PART I – Sacramento City “Green” Waste Proposal Selectively Punishes Central City Residents
It is now expected that the Sacramento City Council will decide in mid or late January whether it wants to place on the ballot the repeal of 1977’s Measure A, which prohibited the city from requiring property owners to containerize waste.
If the repeal is placed on the ballot and citywide voters pass it, then council has the legal authority to force residential property owners to containerize “green” waste. Never mind that most of it in the central city (CC) is not green at all but brown from the city’s year-round falling tree leaves. Advocates of containerization, please note that important distinction as you drive or bike by because heretofore you muddied it—either by lack of observation, in ignorance or by deliberate obfuscation.
Of course, council could choose to ignore a passing vote and continue the voluntary program it now has, however, why would it spend thousands of dollars to put it on the ballot if it has no intention of mandating containerization?
The self-appointed “committee” and staff did a very poor job of analyzing the history and consequences of this monumental change in services to reach its quick-fix one-size-fits-all mandate. It ignored the seven-year effort and study that was done to eliminate the problem of dirty streets, which resulted in determining the need for claw services! In fact if this proposal is mandated in the central city, claw elimination will take us decades back to those previously determined unacceptable conditions.
Further, the proposed mandate citywide reflects the committee’s failure to recognize the diversity in housing, streets, tree plantings, design and age of our city’s residential neighborhoods as well as the great differences in contents of the leaf and rubbish piles. It fails to admit that the term “green” waste is a misnomer for many areas of the city.
Perhaps the most egregious omission was that the committee organizers failed to reach out to a mix of folks who will be affected by this major service change. For example, the committee chose not to invite any central city residents to join them, whose input would conflict mightily with their predetermined decision. They chose not to invite any low income, seniors, disabled, ailing, leaf allergy-sufferers who are homeowners and would be affected by this shallow proposal. In my opinion these omissions were deliberate because members feared that such individuals might interject some reality into their fantasy
Recent public comments on this site and homeowners discussions reveal that this proposal and its consequences have far more complicating and adverse effects than the narrowly formed committee ever envisioned.
Since I started this article, I called some friends in the suburbs about containerization and how they felt about a one-size-fits all mandate for their neighborhoods. I explained the reasons as to how it would punish many of us in the central city. I was surprised that they too said they would be punished because their low-income elderly, disabled, allergy sufferers, etc. would also be unable to lift their yard and tree waste into bins.
So it appears staff has forgotten these folks all over the city. On the other hand, maybe they haven’t because staff has said that they’ll just charge those folks more for claw services. Looks like these people need to file another ADA suit against the city like they did the handicap ramps.
Because the differences in neighborhoods heretofore was not taken into consideration by the committee and city staff seem unclear about those differences too, it is important at this time to describe Sacramento’s three major different kinds of neighborhoods and variations within each. There are:
1. recently developed neighborhoods with expansive green lawns soaking up much our water supply to keep them green and newly planted, if any, trees. Their lawn clippings are green waste from the property owner’s front, back and side yards. These single family “snout” houses are built with two and three garages with large areas in the driveways to park their cars and considerable water runoff from rains and sprinkler systems.
Apartment houses, if any, are multi-building complexes—largely two and three story. Few if any sidewalks exist since these neighborhoods were designed to discourage walking and facilitate driving. There is very little street parking because of the availability of space to park in wide driveways. The residential streets are narrow, the collectors wider and expressways the widest. There are no business properties in the residentially zoned areas. Drains are flat abutting the curved curbs and clog easily;
2. the first wave of suburban development was in two phases—the older neighborhoods immediately surrounding the central city and the newer ones just beyond. Both of these have narrow often-curved streets, cul-de-sacs, T intersections or dead end streets. Trees are mature but most grow in front yards next to the narrow sidewalks, which are immediately adjacent to the rolled curbs. These trees may be city or property owner owned depending on distance from the curbs. Building styles vary but include single-family “snout” houses. Many have garages attached to the sides of the house with driveways running from the street to the back of the lot. There are a few apartment houses and there is a mix of parking on the streets and in driveways. There may also be some small businesses here and there. Drains are usually flat abutting the curved curbs and clog easily.
3. the far different older and historic CC, the streets of which are lined with Park Strips in which the city’s trees are planted. Lots are small, often no more that 40×60 or 40×80 where single family homes, duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes cover as much as 90% of the lot. Most have tiny front or back yards with side yards as narrow as five feet. There is room for few if any trees, but some have shrubs. There are few garages, depending on the neighborhood, and most residents compete for parking on the street with residents of single or double lot “shot gun” apartments, sometimes several existing in a row on a given block. Most of these apartments were given parking variances and have carport or garage space for half the units—if that. Advocates also mistakenly believe all home owners are as young and physically able as they are.
There are many vacant lots, parking structures and lots, and businesses dotted throughout, including houses that were permitted for full time businesses with no living quarters whose employees often must park on the street. Some drains are flat and others are combinations of flat and hollowed out gutter spaces, the latter clogs the least.
Lacking knowledge and failing to consider these vast differences throughout the city, the self-appointed committee, including city staff members, decided that they should ask council to punish all property owners in the central city, including seniors, disabled and those with lung conditions by raising their rates if they do not containerize the “green” waste. Obviously, they mistakenly believed that central city “green” waste was the same as where they lived (River Park, Natomas, Greenhaven, etc.) where property owners have large expansive green lawns with privately owned trees and gardens.
As they raced in and out of the CC in their cars polluting our air, they drove on streets which are extensions to the commuter highways or off and on freeway ramps, and apparently did not see that year-round the CITY’S trees drop non-green leaves, twigs, various sized seed pods, tree blossoms, et al.
They didn’t notice either that irresponsible, careless and drunken humans litter gutters with paper, plastic bags, articles of clothing, candy/cigarette packages/wrappings, flyers, loose pages of the SN&R or BEE, plastic and paper coffee cups, hypodermic needles, partially consumed soft drinks in plastic or glass bottles, liquor and beer bottles/cans, half eaten discarded food in plastic or Styrofoam fast food or convenience market takeout containers—all of which attract, rats, flies, roaches and other vermin not to mention an assortment of broken glass, pieces of lumber, dead squirrels and birds, dog doodoo and human feces occasionally mixed in. Compost advocates apparently don’t know that this mix of contents does not compost; or if they do, expect homeowners to sort out these health hazardous discards.
Because none of those committee whizzes live here, they didn’t know either that many residents sweep this crap into a pile to keep the gutters relatively clean and drains unclogged so the claw can pick it up, making central city waste “polluted” and unfit for city composting sites unless sorted at the dump sites. Nor did they know that their suburban neighbors bring their non-green waste down to the CC to dump in the streets in front of vacant lots. So they decided to punish aforementioned CC property owner residents by forcing them to gather all these health hazards up by hand, dump them into their containers and store them on their property until pickup day arrives.
Please read Part II for even more bizarre inequities and punishment.