City approves ballot measure to amend the People’s Ordinance



SAN DIEGO – Voters this fall will decide on a potential change to the People’s Ordinance, a more than century-old San Diego law requiring the city to pick up trash at local homes.

The decision to place the amendment on the ballot comes Monday after a 7-2 vote by San Diego City Council. First created in 1919 and last amended in 1986, the ordinance long has been the subject of criticism as it prohibits the city from charging most single-family residences for trash collection services while those living in apartments and condos must pay a private hauler.

In the most recent fiscal year, the trash pickup policy was expected to cost taxpayers $43.2 million and and it could run as much $234.7 million between 2023 and 2027, a city staff report shows.

“That’s $234.7 million that could be invested in public services like parks, libraries, and more,” the report reads.

Three San Diego County grand juries have raised issues with the ordinance over time, including a 2008 effort which found it is “fundamentally inequitable and cannot be justified as a policy that furthers the collective good.” All three recommended the city convert the service to a variable-rate system that charges customers based on the amount of trash they generate.

City leaders want to amend the existing ordinance to consider other options, including a possibility where customers with higher volumes of trash pay a higher fee. The possibility was introduced by City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and Councilmember Joe LaCava, who say it would “result in a more responsible City government,” according to the city report.

They argue it would address longstanding issues raised by grand juries and a 2021 Independent Budget Analyst report, offer flexibility to the city to invest money into public services and help meet Climate Action Plan goals “by being able to enhance solid waste management services and implement innovative policies and programs.”

Monday’s vote gives the green light to put an amendment to the ordinance on the ballot. It also directs City Attorney Mara Elliott to prepare a summary and impartial analysis and for others including Mayor Todd Gloria, the city’s independent budget analyst and city auditor to draft a fiscal impact analysis and assign potential ballot arguments.

If ultimately approved by voters, it makes a fee for collection services “allowable, not imposed,” a presentation by Elo-Rivera shows. The fee would not be “imminent,” according to Elo-Rivera, and could take years to implement.

Polling data shared by the council president notes 64% of voters support amending it, the third such poll in the past year with majority support. It also has a number of high-profile supporters, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown San Diego Partnership, and the Surfrider Foundation.

The election will be held Nov. 8.

FOX 5’s Jacqueline Sarkissian contributed to this report.



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