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San Diego voters closer to deciding future of free trash pickup

A San Diego trash truck is shown parked at the Miramar Landfill, Sept. 12, 2019.
Claire Trageser
A San Diego trash truck is shown parked at the Miramar Landfill, Sept. 12, 2019.

A proposal to amend San Diego's People's Ordinance is a step closer to getting on the November ballot.

The San Diego City Council Rules Committee recommended Wednesday that the full council back the placement of a measure on the November ballot asking voters if all residents should pay for trash pickup.

San Diego is the only city in the United States that picks up trash for free for half of its residents, mainly homeowners.


But the trash collection isn’t really free. Taxpayers get stuck with a bill of more than $40 million a year. And that expense is only expected to increase, costing half a billion dollars over the next ten years, according to city officials.

A grand jury has already called the current system inequitable. Homeowners don’t have to pay for trash pickup. But condo and apartment owners as well as renters have trash bills. Also, vacation rental owners receive free trash services because of a loophole.

San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera addressed the unfairness Wednesday.

"What this proposal is about is the city being the one we claim it to be, one that values equity and sustainability, one that invests in our work force and one that is committed to solving problems that affect residents," Elo-Rivera said. "Everyday voters are smart and should this measure get on the ballot, I trust they will understand the choice before them."

The proposed ballot measure would not allow privatization of trash services, and the city would be prohibited from making a profit.