Will San Diego Dump Free Trash Collection?

Disposal fee proposal floated at City Hall

By Gene Cubbison
|  Saturday, Jan 17, 2009  |  Updated 7:06 AM PDT
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No More Free Trash Pickup?

Getty Images/Scott Olson

As a cost-cutting measure, San Diego city leaders are considering ending trash pickup for small businesses.

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No More Free Trash Pickup?

There's now talk at City Hall about asking the voters to end 90 years of free trash disposal for single-family homes and small businesses.
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Is it high time San Diegans started paying for garbage collection?

There's now talk at City Hall about asking the voters to end 90 years of free trash disposal for single-family homes and small businesses.

Early public reaction indicates a fair measure of support for the idea of imposing a curbside trash collection fee for some 300,000 single-family homes and 7,500 small b businesses.

"I'd vote for it," said Normal Heights homeowner David Hayes as he raked his front yard on Friday, noting the procession of city Environmental Services trucks picking up garbage, recycling and green waste headed for the Miramar Landfill.

"We've got to have landfills, and the city needs the money for everything under the sun," Hayes continued.  "It's for the good of all of us."

San Diego's publicly subsidized solid waste disposal system -- including a landfill that's high-maintenance and almost maxed out -- costs nearly 40 million dollars a year.

Proponents of a trash fee say the money  could spare some libraries, recreation centers and other services when the next budget-cutting cycle rolls around.

Fees of $10 to $12 a month a month, for starters, are being mentioned.

"it's really not gonna kill you -- $10 to $12 a month to help save some things," said Jason Gethin, another Normal Heights homeowner, who was interviewed while he walked his dog.  "It's one meal at McDonald's, or something like that.  I wouldn't mind paying it." 

San Diego is believed to be the only city of any real size and stature not to charge for curbside trash collection. 

If substantial public support materializes, the City Council could prepare a ballot measure for the 2010 election cycle.

"I think I was here about two years before I even realized I wasn't paying for it," said Normal Heights homeowner Tom Hanifin, a former resident of Chicago and Las Vegas.  "To me, it's part of doing business, I guess ... so I don't have a problem with it."

However, objections were raised by other Normal Heights homeowners who declined to give their names. 

They had doubts about whether money from trash fees actually would help save libraries and rec centers, and voiced concerns about imposing new fees during a recession without further city spending cuts. 

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