City closes recycling center that would fund a shelter for La Jolla's homeless

tresha Souza (center) speaks with some of the regular customers at her Pacific Beach recycling center last month.
tresha Souza (center) speaks with some of the regular customers at her Pacific Beach recycling center last month.
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tresha Souza (center) speaks with some of the regular customers at her Pacific Beach recycling center last month.

How to Help:

Tresha Souza is hoping for a resolution so she can reopen at CVS. She asks merchants who may have space for a recycling center or anyone with expertise to help her wade through the bureaucratic process to contact her at (858) 414-8281 or

soothersmayeatinc@san.rr.com

By Pat Sherman

A recycling center that was opened earlier this year to raise money for a proposed shelter serving the homeless in La Jolla and Pacific Beach was forced to cease operations May 31, or face fines of $500 a day.

The recycling center’s operator, Tresha Souza, says she is the victim of nebulous municipal codes, conflicting city evaluations and selective enforcement.

Souza, who is also founder of the nonprofit organization, So Others May Eat, Inc., which serves free meals to the homeless at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla, opened her recycling center more than three months ago, in the alley adjacent to CVS Pharmacy at 4445 Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach. She hopes to use money from the business to fund a homeless shelter she intends to open on Mission Bay Drive in Pacific Beach. The shelter would serve the longterm and emergency needs of the homeless in local beach communities.

Before opening, Souza obtained a business tax license and city approval for the recycling center, which was open 30 hours per week before closing.

“I went to zoning three times,” she said. “They looked up all the codes and told me I’m good to go. This was in January. ... I did my due diligence.”

Souza also obtained written approval from the district manager of CVS Pharmacy, as well as CalRecycle, the state agency that oversees the collection and payment of California Redemption Value (CRV) funds, which are collected as fees paid on the purchase of recyclable beverage containers. CalRecycle reimburses recycling center operators such as Souza, as well as curbside recyclers who contract with the city of San Diego and other municipalities.

On April 24 Souza said she received a phone call from Lisa Johnson, a land development investigator with the city’s code enforcement department, alerting her to the results of an investigation of her center that took place earlier that day, when Souza was not present.

A written report of the inspection dated May 7 states, in part, that Souza was operating “without a required permit contrary to permit conditions,” (code section 121.0302), and that “facilities that are not within a fully enclosed building shall be set back at least 10 feet from any building or public-right-of- way” (code section 141.0620).

Souza said her center is more than 10 feet from the alley. Gary Geiler, an associate planer with the city’s development services department, agreed with Souza, telling her upon a later site visit that she in fact appeared to be compliant with the city’s municipal code.

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A client unloaded recyclables in an alley adjacent to Tresha Souza's recycling center last month.

Speaking with the

La Jolla Ligh

t, Bob Vacchi, deputy director of the city’s neighborhood code compliance division, was not certain if Souza required an additional permit for her center, as stated in the inspection.

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