Up until mid-2016, the city would simply have people on a weekly basis dump yard material in the street, and bring the claw by to collect it. That changed, however, for a variety reasons and the collection service became a once per month for the majority of the year, with weekly from mid-October to mid-December.
The city is paying around $610,000 yearly for this service, about 5.7 percent of the Recology contract.
In October the council directed staff “to reach out to Recology to work out logistics and possible cost implications of alternative yard material collection schedules discussed by councilmembers during the meeting.”
On December 4, the council selected three options: A) 16 pick-ups per year or “Once per month pick-ups from February to September, then every other week pick-ups from mid-October to mid-January.” B) 15 pick-ups per year or “Once per month pick-ups, with two extra weeks of pick-up in the fall and one in the spring.” C) 12 pick-ups per year or once per month.
On January 7, there was an Alternative Open House with more than 70 people in attendance.
The votes received at the open house and by email showed 51 in favor of the 16 pick-ups, 6 for 15, and 10 for 12. However, “There were also 34 responses received that indicated a preference for the current schedule rather than the options presented (but did not specifically support maintaining the current schedule), while also advocating increasing collection.”
The Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission discussed this at their January 10 meeting, where their focus was “in reviewing the alternatives of the collection schedule was the safety of City streets and the safety hazard potentials that yard material piles can cause.”
They discussed and described “multiple cycling accidents caused by the yard material piles, and the lasting impact of those accidents on the riders. When discussing the lack of accident reports around the yard material piles in the streets, there was an agreement on the lack of a good way to report, or to even keep track of pile and bicycle collisions.”
The commission voted to recommend the council “switches yard material on-street collection to 12 pickups with a concentrated weekly schedule as appropriate, with the ultimate goal being a phase out of the program and to support an educational program for property managers to better manage their waste on site as a complement to the termination.”
The URAC (Utility Rate Advisory Committee) held their discussion on the yard material collection alternatives proposed by the council on Wednesday, January 17, 2019. Their discussion focused on “a transition plan should the Council intend to phase out or discontinue the service.”
They found that the Loose in the Street program has two major drawbacks. The first is environmental, as “the LITS program vehicles cause GHG emissions as well as wear and tear on our streets, and the debris left in the streets causes pollution of our groundwater.”
The second is cost, with “the cost of the program itself, and the nearly one million dollar cost to replace the equipment which is near the end of its useful life.”
However, they found that “there are many combinations of alternatives that could be considered in place of LITS, including: a strategy to maintain city trees; more effective street sweeping including no parking days; access to more recycling bins for leaf drop season, providing information/preferred vendors regarding street waste pickup on demand, etc.”
They said: “We are confident these and other creative solutions can work effectively to obviate the need for LITS. In consequence, we encourage the City Council to allow URAC, other commissions (Natural Resources Commission, Tree Commission) and staff to investigate other options to LITS over the next 6-8 months.”
They passed the following recommendation: “In light of the cost of the LITS service and age and replacement cost of the LITS collection equipment, the URAC recommends the Council direct the URAC and staff to collaborate with other appropriate commissions to collaborate on a transition plan to phase out the current LITS collection program.”
The Natural Resources Commission had similar thoughts about the cost and environmental considerations and recommended “City Council direct staff and appropriate commissions to collect data and study whether and how this program continues. The NRC endorses substantial reduction in pickups in the current program (such as 12/year), which should be distributed throughout the year, with scheduling as per community needs and data-driven information (such as more pickups from October to February).”
Some suggestions from public feedback included the following:
- Offer street sweeping the day after pile pick-up
- Alternate yard material pile pick-up with street sweeping
- Use vacuum trucks instead of the claw
- Reduce pick-ups and use the cost savings to increase street sweeping frequency
- Requirement to have City street trees on private property and tree debris management
- Eliminate the yard material pile pick-up service
- Do not eliminate the yard material pile pick-up service
- Increase the number of pile pick-ups
- Extend the fall weekly pick-up into January
- Keep the current schedule
- Bicycle safety
Recology finally had their own suggestion: “The idea has been brought forward of taking the 12 pick-ups per year schedule and clustering most of the pick-ups in the October – January timeframe, rather than having one pick-up per month. Recology has indicated that this can be done for roughly the same cost as the once-per-month 12 pick-up schedule as long as the street sweeping schedule does not change and remains monthly, year round. Recology had indicated to staff that street sweeping cost would increase if the 12 sweeps are also clustered in the October – January timeframe.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting