What: Davis City Council
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Community Chambers, City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.
Watch it: Live on Comcast Channel 16 and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99 and via webstreaming at www.cityofdavis.org/media
Should piles of yard waste in city gutters go in containers? And are organized curbside aluminum can scavengers thieves who need to be dealt with?
City staff’s advice to City Council members is “yes” to both, according to staff reports.
The Davis City Council is set to take on two vexing curbside issues Tuesday night: what to do about piles of yard waste set out on city streets each week and the scavengers who dodge those piles to collect cans and bottles for their own profit.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Chambers at City Hall, 23 Russell Blvd.
For yard waste, there are two main issues. One, residents are throwing away fast-decomposing organic waste in the trash, where it goes to landfills and produces methane gas. That gas pollutes the air. Two, cyclists often crash into the piles of yard waste at night, casting their complaints to City Hall.
In California, only San Jose and Modesto also collect yard waste the same way Davis residents have gotten used to, according to the Davis Integrated Waste Management Plan, which last tracked that information in July 2013.
John Geisler, operations manager at Davis Waste Removal, said whichever way the city decides on the yard waste issue, it will have no effect on the agency’s ability to remove yard waste.
“Picking up a green waste cart isn’t any different than picking up a garbage container,” he said, adding that if things stay the same, it’s no skin off Davis Waste Removal’s nose. “The claw does a good job for (collection), but the big benefit of containerization is the cleanup afterwards.”
While the City Council has a goal of promoting sustainability, according to a staff report on green waste, it also has an eye on solving the long-standing problem of bicyclists who crash because of the waste piles.
Dave “DK” Kemp, the city’s active transportation coordinator, said the issue sped in front of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Commission when the commission was established in 2005 and has ebbed and flowed since.
Kemp said the commission helped the city put together a mitigation campaign, warning residents about the dangers of sticking yard waste in bike lanes and advising them to make multiple smaller yard waste piles that wouldn’t stick out as far.
“If (the council decides against the staff’s recommendation), we’ll revert back to our outreach to residents about yard waste posing a threat to cyclists,” Kemp said.
While it’s possible that residents might place their refuse and yard waste containers in bike lanes, the waste management plan noted the city of Sacramento’s insistence on labeling its containers with a warning not to place them in bike lanes.
The plan also issues a cost warning for placing yard waste in containers.
“The cost of the carts is just one factor,” it said. “It typically takes a driver more time to empty several carts full of yard materials than it takes to scoop up the same amount of material loose in the street.”
But benefits are numerous, besides bike safety, landfill methane reduction and keeping yard waste out of the storm drains. According to Dianna Jensen, the city’s principal engineer, giving people an alternative to throwing food waste in the garbage will boost the city on its path to reducing the amount of garbage that goes into the landfill.
“We have a goal of reducing our tonnage at the landfill, and food scraps are very heavy,” she said.
City staff is used to fielding “numerous” complaints about organized scavenging of CRV recyclables — in some instances, people complained of scavengers going up their driveways, into their side yards and garages in search of cans and bottles.
While trespassing is enforceable, current city code is vague about scavengers. The diversion of recyclables hurts the city’s bottom line when it comes time for getting its money from residents’ cans and bottles.
Staff members are suggesting that the council adopt a policy of considering scavenging as an infraction. The first offense would cost $100, the second violation would be $200 and third and subsequent violations within a year would cost $500.
The new ordinance would not stop residents from collecting their own CRV recyclables for their own profit.
— Reach Dave Ryan at 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews