Late ballots propel Measure B to likely win and an end to no-fee trash pickup for single-family homes

A garbage truck driver watches as his truck's hydraulic arm lifts a trash can to dump it into the truck.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

By a margin of about 3,300 votes, San Diegans appear to have chosen to repeal the free trash pickup provided by the city’s 1919 People’s Ordinance. For single-family homeowners, monthly bills are expected to be $23 to $29 — or more.


Late ballots appear to have led to victory for San Diego’s Measure B, an initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot that would end no-fee trash pickup for single-family homes in the city.

New results released Nov. 18 show Measure B now leads by 3,314 votes — a slightly wider lead than it held Nov. 16 — after trailing by a slim margin on Election Day and for the following week.

The estimated number of ballots left to be counted from throughout San Diego County had shrunk from 15,000 to 11,000 as of Nov. 18, with the county’s next and final update not expected until results are certified Thursday, Dec. 8.

It is unknown how many of those ballots are from within the city and could be cast for or against Measure B.

The measure first pulled ahead Nov. 16 with the posting of new results by the county registrar of voters office, going from down about 1,000 votes to up by nearly 3,000.

In an emailed news release that evening, former City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who led opposition to Measure B, said it was clear the measure would narrowly pass but that he expected a backlash.

Ending no-fee trash pickup for single-family homes — a provision guaranteed by a 1919 city law called the People’s Ordinance — would generate an estimated $80 million a year in new revenue for San Diego that could be spent on libraries, parks, firefighting and other city services.

The money would come from new monthly fees that would be paid by single-family households that previously have not paid for trash pickup beyond their property taxes.

Owners of businesses, apartments and condominiums pay private haulers to pick up their trash.

An analysis unveiled Aug. 15 by the city’s independent budget analyst says San Diego single-family homeowners would pay $23 to $29 per month for trash service.

But bills won’t start coming for roughly two years. The city first must pay a consultant about $1 million to complete a “cost of service” study, which would determine a fee structure and how discounts might work for low-income people.

The IBA analysis says the range of $23 to $29 is based on the city‘s expectation of spending $79.2 million on trash services in the fiscal year that began July 1, which would mean annual bills of $278 for each of the 285,000 single-family homes that receive the free service.

The $278 annual total would mean monthly bills of just over $23. The IBA analysis says it only includes costs for service the city “currently provides” and “the potential costs to bill and collect fee revenue.”

But monthly bills almost certainly would be somewhat higher than that, because the analysis doesn’t account for increased service levels such as free trash bins and more frequent recycling pickups.

The ballot measure would guarantee free trash bins, which the city currently does not provide, and new state mandates require the city to extend green waste service to all households and to pick up recycling once a week instead of once every two weeks.

In his statement this week, DeMaio called the campaign supporting the measure deceptive.

“San Diego city politicians may have squeezed out a win by using a deceptive ballot title and outright false mailers claiming Measure B would provide ‘free bins at no cost,’ but I expect the floodgates of anger to open against City Hall once homeowners start receiving real bills each month for trash service,” he said.


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