San Diego’s policy of providing free garbage collection to single-family homes will cost taxpayers nearly $ 235 million over the next five years, according to a report due to be discussed by a city council committee on Thursday.
The Independent Budget Analyst’s Office report was requested by board member Sean Elo-Rivera, who wants to ask voters to change the policy.
The People’s Ordinance, enacted by voters in 1919, requires the city to provide free garbage collection to almost all single-family homes. Apartment buildings and businesses, on the other hand, have to pay private companies for waste collection and recycling.
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Despite the costs of the ordinance, few city leaders have dared to propose changing the system, which many see as a third rail in local politics.
But Elo-Rivera, who chairs the council’s environment committee, seems willing to give it a try. He said offering a free service to only a subset of residents is regressive and unfair, especially since households in single-family homes tend to earn higher incomes and have greater wealth than those apartments.
“There is a two tier system, and that’s inherently unfair,” Elo-Rivera said. “And who it has the most impact, which is those who are most likely to have lower incomes, makes it particularly unfair.”
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The issue has taken on new urgency as San Diego faces increasing costs associated with waste management. Recycling revenues have plummeted since China stopped accepting most recyclable materials from the United States.
Additionally, state law will require the city to start collecting compostable organic waste by 2023, according to the IBA report. San Diego plans to fund these new or expanded services with its general fund, which also pays for police, fire, tree cutting, and other basic city services.
Elo-Rivera said allowing the city to charge residents a fee, with the revenue sequestered in a special fund that can only pay for waste management, would free up millions of dollars for other city priorities like repair of infrastructure, parks and libraries.
“It won’t solve all of our budget problems, but it’s a big part of it,” Elo-Rivera said.
Free garbage pickup in San Diego will be discussed
The decision whether or not to put a measure on the ballot to repeal or change the People’s Ordinance would require approval from the rules committee of the council, and then from the entire city council. In fact, changing the rule would require the approval of a majority of city voters.