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L.A. City Council Seeks To Overhaul Trash Pickup PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richie Duchon   
Thursday, 15 November 2012 07:30

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council has voted in favor of dramatically overhauling how trash is picked up at apartment buildings and businesses in Los Angeles by bringing the estimated $215 million private trash hauling market under the city's purview.

On Wednesday, Nov. 14 the council via an 11-3 vote approved switching from a private open system, where any trash hauler can compete for clients across the entire city, to an exclusive franchise system where only about 11 or so companies will pay the city a fee to pick up trash in specified geographic areas.

The plan is aimed at decreasing the amount of trash that ends up in land fills, reducing truck traffic to improve roads and air quality and strengthening workplace safety at private trash hauling and sorting companies. The Bureau of Sanitation and the city's Board of Public Works favored the exclusive system. However, the council chose to ignore the recommendation of its top budget analyst, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who argued the goals could be achieved by a nonexclusive system that would not limit the number of companies but still require them to pay a fee to participate and abide by tightened environmental and other regulations.

The council's vote authorizes the Bureau of Sanitation to report back to the City Council in 90 days with a detailed implementation plan.

Under the new system, some 45 trash hauling companies – including Waste Management, Athens Services, Republic Services and Crown Disposal, which control 90 percent of the city's commercial trash hauling market – will partake in a competitive bidding process to control the 11 franchise zones.

The council signaled its desire to exempt Hollywood studios and hospitals from the plan, citing the industries' special trash pick-up needs.

The plan was shepherded through the legislative process by Councilman Jose Huizar, who chairs the council's Energy and Environment Committee. "I do believe that if we move forward with an exclusive system, it's going to protect the environment, support workers and also give us for the first time ever an ability to control costs and make sure they are equitable throughout the city," Huizar said.

Council members Mitch Englander, Jan Perry and Bernard Parks opposed the plan, which was approved one day after the council voted in favor of raising the city's sales tax to help prevent cuts to city services.

"I cannot in good conscience support the creation of a new city bureaucracy that requires additional city staff and resources when we are unable to provide the core services required by our charter and expected by the taxpayers,'' Englander told his colleagues. Labor unions and private trash hauling companies backed by business groups have battled for nearly three years over how to reform the trash hauling system, and both sides turned out today in force, bringing hundreds of people to the council meeting, requiring an overflow room.

Business groups, apartment owners and trash hauling companies were sharply critical of an exclusive franchise system. They argued the move would drive small trash haulers out of business and cause the cost of trash pick-up for business owners to go up.

Carol Schatz, president of the Central City Association which represents businesses in the downtown area, accused the council of allowing a power grab by organized labor.

"It is not your business to help labor organize an industry and put a few thousand people out of work and reduce the number of companies that are operating,'' Schatz said.

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who supported the plan, said he was convinced an exclusive system would achieve all of the city's goals, except a reduction in truck traffic. Krekorian called for a full environmental impact report to determine whether and how that goal could be achieved.

Sean Rossall, spokesman for the umbrella opposition group Angelenos for a Clean Environment, said the city must do the EIR before enacting the new exclusive system and threatened to sue the city if the report is not done prior to passing an ordinance.

"We're obviously disappointed the city chose to pursue this misguided policy," Rossall said. "It is not in the best interest of the environment, Angelenos or businesses."

Defenders said the plan would actually stabilize or decrease trash hauling rates by forcing companies to offer the lowest rates possible in order to gain control of a franchise zone. Of 24 cities in Los Angeles County that use a competitive bidding process, 21 cities saw rates decrease, Board of Public Works chair Andrea Alarcon told the council.

Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, said an exclusive system "is the only way to protect the thousands of men and women who work in these dangerous jobs. I'm here today because men and women die on the job." State regulations require the city to give trash haulers that service businesses five years notice before changing its system. The city issued the notice to those haulers in December 2011, effectively allowing the new exclusive franchise to start in January 2017.

However, haulers who pick up trash at apartment buildings were provided a required sevenyear notice in July 2006, allowing for part of the exclusive system to be in place as early as next year.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 15 November 2012 07:37