File photo
File photo

CITYWIDE — Santa Monica’s trash is another landfill’s treasure.

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to raise the rates of waste collection for businesses and single-family homes this week to cover the cost of rising landfill fees and new state requirements.

Rates will rise 3.85 percent for families and 7.25 percent for commercial properties. That translates into an average monthly bill of $45.87 for homeowners and $125.33 for businesses.

It’s the first rate increase, aside from annual inflation jumps, since 2006 when council approved an across the board 7 percent hike.

Without the increase, city officials said the Resource Recovery and Recycling Division, which is funded solely by fees charged, would run a deficit in 2016. The goal is to create a reserve of 5 percent.

In October, Puente Hills Landfill, the largest in the country, closed its gates forcing Santa Monica and nearly every municipality in the county to find a new place to dump its waste. The increased demand drove landfill rates up across the board, said Kim Braun, Santa Monica’s resource recovery and recycling manager.

“Since 2007, landfill fees have gone up as much as 6.5 percent whereas our revenues have only increased 2.8 percent on average,” she said.

About 3,000 of the 4,000 businesses that City Hall serves have two yard Dumpsters that are collected twice a week. Their rates will go up about $8.50 a month, Braun said.

The increase will impact other businesses, like Casa Del Mar, greatly, she told the Downtown Santa Monica Inc. board at a recent meeting.

“They have 16 yards of trash a day,” she said. “Imagine that. It’s incredible. The bill right now is outrageous, let alone how it’s going to be.”

Collection rates for businesses are some of the lowest in the area, city officials said. Low business rates meant that the companies were paying less than their share for years, Braun said.

Multi-family homes, which will only get an inflation rate hike, have been carrying the trash tax burden, she said.

The fee increase covers trash, recycling and organic waste collection, plus the emptying of public trash cans and street sweeping. If funds get low, City Hall will have to streamline — cutting street sweeping back to once a month and dropping two full-time employees from the team that collects bulky items like old couches.

“You’re going to see more mattresses and furniture and things in the ally a little longer,” Braun said.

Recently enacted state requirements are another reason for City Hall’s trash collection woes. Multi-family buildings with five units or more and nearly all the businesses are required by state law to have recycling programs. City Hall has to pick up that tab.

“The expenditures for outreach, marketing, collections, hauling and processing of these additional materials through this new mandate are currently being absorbed through a rate structure approved almost a decade ago,” city officials said in a report to council.

Before recommending the approval of the rate hike, Councilmember Kevin McKeown told of spinning environmentalist records during his days as a progressive rock disc jockey.

“I think the economic arguments are quite sound,” he said. “But I think there’s also a from-the-heart spirit kind of resonance in Santa Monica that we want to do the right thing and this will help us do it.”

Only one resident spoke out against the rate hike at the council meeting. Another spoke in favor of it.

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