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Ballot measure to charge San Diego single-family homes for city trash collection draws debate in La Jolla

Measure B on San Diego's Nov. 8 ballot would have single-family homeowners in the city pay for trash collection.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Town Council meeting features arguments for and against Measure B on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

San Diegans are being asked to vote in the Nov. 8 election on whether to approve Measure B, which would allow the city to begin charging single-family homeowners for trash collection. The La Jolla Town Council heard arguments for and against the measure during its meeting Oct. 13 online and at the La Jolla Recreation Center.

Measure B would amend the “People’s Ordinance,” which voters approved in 1919 to have the city collect trash from residences without charging homeowners.

The ordinance was updated in the 1980s to prohibit the city from going onto private property such as apartment complexes to prevent liability exposure. Thus, those in condominiums, apartments or single-family homes on private streets must pay for trash collection by private haulers, as do businesses.

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said he was among the council members who pushed for Measure B to appear on the ballot.

The “People’s Ordinance,” LaCava said, is outdated because the city is a “much different place” now.

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava speaks at the Oct. 13 La Jolla Town Council meeting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The current ordinance also creates inequality, he said, as those who own a single-family home on a public street pay property tax and have their trash collected at no additional charge, but those who own a condo or business property or live on a private street also pay property tax but must pay extra for trash collection.

“Everybody should really be treated the same,” LaCava said. “What we’re trying to do is level the playing field.”

Measure B will “open up a conversation about what we could do differently than we’re doing now,” he added.

Haney Hong, president and chief executive of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, said “we agree that the system needs change.”

“Measure B, however, is not the right way to change it,” Hong said. He added that the taxpayers association recommends voting against the measure.

“Trash is part public good, part private good,” Hong said. Everybody who pays property taxes has already “paid for part of the infrastructure,” like landfill maintenance, whether or not they also pay for private collection, he said.

Everyone who pays property taxes “should get some amount of trash collected without additional fees,” Hong said. The association recommends that the city implement a “pay as you throw” fee system for trash volume beyond a set amount afforded to all.

LaCava said having single-family homeowners pay for trash collection through Measure B would save the city the $45 million a year it spends to collect trash from single-family homes.

“Imagine what we could do with that money going forward,” he said.

An independent budget analysis estimated that each household would pay $23 to $29 per month for trash collection, but LaCava added the city will want to hear from taxpayers about possibly adjusting rates according to how much trash a household generates.

The estimate in the report by the city’s independent budget analyst doesn’t factor in required service upgrades or free bins

Passage of Measure B also would allow for discussion of how to address people with lower incomes for whom paying for trash collection might be a substantial burden, LaCava said.

Hong, however, said that “if we want to keep costs down and we want to get maximum value, it’s really important that the city make this system a competitive system.”

“Measure B as it’s written actually precludes any competition because if you look at the language … only city employees can do this work,” he said.

If Measure B passes, LaCava said, the city will be required to “conduct a study, take public input and decide what we want to do.”

The City Council would then vote on the details of rates and services, he said. He anticipates that any changes to the current ordinance would not go into effect until 2024.

Other trash talk

La Jolla's Village has 41 trash receptacles, emptied daily by the Maintenance Assessment District.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Mary Montgomery, manager of the La Jolla Maintenance Assessment District under the purview of the nonprofit Enhance La Jolla, described what the MAD does in terms of trash.

The MAD’s coverage area has 41 trash receptacles within the limits of The Village, emptied daily by MAD vendors, Montgomery said.

“We do our best to support the city’s efforts,” she said. “I like to think that we’re making a positive impact, because every time I walk around The Village, there’s rarely an overflowing trash can.”

Next meeting: The La Jolla Town Council next meets at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, online and at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St. To learn more, visit lajollatowncouncil.org.