Council Passes First Reading of Organics Program Despite Passionate Pleas From the Public

While the public commenters were almost evenly split, the opposition to changes in the city’s organics program, which includes weekly containerization of greenwaste with only a monthly pick up of yard clippings dumped on the street, prompted several citizens to proclaim their love for “the claw.”

One lady said her family refers to the claw as “Snuffleupagus,” and Mayor Dan Wolk told the council and members of the public, “I grew up in this community, I love the claw,” before proclaiming it a good compromise and professing his support.

Council would then unanimously approve the staff recommendation with a slight modification from Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis to prohibit dumping of the waste in the bike lanes noting that, as “travel lanes,” such a move is inappropriate.

As one member of the public put it, “We obviously all have trees and plants that require pruning and all kinds of waste is collected every… week. 2000 tons are collected every week. If we drop back to one collection every four weeks, then there’s going to be 8 or 9000 tons that are collected in that one week – I don’t know where that’s going to be stored.

“I think that this is a very unfortunate thing because it’s one of the beauties of Davis to have this claw pick up – in fact the claw was invented in Davis, I knew the inventor, it’s one of the great things about Davis,” he argued. He said we are wiping out a “wonderful program” in order to fund something “that’s very questionable, the wet garbage program.”

Another resident said, “This program is being represented as revenue neutral – no increased cost to property owners – and I don’t think that’s true. There’s a hidden cost that’s going to come to the necessity to collect and move the waste during the three weeks when there is no service.”

He scoffed at the bicycle issue stating, “I’m a long time cyclist, I do a lot of cycling in Davis, I’ve never had a serious issue, you share the road with cars.” He acknowledged that sometimes you have to go out onto the road, but he didn’t see it as a big deal and noted that “bins go out onto the road into the bike lane.”

“This ordinance appears to be trying to fix a system that isn’t broken,” another resident said. “Davis is an urban forest community, very unique, and we need unique solutions to deal with what we generate from our plant life here.”

He said he lives on College Park where there are hundred-foot-high trees. He noted that “when we trim our shrubs, we don’t trim them in the fall when the leaves fall’s happening. We trim them spring, late summer, mid fall.”

That generates piles of branches, not leaves, “and you can’t put those – there’s no way a 90 gallon cart can hold that much stuff so you have to store it somewhere.” He questioned what would happen with that amount of volume with a monthly pick up.

He said, “If you’re going to pass an ordinance like this, at minimum you need a call for pick up option.”

Mark Murray, however, said that when Sacramento put forward a containerized proposal, he was opposed to it. He said, “I love the claw.” He said, Sacramento came up with a good compromise but the Davis staff has come up with an even better compromise.

“I frankly think your staff has come up with an even better compromise of keeping the claw, keeping putting yard waste in the street once a month,” he said. “With the legislation being passed, there isn’t going to be any yard waste going to landfill by the commercial sector, by the lawn and garden services… because we don’t want that organic material going to landfill.”

He said, “It’s harming our environment and it’s costing us a huge amount of money in terms of the engineering of the landfill.”

“We love the claw,” proclaimed Heather Harris. “We call it the Snuffleupagus at our house. We look forward to it coming by every week [for] all of our yard waste.” She said, “We would find having to put most of our stuff in our container a burden and would think that once a month street pick up [is not sufficient] for our current needs. I can see going to twice a month as a compromise.”

Darell Dickey noted that he moved to Davis 18 years ago from a Bay Area community that had containerization. He said, “Before moving here, honestly I had never seen greenwaste piled in the street and the first question I had for my real estate agent was [whether] this was like a once in a year thing, we don’t throw trash in the street… He said, no this is one of the great things about Davis, we pile our stuff in the street. I was shocked.”

Mr. Dickey told the council that he still uses a cart. “I have to then dump the thing in the street which is an extra step… I see my neighbors doing the same thing too, in fact that ones that wish to continue dumping in the street, they fill a container first and then they dump it in the street.”

The council was generally supportive of the ordinance.

Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis said this raises the issue “of allowing greenwaste to be dumped in the bike lanes at all anywhere in the city.” He pointed out that neighborhood streets don’t have bike lanes, so this is not an issue in neighborhood streets. “That’s the majority of our street surface,” he said.

There’s also a large number of major roads that are double-striped. “Total non-issue,” Mr. Davis said. But he said where there is single-striping, he found some incursion into the bike lane by the piles. “I would personally like to see the ordinance changed to just not allow greenwaste in any bikeway. These are travel lanes, we do not allow people to dump greenwaste, yard waste into motorized vehicles lanes. If we did, we’d have a lot more commentators down here tonight.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs noted that we have been talking about this for a long time and the proposal has evolved over time. “Early on it was the discussion about removing the claw altogether and that clearly was unacceptable to the community,” he said. “I appreciate that so we made adjustments to the proposal.”

Mr. Frerichs noted the importance of reducing waste, and improved storm water qualities were important components about this. He said, “I think the overall proposal represents a compromise it’s sort of the Goldielocks getting the porridge not too hot, not too cold, getting it just right.”

Mayor Dan Wolk added, “I do think that this is a good compromise proposal between containerizing the greenwaste and also preserving the claw. I grew up in this community, I love the claw.”

Council unanimously passed the staff recommendation with added language to prohibit waste in the bike lanes.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. darelldd

    It is too bad that nothing from Brett’s impassioned remarks were included here. The headline used here is also unfortunate and misleading. But anyway… my plan is to just watch the same comments that we’ve all shared on the subject countless times – and try my best to stay out of it.

    Note that I said “try.”

    (Note that while there are plenty of D’s and L’s in Darell, there remains only one R.)

    1. David Greenwald

      Sorry about the misspell. Last night felt a bit like the theater of the absurd with all of these people talking about loving the claw – my experience was like yours. The first time I encounter green waste was on a bike trying to divert around the pile into traffic on Arlington 17 or 18 years ago.

      1. darelldd

        Thanks David. Absurd, indeed. But when you realize that most of them were rallied as one voice to appear like many, it makes some sense. I think you understood that. And now that I’m typing, I’m starting to see the reasoning behind your headline.  🙂

        Last night one of the commenters referred to me when he said that he’d never met anybody who didn’t like the claw. I’m thinking he may need to get out more.

        What seems to get lost here is that I do *not* dislike the claw. In fact, I can think of all manner of uses for that device… and on-call pickups, and quickly moving wayward piles out of our travel lanes are a couple of them. The claw is great. What I am passionately against is using our streets for storing endless piles of refuse. It may confuse some to realize that I’m pro-claw, and anti-pile.

        Claw = good.

        Loose piles of crap on our streets = bad.

        1. keithvb

          In 10 years of biking on Davis streets I’ve never had a problem with green waste in the street. I look where I’m going and use a good light at night.

        2. Frankly

          Me neither Keithvb… and I have another 25+ years to add to your 10.

          I was just thinking.  My trees will drop leaves and branches into the street, and my landscape dude will blow them and other leaves into a neat pile in front of the house every week.

          I assume that my trees will continue to drop leaves and branches into the street.  So now I guess I will just have to leave them there except for once a month I will have my landscape guy blow what is left into a nice neat pile.

          Not seeing how this change is going to be good for bikers having to drive over all that green waste no longer put into nice neat piles.  It should be fun in the rain.

        3. Dave Hart

          Frank, I beat you by two years…37.  I’ve been biking all that time and I, too, have never had a problem with piles in the street.

          I was also thinking about how all the leaves and branches that I and the neighbors pile into a neat pile in front of the house every week get blown around by the wind or drug around by drivers who never look in front of or behind their cars.

          It seems you don’t really care about the appearance of your neighborhood if you are willing to just “leave them there except for once a month I will have my landscape guy blow what is left into a nice neat pile.”

          I don’t see this change is about bikers’ convenience, but if you are planning to become a worse neighbor by spitefully leaving crap in the streets as you have threatened, us “organobinophiles” will have to come up with a suitable citation system similar to the noise ordinance to curb such anti-social behavior.

