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San Diego Measure to End Free Trash Pickup Remains Locked In Close Vote

Measure B remains within 1% of the vote

By Evan Symon, November 18, 2022 2:30 am

A ballot measure in San Diego to end free trash pick-up for single family homes continued to be counted on Thursday as new results continue to show a difference of only a few thousand votes going into the final counts.

The ballot measure, known as Measure B, asked San Diego voters last Tuesday if “the San Diego Municipal Code be amended so that all City residents receive comparable trash, recycling, and other solid waste management services, by allowing the City to recover its cost of providing these services to eligible residential properties, which could allow the City to provide additional services, such as weekly recycling, bulky item pickup, and curbside container replacement and delivery, at no extra charge.” Or, in layman’s terms, should single-family homes be taxed for trash pickup services, as multi-family homes currently pay private companies for trash removal and they don’t.

The measure polarized San Diego for months in the leadup to the election. Supporters said that it was unfair to have some residents pay a higher cost for trash services while others did not. They also noted that the city would be able to recover some costs of trash pickup in the city, and lead to a more environmentally friendly trash system.

“I’m excited for the city of San Diego, you know,” said San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “This is the first step in allowing San Diego to have a more responsible, sustainable, and fair trash system. One, we can be more fiscally responsible, because we’ll be recovering, potentially, at least part of the cost associated with trash pickup. Two, we will be more sustainable, because this is going to be an important step and as being able to achieve our climate action goals.

“The Ordinance prohibits the City from recovering costs from single-family residences for trash collection services it provides, while residents in apartments and condominiums must pay a private company for trash collection. This two-tier system creates a glaring inequity, while the lack of revenue prevents the City from investing in better services for all residents.”

However, opponents fought fiercely against the measure, noting that it amounted to just another tax on homeowners and that homeowners were already paying high homeowners tax for city services. Many also noted that it would be a high tax added at a time of great financial stress for residents with inflation and a looming recession.

“If you want to make this more fair and more equitable, the answer is not charging everybody twice, including the single-family homeowners, the answer is charging everybody once,” explained San Diego County Taxpayers Association President Harry Hong. “And then actually having the city make sure that the property taxes that renters end up paying into are used to collect their trash.”

Down to the wire for Measure B

Of particular concern was the tax amount, as even supporters had no idea how much that would be.

“The amount charged will be based on what’s referred to as a cost of service study,” added Elo-Rivera. “That cost of service study is a legal requirement prior to any fee going into place and that cost service study will be based on the wants and needs of the community with respect to trash.”

“That’s code for ‘It will be very high’,” countered Terri Dawson, a ballot issue analyst who focuses on local municipal taxes, to the Globe on Thursday. “It’s always worrisome when there is no price tag or payment structure or, you know, something to give people an idea how much more they will pay. The people who wrote this wouldn’t even give the time of day to the voters.”

Polling remained close going into election day, with results remaining close. Earlier this week, the No vote, 187,755, or 50.14%, was leading the Yes vote, 186,725, or 49.86%. On Thursday, new results showed the total still close, but this time with the Yes vote up, 200,615 to 197,725, or 50.36% for and 49.64% against.

Experts noted on Thursday that the measure will probably be one of the closest in California for the 2022 election, with a recount very likely as the vote keeps fluctuating. With 15,000 votes left to count, the result can still go either way.

“This is as close as they come, and it really shows the divide in the city over this, between homeowners being squeezed and renters looking for trash tax fairness, ” continued Dawson. “If it does pass, the real winner will be the city, who will gain a still unknown amount in new taxes. This is just very close.”

Final votes, and a victor in the measure, are expected to come in the coming days.

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