News

Palo Alto trash rates to rise next month

City Council adopts new rates, scraps 'hard areas to serve' fees

Palo Alto residents will have to shell out more for trash collection starting next month, but they will be spared the most controversial rate-hike proposals -- at least for now.

After receiving more than 150 letters of protest and hearing from a dozen speakers at a public hearing, a reluctant City Council voted unanimously Monday night to increase the residential garbage-collection rate by 6 percent, from $31 to $32.86.

But the council also agreed to drop the highly unpopular proposals to raise the monthly rate for 20-gallon "minicans" by 33 percent -- from $15 to $20 -- and to institute a monthly fee for 700 customers who live on private streets, in alleyways and in "hard to serve" areas.

The council adopted the rate increase as part of a package of proposals designed to close a $6.2 million deficit in the refuse fund. The deficit was caused in large part by the city's successful "Zero Waste" campaign, which has resulted in 74 percent of the city's waste being diverted from landfills.

City Manager James Keene said the council's garbage-rate dilemma is indicative of the challenges Palo Alto is facing as it seeks to shift from a "throwaway society to a more ecological, recycling society and community." As residents swapped their regular cans for the smaller and cheaper mini-cans and boosted their recycling efforts, the city's revenues plummeted along with its waste output.

"Because of the high service levels and diversion success, coupled with our cost structure, we really need a paradigm shift in how community pays for these benefits," Solid Waste Manager Rene Eyerly said Monday.

The council agreed that the city needs to raise garbage rates, but concluded that some of proposals offered by staff don't make sense at this time. The city is in the midst of conducting a cost-of-service study that would analyze the city's rate structures and pave the way for a major restructuring of service fees a year from now. These could ultimately include new fees for recycling, a service the city currently provides for free.

Councilman Greg Scharff proposed passing the basic rate increases but holding off on the more controversial proposals relating to minicans and private streets. The rest of the council agreed.

"In the short term, I think this is a good compromise," Councilman Larry Klein said.

The council agreed to shelve the two controversial proposals and to raise the rates for both the minicans and the regular 32-gallon cans by 6 percent and to avoid hard-to-serve fees altogether. Commercial customers, meanwhile, will face a 9 percent rate hike in their garbage fees under the newly adopted rate schedule.

The council made its decision after about a dozen residents lambasted the proposed fee hikes, particularly on private streets. John Abraham, who lives on Ellsworth Place, a private street off Middlefield Road, pointed out that Ellsworth residents are already maintaining their own street and should not be hit with another fee. He also criticized the proposal to adopt a $5 hike for minicans.

"The statement, 'No good deed remains unpunished,' certainly applies to the smaller garbage cans," Abraham told the council minutes before they scrapped the proposal.

In addition to raising rates, the city plans to reduce expenses by reducing its budget for Zero Waste outreach; increasing gate fees at the local landfill at Byxbee Park; and delay two capital projects relating to the landfill.

The new trash-collection fees will kick in Oct. 1 and remain in place until next fall, when the city plans to overhaul the rate structure.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

I wouldn't call any city program that causes a $6.2 million deficit "successful"


Like this comment
Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

There ought be the option of bimonthly collection at a reduced rate for residents who do not generate enough trash to warrant weekly pick up.


Like this comment
Posted by minican
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:24 am

re: the article's statement:

"The council agreed to shelve the two controversial proposals and to raise the rates for both the minicans and the regular 32-gallon cans by 6 percent and to avoid hard-to-serve fees altogether. Commercial customers, meanwhile, will face a 9 percent rate hike in their garbage fees under the newly adopted rate schedule."

Now, the minican increase was shelved, right? We're still going to ay $15/month?

This sentence confused me, since earlier in the article, it says:

"But the council also agreed to drop the highly unpopular proposals to raise the monthly rate for 20-gallon "minicans" by 25 percent -- from $15 to $20..."

Could Palo Alto Onlien clarify?


Like this comment
Posted by 25 percent?
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 21, 2010 at 11:58 am

Increasing the minican rate from $15 to $20 is a 33% increase, not 25%.


Like this comment
Posted by RT
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:23 pm

There are some of us that are trying to reduce everything - trash and recycling (and waistlines....).

I do not put out my trash/recycle/compost cans unless they are full, as I believe it is a waste of time and energy to collect a half empty can.

I think we should have a small base fee and then each of our cans should have a bar code for which we are charged as collected.


