Trash bins are out for pick up in an alley of the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego, Oct. 13, 2022. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

San Diego voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to allow the city to begin charging residents for trash services. About half of the city’s homes have been getting that service for free for years, as a result of a century-old law called the People’s Ordinance that prohibits charging for garbage removal.

All that could change if voters approve Measure B, giving the city the authority to recover its costs for providing the service. The vote won’t set any specific fees — decisions about when to impose a trash fee and what to charge residents would come later — but San Diegans can figure out now whether they eventually can expect a charge.

Here’s how city residents living in different types of dwellings could be impacted if voters approve Measure B:

Detached single-family homes can expect a fee

San Diego’s neighborhoods are full of them: traditional, detached single-family homes. Craftsman bungalows with terracotta roofs and homes with a range of architectural styles. As long as they’re located on public streets serviced by the city’s trash trucks, these homes already have access to the city’s free trash pickup and would be the primary target customers for a new city fee later on. The city estimates more than half of the residents in the city live in single-family homes.

Attached single-family homes or small complexes may see a fee

Townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and small apartment complexes may or may not currently get the city’s trash service. Homes are currently eligible for trash services if they have access to curb space on a public street to place the city’s bins for pickup and room on the property to store their bins. If you put your trash in a city roll cart now, then you get free trash pickup and may see a charge. But some homes may lose eligibility: the ballot measure, if adopted, would make multifamily homes with more than four homes on a single parcel ineligible for the city’s service.

Large apartments, condominiums already pay

If your apartment complex is small and has access to a public street, you might already benefit from the city’s trash service, and you might keep it, with a fee down the road. But many apartments and condos have multiple stories and many units, making them ineligible for the city’s curbside pickup services. That means you’re likely throwing your garbage bags in a dumpster and you — or whoever collects your rent — pays a private hauler to come pick it up. The good news is, if Measure B passes, a fee down the road won’t impact you. But your tax dollars are feeding the city’s coffers that pay for the garbage service right now.

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...