San Diego

City Sued Over Free Trash Collection for Vacation Rentals

Lawsuit claims city knew free trash service violated law but continued anyway.

Taxpayers in San Diego pay an estimated $2 million dollars a year, according to the city auditor, to collect trash at 16,000 short term vacation rentals citywide. Now, a new lawsuit seeks to change that.

In a Nov. 25 lawsuit, public advocacy group San Diegans for Open Government, represented by attorney and city attorney candidate Cory Briggs, claims collecting trash at commercial properties, such as those rentals offered on Airbnb and VRBO, violates the People’s Ordinance, which ensures free trash pick up at single-family households.

The mayor’s office and the city attorney’s office have been aware of the issue for years.

A March 2017 memo from the city attorney’s office determined that free trash pick-up was prohibited at short term rentals because the People’s Ordinance provided for free “residential refuse” service in single-family and multi-family residences which are occupied for more than a month at a time.

Then in July 2019, the city auditor sent a letter to Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell raising the same concerns.

“Although the City Attorney’s Office determined that free trash collection for [Short Term Residential Occupancy, also known as STROs] is ‘very likely’ prohibited by the People’s Ordinance and the operation of STROs in residential areas is apparently unlawful, the City continues to provide trash collection service to STROs at no charge.”

Now, the city must defend the trash collection in court.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent the city from continuing to collect trash at short term rentals for free and also to begin collecting fees for trash collection and recover the money already spent to collect refuse at the 16,000 vacation properties.

“Our organization has been forced to ask the courts to protect taxpayers because the city attorney refuses to enforce the city’s trash-collection and other prohibitions against short-term vacation rentals,” reads a statement from San Diegans for Open Government.

The city did not respond to a request for comment.

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