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City Council Eyes Changing ‘People’s Ordinance’ to Improve Garbage Service


Trash bins
Curbside trash bins. Courtesy City of SanDiego

A San Diego City Council committee has voted in favor of changes to the century-old “People’s Ordinance” that makes trash pickup free for homeowners but charges renters and condominium owners.

The council’s Rules Committee voted Wednesday to advance Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and Councilmember Joe LaCava’s proposed reforms to the full council, which could vote to put the reform on the November ballot.

The 1919 ordinance has been widely criticized for being inequitable and not encouraging homeowners to recycle and and reduce waste. Multiple grand juries have recommended repealing the ordinance.

Elo said voters would not be asked to impose fees, but to amend the ordinance so that the city could consider comprehensive changes to garbage and recycling services.

“We’re essentially two votes away from putting this on the ballot,” he said, adding that San Diego must end “this two-tier system where some San Diegans are getting their trash picked up for free and others are paying for it.”

He said approval of the amendment would allow the city to begin a cost-of-service study, but the current level, which he described as “bare bones,” might cost $14 to $25 per month.

“The question becomes what do San Diegans want to add to their service,” he said, suggesting that more frequent recycling collection and bulk pickup could be potential additions.

The proposal approved by the Rules Committee would make the following changes to the People’s Ordinance:

  • Allow a cost-recovery fee for solid waste collection, transport, disposal, and recycling.
  • Eliminate rules that force most residents in apartments and condominiums pay for services that others receive at no charge. 
  • Include the cost of bins if a fee for solid waste services is levied, so residents no longer have to pay a standalone fee.
  • Ensure short-term vacation rentals, accessory dwelling units, and “mini-dorms” that receive garbage service pay for services.

“Changes to the antiquated law will benefit our workers, our environment, and, most of all, our constituents who demand and deserve more and better services. I look forward to taking our proposal to the full City Council,” said LaCava.

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