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Residents Protest Trash Fee Hikes

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 13, 2014 -- A public hearing on raising trash fees in Santa Monica for the first time in nearly a decade could be a formality because the City Council already voted for the increase in concept earlier this year, but some residents might speak in opposition at the Tuesday night session. The City received at least 20 letters against the proposal.

Monthly rates could rise 3.85 percent for single-family homes and 7.25 percent for commercial properties each year for the next three years if after the public hearing, the council approves the staff recommendation based on a consultant’s review.

Since the council increased rates 7 percent in 2006, fees have only increased based on the inflation rate.

Under the proposal, the cost for multi-family homes would only increase 1 percent, below the inflation rate. Kim Braun, Santa Monica's resource recovery and recycling manager, said at the January meeting that multi-family homes had been carrying the cost burden.

City staff says the price increases are needed to offset rising costs for the City. Without the rate hikes, the City’s Resource Recovery & Recycling Division would be in a structural deficit by 2016-17, staff says.

“Since [2006], annual inflationary increases in the solid waste rates have been outpaced by the rising costs in disposal fees, new organics processing fees, transportation fees, salaries and benefits increases, vehicle purchase price increases, vehicle maintenance and fuel increases, state-mandated recycling programs and the City’s Zero Waste Strategic Plan,” the staff report says.

Following the council’s unanimous vote in January in favor of the staff recommendation, notices about the proposed price hikes were sent to Santa Monica property owners and other trash service customers. Some residents responded with protest letters.

“The City gets enough money and should manage its expenses and payroll better by bidding out the service or contract out the service to someone who can provide the service at a lower rate for the taxpayer,” wrote James Silverstein, owner of at least two residential structures in Santa Monica.

Danuta Oppenheim, a 91-year-old resident living on Social Security, wrote she could not afford the increase.

“I am [a] retired old woman and wish to continue living in my beloved house in my beloved Santa Monica until I die,” she wrote. “I do not wish to have my life destroyed by excessive City fee increases.”

The public hearing and possible council vote will take place at what is expected to be a well-attended meeting, since the Hines project petition is also on the agenda. (“Voters Could Determine Santa Monica Development Project's Future,” April 25, 2014).

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