By James R. Riffel
City News Service
A cost-cutting plan by Mayor Jerry Sanders to end free trash collection to about 14,000 homes on private roads survived a challenge Monday in a closely split City Council vote.
The council voted 4-3 — five votes were needed for passage — to stop Sanders from revoking so-called "hold harmless" agreements that limit the liability of garbage haulers who enter private property to collect refuse.
The mayor wants to rescind 102 of the deals as of July 1 to save $880,000 annually in the city's cash-strapped general fund, a figure that could rise to more than $1 million if franchise fees are figured in. Affected residents would have to contract with private collection firms.
Councilman Carl DeMaio, who led the effort to kill the plan, said trash pickup is a basic service paid for with taxes and fees.
"For San Diegans, we have to stand up against a pattern in city government which provides less and charges more," DeMaio said.
Nearly 60 percent of San Diego's households enjoy free trash collection. More than 200,000 — mostly apartments and condominiums — have to pay for such service. That total includes about 30,000 residences on private streets built after 1986.
Some of the poorest residents of the city have to pay higher rents to pay for trash pickup, said Councilwoman Marti Emerald.
Because of the budget savings, the choice would be between saving free trash pickup for a certain segment of the population or preserving public services, she said.
Councilman Todd Gloria said "everyone should pay, or no one should pay."
Stopping the mayor would have been tying his hands to act in the best interest of San Diego, ignoring the advice of the Independent Budget Analyst and adding to the deficit, Gloria said.
David Alvarez cast the third dissenting vote.
When the item was before the Natural Resources and Culture Committee, Alvarez was a critic of the plan because of its potential financial impact on mobile home residents in Barrio Logan. This time, however, he said he could not ignore the impact the action would have on the budget.