        4. Frankly

          That is fine Dave.  You will have to make the fine large enough to compensate for the extra cost it would take for my landscape dude to rake up all that stuff and put it one of those 100-gallon containers made of toxic petroleum products.  Oh by the way, no landscape dude will even do that work because it would be impossibly hard on his back.

        5. Dave Hart

          My 91 year-old father fills his green bin and rolls it out to the curb every week and he doesn’t care as much about the reality of it as you do about the possibility of it.

        6. darelldd

          >> In 10 years of biking on Davis streets I’ve never had a problem with green waste in the street. I look where I’m going and use a good light at night.


          Excellent. I rarely have problems either. The thing is… not everybody in town is as experienced or as good as you are. Sometimes we have to think about others who have different comfort levels and skills.

          And.. you may not have noticed, but the conversation has moved WELL beyond bicycle safety. The only time it was mentioned is by commenters, most of whom had the same thing as you to say: I’m a good cyclist. There’s no problem.

        7. darelldd

          My 91 year-old father fills his green bin and rolls it out to the curb every week and he doesn’t care as much about the reality of it as you do about the possibility of it.


          Man, that’s beautiful, Dave! The only thing inconvenient about the bin I use for yard work, is having to upend the thing to dump the contents when it is time for pickup. But then bins don’t scare me. I’ve been using bins for 25 years, and I haven’t had one harm me yet.

  2. Alan Miller

    “a slight modification from Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis to prohibit dumping of the waste in the bike lanes noting that as “travel lanes” such a move is inappropriate.”

    Is that legal now?  Isn’t dumping yard waste in bike lanes equivalent to dumping yard waste in an auto lane?  Isn’t the problem enforcement, or lack of resources for enforcement?

    1. hpierce

      Alan… we have 8 foot bike lanes, and 15 foot bike/parking lanes.  It currently is illegal to place yard waste (enforcement questionable) in the 8 footers, but legal to place them in the 15 footers, basically where they take up a portion of the area normally used for parked cars.  In the latter, given the maximum width of the piles allowed, there should be 7-9 foot clear between the bike lane stripe and the edge of the pile.

      As a kid, my problem was parked cars.  I often ‘day-dreamed’ and a few times woke up when I found myself on a trunk of a car, with a slightly tweaked front wheel.  Last time that happened was about 45 years ago.  Other than ego, and wheel, no injuries.

      To be “safe” however, perhaps we should ban all on-street parking, now that I think about it.

      1. darelldd

        >> To be “safe” however, perhaps we should ban all on-street parking, now that I think about it.

        Don’t tease me.

        The parked cars aren’t nearly as unsafe as the moving ones though. If you smell what I’m stepping in here.

    2. darelldd

      The ordinance was what allowed dumping in the bike lane, historically. We are changing the ordinance to disallow that.

      The problem was not lack of enforcement nearly as much as it was lack of proper ordinance. Our muni code effectively mandated that green waste be placed in bike lanes (if your home or business was fronted by a bike lane with no parking allowed). Our current muni code says, “dump your green piles in the bike lane, but… uh… don’t block the bike lane.” Enforcement is pretty challenging in that environment no matter how hard you want to do the right thing.

      @ hpierce – most of our bike lanes are narrower than 8′. Many of them much narrower.

        1. darelldd

          Hey no fair. I challenged you first!  🙂

          Hmmm. Well I’ve measured many of them. My comment wasn’t meant to be contentious or a challenge. Your response certainly has my attention though.

          *I* uttered an untruth!? You stated that bike lanes “are 8 feet.” seeming to imply that all of them are 8′? How many double-striped bike lanes have you found to be 8′ wide? What percentage is that of the total number we have in town? Hmm… are we going by number or length?

          I now see that you also said that the bike/parking lanes are 15′. I have only found a few that wide. Most are 12-14′ wide. These I just spent some time measuring this morning for some work I’m doing, so my confidence is quite high. I can’t recall the last 15′ bike/parking lane I’ve found.

