch a bunch of data layered with economics and spit out prices for that service. But that can take a year to 18 months to complete.

If the City Council wanted to, it could start looking for that consultant on Dec. 9, a day after the certification of midterm election results, and pass those proposed fees as soon as they’re published. But Councilman Joe La Cava, chair of San Diego City Council’s Environment Committee, says the process will be much more deliberative. 

“We want to be very authentic about community outreach because we really promised it during the campaign,” La Cava said.

One major concern, La Cava said, is ensuring that a new fee won’t be overly-burdensome on a low-income resident who previously received free waste collection. Part of this research is about deciding what options the city has to soften the blow, with a subsidy or by spending other money dedicated to climate equity.

The plan, La Cava said, is to first gather public feedback on the state of the city’s waste collection system. The form that would take, whether online surveys or community forums, is to be determined. Then Mayor Todd Gloria’s office needs to initiate the cost-of-service study. 

La Cava said he and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, who led the effort to get Measure B on the ballot, would likely lead the public outreach effort and communicate with the mayor’s office to push the process along. He offered summer of 2023 as a deadline for public input, but said the search for a consultant for the study could start earlier, as soon as spring of 2023. 

“It’s really at the city’s discretion,” La Cava said. “We’ve cleared this major hurdle and there’s not a mandate to get this done as soon as possible.”

Some climate activist groups view the passage of Measure B and the fee it allows as a way to fast-track the city’s recent Climate Action Plan commitment of generating zero waste. 

“Our hope is now that Measure B has passed, the city can adopt policies that will allow for really serious waste reduction and source separation which is the best way to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions,” said Mikey Knab, policy director for Climate Action Campaign. “I expect the Council to act as quickly as possible.” 

San Diego’s landfills are already leaking planet-warming methane which is 80 times better at trapping heat closer to the Earth’s surface than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The more people throw away, the quicker San Diego has to close its landfills, extend their life or search for new ground to cover in trash. Plus, the city committed to rolling out a new waste stream that collects and recycles food waste in just six weeks. The longer a large swath of San Diegans receive free waste collection, the more that cost compounds on the city budget

“I don’t disagree,” La Cava said. “I know there are some who argue that by imposing a fee, especially a pay-as-you-throw fee, you begin to incentivize people to be more careful about waste,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to achieve those goals anyway and use this fee as a cost-recovery mechanism.” 

There are a few hiccups on the horizon. The City Council could get through both the cost study and public outreach and then decide not to vote on imposing the trash fee, or delay it. As Voice of San Diego wrote in its Politics Report, all this work could likely finish in a big election year: 2024. 

Not a choice time for politicians to send bills out to residents. 

Other News Around this Coastal Desert Ecosystem

  • The California Public Utilities Commission released new proposed costs for rooftop solar users. Here’s what locals had to say. (KPBS)
  • In other CPUC news, investor-owned utilities got the greenlight to move forward with a $1 billion vehicle electrification project to help accelerate the number of electric trucks on the road. (Union Tribune)
  • Sweetwater Authority drained some of its water from the Loveland Reservoir to meet customer demands as the drought persists. (inewsource)
  • A question I posed on Twitter about the lifespan of downtown San Diego’s one-way streets sparked a compelling debate. 
  • San Diego’s transportation planning czar pushing for per-mile fees on drivers says he may leave San Diego if leaders can’t agree on bold vision for public transit. (Union Tribune)
  • San Diego is woefully behind on its tree planting goals. (Voice of San Diego)

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5 Comments

  1. Did you read Matt Hall’s piece in the UTSD? A scathing indictment on our city fathers from Havana! What a group of small-town operators, private club members condoned by the media and hailed as intelligent. What a joke! Just let everyone become a renter on the dole!

  2. How is it corporate commercial property owners have been granted to power to vote on abolishing property tax agreements between the City and private home owners? The city website states we already pay for trash service, here’s the link. https://www.propertytax101.org/articles/whatispropertytax.php.
    Why would intelligent homeowners vote to impose a trash fee when they already pay for it? Why waste tax dollars on a new trash billing department? Why not increase the cost of trash pick up by increasing property taxes a few bucks could cover the cost. When are Elected official going to start representing the interest of the people. Judge Judy would say if it doesn’t make sense then something isn’t right.
    The city pays $8.64 a month to pick up trash for a single family home. Raising the tax fee collected to $12.64 would certainly cover the cost.
    The only logical reasoning to eliminate an already proven and dependable collection method for trash fees could be that the City intends to wash it hands of the billing and plans to arranged for private trash collection companies to gouge homeowners for trash service in the near future. I base my opinion on the City’s past history of making promises they never keep. A Municipal Government and the people are not indebted to wealthy private corporations and commercial enterprises and nor should elected official be.
    There is a preexisting property tax agreement between a municipal government and private property owners. Our elected officials have misrepresented the issue of trash collection and it only serve the interest of wealthy commercial businesses and rental property owners who that are not a party to city agreement with homeowners. Elected officials have granted to authority to commercial businesses to abolish a working and effective tax agreement for the personal gain of a minority and elected officials. This abuse of taxation will never stop unless we remove the self serving good ol boys from power. There is one other issue I have with the city’s choice of trash service, it is racially bias against white people, Most all of Edco trash and recycling are Hispanics, and the open border policy certain serves it racial interest. Thats a fact!
    Last Question: Can we expect the city to lower our property taxes when were forced to pay for trash service. NO!

  3. IF I have to now pay for the city to pickup my waste, the City needs to employ lots of people to pick through the landfill on a daily basis to separate the real waste from that which can be TRULY recycled. It is common knowledge that what is put in the recycled binds are in fact NOT COMPLETELY RECYCLED.

  4. Hey Joe La Cava – I missed the outreach piece in the deceptive ads that were run. Played on the stupidity of people to push this POS through. I was under the impression that the city charter could not be changed with a simple majority or did you sneak your way around that obstacle. City council has been a bunch of thieves for many years here. I’m now a volunteer to help defeat you in any campaign that you run.

  5. When are san diego homeowners going to be charged for trash pick up. Since we already pay thru property tax and how much

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