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Attorney Says City Of San Diego Can Eliminate Free Trash Pickup

The city can eliminate free trash pickup for single-family homes in residential neighborhoods, turn the service over to a private contractor and save $34 million a year, San Diego's city attorney said in a legal opinion released today.

The financially strapped city is one of three municipalities in the state that offer free trash pickup, along with Newport Beach and El Monte, and could save the millions by dumping an entire city division, according to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

Voters would have to approve amendments to the city charter that allow -- but do not require -- the city to get out of the trash hauling business, Goldsmith said.


Mayor Jerry Sanders has been looking for ways to close the city's perpetual budget gaps, including privatizing the Miramar Landfill. One of the potential stumbling blocks has been a 1919 law called "The People's Ordinance," which established free trash collection.

Goldsmith opined that the law does not actually require free pickups. In fact, residents of most condominium and apartment complexes have to contract with private trash collectors, he said.

The shortfall for the city's next fiscal year is estimated to be around $73 million.