Green waste debate to resume
A city staff proposal to eventually stop loose-in-the-street green waste pickup and move to container pickup will not work for all city residents, Interim City Manager Gus Vina said in an interview Thursday.
In tree-laden areas such as Midtown, a container is not adequate to hold all of the fallen leaves, Vina said, explaining why he pulled the green waste issue from the City Council’s agenda on Tuesday.
“I want to make sure I’ve challenged staff enough on creativity and the solutions that are possible,” Vina said.
The plan that Vina delayed would have encouraged moving away from loose-in-the street pickup and raised rates for residents who continue that method of pickup. Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said the green waste issue will be on the City Council agenda again within a couple weeks.
The city uses two systems for green waste pickup because of a law that was passed in 1977. Measure A states that the city cannot compel residents to put their green waste in containers. Therefore, the city must continue to provide loose-in-the-street pickup.
The proposal that was pulled from the council agenda Tuesday asked the City Council to take steps to eventually overturn Measure A. This would allow the city to enforce containerized pickup as the sole method.
Voters would have to approve a counter-measure that would abolish Measure A.
City staff had planned to ask the council on Tuesday to consider draft language for a counter-measure “for use if the City Council determines at a subsequent time to call such a measure to the ballot,” the Feb. 22 staff report said.
But Vina said Thursday that changing the measure doesn’t solve the green waste problem for people living “in heavy areas where a container doesn’t do it.”
“Land Park and Midtown are good examples,” he said Friday. “Basically, we have lots of trees, and in older areas, the trees are big.”
The proposal also included major rate increases for people who choose loose-in-the-street pickup over containers as long as Measure A is still in effect. A resident who chooses loose-in-the-street pickup now pays a fee of $13.71 per month. One of the ideas suggested in the proposal would raise the rate to about $40 per month.
City staff explained in the proposal that the number of loose-in-the-street customers has declined over time – the 103,787 container customers far surpass the 12,121 loose-in-the-street customers. The number of loose-in-the-street customers no longer pay enough in fees to pay for the cost of the service, the report said.
“The current loose-in-the-street rate of $13.71 was sufficient to recover the full cost when 57,000 customers were putting their green waste in the street,” according to the report. “With only 12,121 loose-in-the-street customers remaining paying the same rate, there is now insufficient funding to cover the cost of the service.”
Because there are no longer enough customers to keep the rate at $13.71 per month, city staff say the rate should be raised.
Green waste pickup is a recurring point of contention between the Utilities Department, which favors containers, and some residents, who want to keep their loose-in-the-street pickup.
The department’s position, which is included in the staff report, is that the containers are cheaper and better for the environment than loose-in-the-street pickup. It takes two vehicles to do loose-in-the-street pickup, while only one is needed for containers, according to the department. Reducing the number of vehicles helps prevent pollution, the department points out.
Read the Feb. 22 green waste proposal that Vina withdrew from the council’s agenda here.
Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.