          Full disclosure: I’ve worked in construction. My tape measure is high-end, and I know how to use it!  <grin>

          I know that 8′ bike lanes exist in Davis. In fact I’m confident that I know where most of them are.  I am curious to hear why you think that most (or all??) of them are 8′. To make my end of the challenge much easier, I’ll backpedal and say that “a whole bunch” of our bike lanes are narrower than 8′. Many of them are MUCH narrower then 8′. And a “whole bunch” of our bike/parking lanes are narrower than 15′. Many of them as narrow as 12′. One I measured today at 11′- 8″

          It is awkward to be out there measuring them. Trust me on that.

      1. Alan Miller

        “The ordinance was what allowed dumping in the bike lane”

        There is much ballyhoo about how bikes have to follow vehicle code for automobiles (which I think is ridiculous since they are obvious quite different creatures), then wouldn’t it also follow that the vehicle code must be uniform for autos and bicycles?  i.e., how can a city ordinance allow for dumping of green waste in bike lanes if it is illegal to block vehicle lanes which such waste?

        1. darelldd

          You pose an excellent question. One I’ve been asking for many, many years. The answer has always been, “Well, where else are we going to dump our waste?”

          You’ve seen my lane definitions?

          General Use Lane: Used for travel by trucks, automobiles and bicycles. Often absurdly wide.
          Bike Lane: Used for travel by bicycles, and to accommodate moving and parked cars, drivers entering and exiting motor vehicles, pedestrians and runners, open doors, baby strollers, delivery vehicles, broken glass and gravel, drainage grates, shopping carts, gutters, yard waste piles, road debris, garbage and recycling bins. Often absurdly narrow.

        2. Alan Miller

          Seriously, this wasn’t a theoretical.  The vehicle code must state whether a bike lane can be blocked or not, and I suspect it can’t, which means Davis’ practice goes against state law.

  3. Davis Progressive

    watching the discussion last night, i have to question whether we are really the second most intelligent community.  there were some reasonable points made, but the idea that the claws are some uniquely davis tradition that we should protect was hard to stomach.  especially when we have the reality of our storm water discharge and problems of green waste in the landfill.  but it was a compromise and folks coming to the meeting last night wanted more.

    1. darelldd

      If you watched the entire segment, you heard Brett making the point about the huge compromise that the adopted plan already represents. I’m often accused of “scorched earth” and “no compromise” – so it is amusing to see how this is going with the “don’t deviate from the status quo” camp. Not surprising. But amusing.

  4. Frankly

    watching the discussion a few months ago, i have to question whether we are really the second most intelligent community.  there were some reasonable points made, but the idea that plastic grocery bags are such an environmental catastrophe was hard to stomach.  especially when we have the reality of paper bags being more harmful to the environment.  but in this case there was no compromise because the crazy bagophile zealots got their way.

    And before Don Shor makes a case to delete this post, please consider the validity of comparison with what DP posted.

    He claims the people making a case for keeping the street-side pickup lack intelligence while their position was absolutely fact-based, yet the plastic bag zealots lacked facts and still got their way.

    Seem that with DP he equates intelligence only to people that agree with him.

  5. Davis Progressive

    “Seem that with DP he equates intelligence only to people that agree with him.”

    no, i equate intelligence by ability to make a reasonable argument.  i’m often opposed by intelligent counsel in court – i rarely agree with them.

    1. rogerbockrath

      So now Davis Waste Removal, the city’s monopolistic franchise holder for solid waste, gets to run the claw only once a month instead of four times. They also will only be sweeping the streets once a month, after claw service, ( which of course completely negates the excuse for service cutback some how contributing to cleaner storm water)

      . With labor being DWR’s greatest expense this change in contract is clearly not “revenue neutral” ,but a huge revenue generator for DWR. I would suggest that this reduction of service to Davis’ rate payers has zero to do with bicycle safety or land fill reduction or storm water clarity and everything to do with making Davis’ monopolistic garbage collection company even richer. It is my understanding that DWR was audited recently. I challenge the City Council members who voted unanimously to reduce our services, but not our rates, to publish the results of that audit here.

      1. Biddlin

        ” I would suggest that this reduction of service to Davis’ rate payers has zero to do with bicycle safety or land fill reduction or storm water clarity and everything to do with making Davis’ monopolistic garbage collection company even richer.”

