Concentration of single family homes in San Diego. (Jill Castellano/inewsource)

As election day approaches, San Diegans will have the chance to toss out part of a century-old law that prohibits the city from charging for trash collection.

The San Diego City Council added the People’s Ordinance to the Nov. 8 ballot, asking voters to allow the city to recoup from customers the million of dollars it spends on trash collection services each year. If the ballot initiative, Measure B, wins at the polls and the council later decides to impose a fee, city analysts estimate that property owners who have been receiving free trash pickup would begin paying a monthly fee between $23-$29. Read our analysis on why that estimate is likely low.

Single-family homes, if located on public streets, would be the targets of new fees for trash pickup if voters approve giving the city permission to charge for the now-free service. These homes dominate most San Diego neighborhoods, from the wealthier coastal communities to the lower-income ones in the southern part of the city, and make up most of the city’s existing customer base.

That means residents across the district, of varying income levels and racial demographics, would feel the impact of the law change and an eventual new trash fee. Some single-family homes, such as those in gated communities, are not in the city’s service routes and do not get free trash pickup.

Credit to City of San Diego Environmental Department Services

Multifamily residential buildings such as apartment complexes, however, are impacted in a different way. They most likely already pay private haulers for trash pick up.

Some opponents of the ballot measure say these residents also contribute to the city’s tax revenues, which cover the bulk of the city’s waste management costs now, but unlike many of their neighbors, they don’t get the benefit of free trash pickup. Other critics say single-family homeowners pay property taxes that already cover trash services.

Meanwhile, supporters of ending free city trash pickup say the change will ensure everyone pays for the service and create more equity in waste services.

The following maps show readers which communities in San Diego are most likely to face a potential trash fee if voters decide to let the city charge for trash services. The map shows the city’s community planning areas.

The maps show where the city’s single-family homes and multifamily homes, such as apartment buildings, are concentrated. These housing characteristics are approximations of who likely will be charged a fee for pickup and who will not because they’re likely already paying private haulers.

Click the arrows to see where different home types, income levels and communities of color are concentrated. Hover over or click on each neighborhood for detailed breakdowns.

See what areas could get charged for trash pickup:

Single-family homes make up the majority of housing stock in most of the city’s neighborhoods.

A new trash fee for these residents would affect a range of communities from white, wealthy ones to lower-income communities and ones where mostly Black and Latino residents live.

  • Two of the city’s largest neighborhoods, which also rank first and third for having the largest proportions of Black residents, have some of the highest proportions of single-family homes. Encanto and Skyline-Paradise Hills have more than 100,000 residents combined, and single-family homes make up 80% or more of their housing units.
  • Of the 10 neighborhoods that have the highest concentration of single-family homes, seven are among the most wealthy, reporting income of $200,000 or more (including the Del Mar Mesa, Rancho Encantada and Torrey Pines), and six of those 10 are among the whitest communities in San Diego. City service may be a challenge or unavailable in parts of these communities, according to maps of the city’s trash service routes.

Communities with the most multifamily housing likely have more residents who already pay for trash pickup. Some are also home to San Diegans who reported the least amount of household income.

  • Three of the six neighborhoods with the largest proportion of Hispanic and Latino residents — City Heights, San Ysidro and Barrio Logan — also have some of the highest proportions of multifamily housing units, which make up more than half of their total housing stock.
  • Communities with the highest concentration of multifamily housing also have the highest concentration of households earning an annual income of less than $30,000 and less than $15,000. These areas include Barrio Logan, City Heights, San Ysidro and Downtown.

Unsure if you’ll be affected by a trash fee? Check out our guide here

Jill Castellano contributed to this report.

This project was produced with financial support from the American Press Institute.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Crystal Niebla joined inewsource in June 2022 as an investigative reporter focused on infrastructure and government accountability in the San Diego region. Her position is partly funded by Report for America, a national program that supports local journalists. At the Long Beach Post, Niebla served...