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Ending Free Trash Pickup Among Potential Changes To San Diego Charter

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Photo credit: City of San Diego

A City of San Diego trash collection truck is pictured in this undated photo.


A review of San Diego's City Charter might sound dry, but the yearlong review of the document that acts as the city's constitution could open the door to some big changes.

A review of San Diego's City Charter might sound dry, but the yearlong review of the document that acts as the city's constitution could open the door to some big changes.

One of the proposals made by City Councilwoman Marti Emerald is to look at whether "to allow voters to consider having all users pay for refuse collection." That means having all residents pay for trash pickup, which Emerald wrote would increase funding for public safety and infrastructure.


Charter Review Memos

Charter Review Memos

Memos from council members and department heads about what to change in San Diego's City Charter.

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That change would mean getting rid of the People's Ordinance, which bars the city from charging single-family homes for trash collection. The People's Ordinance can only be removed by a public vote.

Emerald suggests changing Charter Sections 26 and 26.1, which do not currently reference the People's Ordinance or trash pickup. Any changes to the charter would also have to be approved by a public vote.

A January report from the city's independent budget analyst said eliminating the People's Ordinance could add $31.3 million a year to the city's general fund.

A spokeswoman for City Council President Sherri Lightner, who heads the charter review committee, said while the People's Ordinance is not part of the City Charter, the Charter Review Committee likely will discuss it at some point. The committee will meet once a month through the end of this year and then will create a set of ballot measures to change the charter, which will go before voters in June or November 2016.

Emerald's suggestion was made in a memo to Lightner for changes to discuss at an upcoming charter committee meeting. Lightner asked all council members and heads of city departments to send her suggestions of items they'd like to see reviewed. Here are some of the other changes:

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald

• Reform the referendum process to reduce potential for "results to be influenced by a small number of people spending large amounts of money" and ensure referendum campaigns are "conducted transparently and without willful deception."

• Look at whether to reform Charter Sections 26 and 26.1 to allow voters to consider having all users pay for trash collection.

• Remove responsibility of setting mayoral and council salaries from the City Council.

City Councilman Todd Gloria

Reform the referendum process, including the signature-gathering process and when financial disclosures from referendum campaigns are made.

• Look at whether the mayor has the authority to block ballot proposals the City Council approves.

• Clarify duties of the interim mayor.

• Evaluate "additional reasons and processes for removing an elected official from office," including looking at unintended consequences and effectiveness. Currently Sections 23 and 108 of the charter address removing elected officials through recall and "forfeiture of office for fraud."

• Change charter language so the next redistricting commission has clear and consistent direction.

City Councilman Chris Cate

• Add a requirement for a stability reserve in addition to the emergency reserve to act as a "rainy day fund."

• Establish a permanent charter review commission.

• Consider requiring the redistricting commission to include representatives from each council district.

City Councilman Mark Kersey

• Asks the charter committee to create an online tool that allows San Diegans to offer input on charter revisions and mentions that the group Open San Diego is willing to help.

City Councilwoman Myrtle Cole

• Give the Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices investigative and subpoena powers and give the City Council authority to confirm appointments to the board, instead of just the mayor making appointments.

• Asks city departments to say whether charter requirements make it difficult for them to use Small Local Business Enterprises in contracts.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith

• Clean up redistricting language.

• Uniform and consistent way for handling the removal of city officers.

• Remove requirement that resolutions be published in "the official city newspaper."

• Provide a removal process for elected officials for misconduct or incapacity, either with a recall started by the City Council or have the decision be subject to review by courts.

• Ensure the mayor provides information to the City Council before its decisions.

• Allow the city attorney to represent a non-city entity in a matter of public interest where that entity's interests are closely aligned with the city's interests or where the city has contractually agreed to defend and indemnify the entity.

• Require the city attorney to be a member of the California State Bar in good standing and consider setting a requirement for the number of years he or she has served as an attorney.

• Change appointments to the city's Ethics Commission to be made by a panel of retired judges or other people instead of by the mayor.

• Remove the requirement to consider sex and race when making appointments to commissions, boards, committees, or panels.

• Consider replacing newspaper ads for bids with ads on the city's website.

• Change provision for the city leasing Pueblo lands to say that it only applies to land north of the San Diego River. The city can't lease Pueblo land for more than 15 years at a time.

Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin

• Change the name from "Office of the Independent Budget Analyst" to "Office of the Independent Budget and Policy Analyst"

• Change the property tax so that $0.02 on each $100 can go toward other maintenance needs in Balboa Park. Currently it can only go to maintenance of Balboa Park's "zoological exhibits."

Public Input

Lightner also set up an email address,, so members of the public can suggest charter changes.

As of last week, her office had received nine emails, including suggestions to eliminate regressive taxes, changing the referendum process and eliminating free trash pickup.


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Claire Trageser
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs a member of the KPBS investigative team, my job is to hold the powerful in San Diego County accountable. I've done in-depth investigations on political campaigns, police officer misconduct and neighborhood quality of life issues.

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