        Seems so obvious, doesn’t it?


    2. Frankly

      I think those people were quite intelligent pulling a page out of the emotive rather than rational argument playbook.  That is how convincing gets done in Davis.  We profess our love or hate for machines and other matter and pull those heart strings.

    1. darelldd

      One thing I learned last night is that we already have an option to opt out of garbage collection. It sounds like they’ll use that same sort of model for the green bins. That has not been finalized though. Still working on the big picture items. I don’t think you’ll have much to worry about in that regard, though. The amount of effort being put into this program to make it flexible and adaptable is truly impressive.

  6. DanH

    I have no significant issues with green waste bins. On the plus side Yolobus and neighborhood kids will not be scattering my neatly piled leaves and cuttings all over the street anymore. On the negative side I’ll need to prune branches into smaller pieces in order to cram them into a can. Stuffed green waste cans can get heavy and unwieldy for older residents but I’ll deal with that problem when it happens.

    I doubt that I will be putting organic kitchen waste into the green cans. Some cities in the Bay Area already take organic kitchen waste in the green cans. People don’t like to make a trip from the kitchen to the outside green can several times a day so they keep a smaller vented plastic organic bin under their kitchen sink right next to the garbage bin and dump it when it gets full. These kitchen bins generate odors quickly. We get attacks from Davis ants every several years and I don’t want to leave banana peels and apple cores under the sink for them. Will DWR provide the kitchen bins?


  7. Dave Hart

    My father is 91 and lives in Gilroy.  When I go to visit, I often suggest we do some pruning work mainly because he’s too cheap to pay for it but I also don’t want him climbing ladders.  Yes, I caught him climbing an extension ladder last year.  Anyway, they have the 95-gallons green bins.  One thing I noticed about these bins is they have a tray with holes in it about 2 inches above the floor.  I suppose this lets liquids drain to the bottom to prevent anaerobic decomposition, but in any case, the bins don’t smell bad.  Yep, you have to chop stuff up to make it fit.  When I was there a couple weeks ago, I asked him if he had trouble moving the bin out front on garbage day.  “Nah, it’s not too bad.  I don’t have any trouble,” he said with a shrug. He is not a particularly robust 91, he is stooped now and has peripheral neuropathy and complains about all that goes along with advanced age. The green bin isn’t among his complaints.

    My son and his young family live in Berkeley.  They have a 95-gallon green bin.  They generate a lot of kitchen waste.  They have a one-gallon chrome compost can in the kitchen with a charcoal filter in the lid.  It can be a little funky with the lid off, but you don’t smell a thing when it is closed.  They are sold in places like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, Chef’s if you’re into your kitchen experience and probably at Target and other big box stores.  I noticed the inside of their green can was getting pretty funky, and I came up with storing weeds pulled in the garden in a small bucket as an excellent “liner” for the bottom of the waste bin to be placed immediately after it is emptied.  It worked really well until they forgot because they really didn’t care how bad it got.  I cared more than they did.  But, it’s an easy solution if you want it to keep the bin from developing a thick gooey crust at the bottom.

    1. darelldd

      I told the council last night that my 80-year-old mother (all 95 pounds of her) has offered to write them each a letter, telling them how much more convenient her gardening is with the green waste bin. Each time she visits me here, she complains about having to compete with waste piles to find a place to park. In San Rafael, they also use the vented cans that you speak of. The bottom has the tray and inlet holes, the top has outlet vets. The idea is that it warms up in there, and the convection helps to dry everything, thus lowering the mass, and making every aspect of the process easier and more efficient. And I’m here to tell you it works great. Those were the containers I was using before moving here 18 years ago.

      That reminds me to ask staff about the potential to use these special bins. It sounds right now as if we’ll use the same trash bins, but with a different lid to distinguish.

  8. Napoleon Pig IV

    The goal is not to actually improve anything, but just to keep the sheep riled for the fun of it. Let’s ban all parked cars, all lawns, all trees, all yard waste, and replace all churches, mosques, and synagogues with shrines to the Holy Claw and the Primal Pig. Oink!

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