Councilman Wants to Toss People's Ordinance on Free Trash Pickup

The People's Ordinance has been on the books for more than 100 years in San Diego

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The way the People's Ordinance, which was enacted in the city of San Diego more than a century ago, currently works is that most single family homes who are next to a city street get free trash removal services. If you live in a condominium or an apartment that’s on a city street, though, you have to pay.

According to a city report, trash removal services have cost the city $260 million in the past five years and are expected to balloon to $380 million in the next five because of a new state law requiring the disposal of organic waste.

"This is a huge drain on city resources, it’s a bad way of doing business and it's irresponsible to continue down this path," San Diego City Council member Sean Elo-Rivera said.

Elo-Rivera said the city could spend that money on parks, libraries or giving raises to city employees like firefighters, instead. There have been proposals to amend the ordinance in the past, but none of those efforts gained traction. The council member said San Diego is the only city in the county and the only big city in California in which single-family homeowners don't directly pay for trash pickup.

"The bottom line is this: that if some folks get the service and others don’t so there's a two tiered system, there isn’t a lot of rhyme or reason for it," Elo-Rivera said. "It is unfair in that way, and again, more than anything, it's irresponsible because of the huge drain it has on city resources."

That city study also found that comparable California cities were charging single family homes anywhere from $25 to $100 per month for trash removal, depending on the level of service.

If the proposal to amend the ordinance moves forward, it would become a ballot measure that San Diego voters would weigh in on, then there would be a cost-analysis study conducted, and, finally, the city council would have a final vote on the details of the plan. It would potentially take years for the fee structure to change.

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