Like this comment
Posted by less garbage
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I also don't put our recyclables out once a week, I save it to when it is full. I know in the city of Seattle they only pick up the recycling but twice a month, maybe this would be cheaper. Something to look into


Like this comment
Posted by Train Neighbor
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

To minican:
Council decided to increase rates by 6% for all rate schedules, and not increase minican by 33%. I estimate the minican increase to be $0.90/month (I bet they round it to $16).

The rate increase starts in October 2010 and goes 9 to 12 months (I can't remember which they decided).

Public Works is to complete a cost of service study which will give them more guidance on how to set the refuse rates to be in compliance with Prop. 218 which prevents one customer class from subsidizing another. Therefore I expect minican rates to increase significantly in 2011.


Like this comment
Posted by Koa
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm

It is said that for every 1 garbage can of stuff you throw out, the equivalent of 70 cans of garbage were produced to make the items in your one can. So 4-pickups of your 20-gallon "mini-can" is actually representative of 1,400 gallons of waste. $20 seems reasonable to me.


Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I am relieved to read about Council's decision to only raise the mini-can rate 6%. I have had a mini-can since the option was introduced. It seemed to me to be outrageous to get hit with a 33% increase for having kept my garbage to a minimum


Like this comment
Posted by OutsideTheBox
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 2:07 am

Would it be possible to sell to some other city the part of the landfill we have to pay for but are not using?


Like this comment
Posted by other people's money
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 9:51 am

"I have had a mini-can since the option was introduced. It seemed to me to be outrageous to get hit with a 33% increase for having kept my garbage to a minimum"

It is more outrageous to expect others to pay for the removal of YOUR rubbish!


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

To those who think that raising rates from $15 to %20 for a mini-can is outrageous. The reason that you were able to reduce your garbage is that they now collect all recyclables AND all compostables. And you expect to get that all for free? Most have actually not reduced the total amount, only the garbage. All should do that anyway, but the cost still remains so it seems like the rate MUST increase.


Like this comment
Posted by Pat Eldridge
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 22, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I am a Senior Citizen who is trying to survive within the City of Palo
Alto.
it is unusual for me to have more than one brown paper bag full of garbage each week. I have lived here since 1956 and would like to continue to do so. With everything going up except my income I wonder will I be able to stay?

My compost goes out perhaps once a month if then and the recycle goes out when it is full perhaps every two weeks.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2010 at 7:02 am

Yes, I suppose collecting three separate bins from every home in Palo Alto on separate pick ups is expensive. However, we are stuck because we have no options from GreenWaste. These charges are a tax under another name (we have no opt out option so we have to pay - just like a tax).

Here are some suggestions that are never discussed.

Charge based on number of people in household - a large family generates more trash and recycling than a small one.

Recycling/composting pick up on alternate weeks.

Option for seniors to opt for pick up once every 2 weeks instead of every week.

Option for vacation hold on trash pickup.


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 8:16 am

Where is the REAL community news on this website? Did you know that there was a STABBING AT TOWN AND COUNTRY last night at 8pm? I would think that is news,

Real newspaper report bad and good events that actually happen. Do you only live in a land of whining about the unfair land developers, unfair taxes, unfair town leaders, unfair Stanford, unfair train coming through, etc.?

Local controversies certainly have a place and discussion is good. BUT ACTUAL bad and good things happen in Palo Alto and are hard news. How about more NEWS in this newspaper?





Like this comment
Posted by sitemap
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:26 am

Neighbor, your story is here: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2010 at 9:38 am

The Town and Country stabbing story was posted after my letter this morning.
It was not on the webpage before that.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2010 at 6:34 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

If this rate increase is an indication that the Greenies low balled their bid with assurance they could pick up the difference after they were in the saddle, losing bidders have the fuel for a demand for rebid. I am beginning to think this is just another of those status symbol contracts.


Like this comment
Posted by long term "strategy"
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:17 am

Walter, you might like to read some history: Web Link

"The trend prompted Councilman Greg Scharff to observe at the July 6 meeting that "Zero Waste is equaling zero dollars" and that the city's method for pricing its collection services is "crashing and burning."

The reasons for the system's financial implosion are both historical and self-inflicted. The city is currently locked into several long-term waste-management contracts, including one with the SMaRT Station and another one with the Kirby Canyon Landfill in south San Jose, the final destination for most of the city's garbage.

Both contracts were signed almost two decades ago and will remain in effect until 2021.

The contract with Kirby Canyon Landfill is a "put or pay" contract, which requires the city to deliver a specific amount of waste to the landfill per year or pay Waste Management, the company that owns the landfill, for every ton that falls short of the annual commitment."


Like this comment
Posted by Rhoddon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Reduce waste in Palo Alto. Begin at City Hall.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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