Vice Mayor Rex Richardson introduced an item for tomorrow ‘s, May 23, city council meeting aimed at solving what he views as problems with the city’s waste hauling system, which, he says, cause environmental, health and safety issues that negatively impact residents’ quality of life.


“At times, there can be at least six different waste companies who collect waste throughout the week in only a half-mile block,” the agenda item reads. “The result is a constant flow of trucks driving up the streets and in alleyways on a daily basis, increasing public safety risks, air and noise pollution, and unnecessary wear and tear on local streets and alleyways.”


The agenda item consists of two parts. Part one requests a study be conducted to explore options to improve the private commercial waste hauling system in order to alleviate the aforementioned areas of concern, including establishing a pipeline for local jobs and training. Part two is a request to issue a five-year notification to current private haulers in order to modify the system into an exclusive franchise system, similar to the system recently approved in Los Angeles.


The Los Angeles system was finalized in December of last year with the city awarding $3.5 billion in contracts to seven trash haulers to handle the city’s 65,000 accounts. Supporters praised the environmental requirements included in the contracts.


Diko Melkonian, Long Beach Environmental Services Bureau (ESB) manager, is on record with the Business Journal stating similar environmental requirements are already in place in Long Beach’s current commercial hauling system, including low-emission trucks. In a March 15 interview, Melkonian said improvements could always be made but that he thinks the current trash hauling system is working well.


Currently, the City of Long Beach utilizes two different waste hauling systems. Waste from single-family homes and multi-family complexes with less than 10 units is picked up by the city. City-authorized private trash haulers pick up larger multi-family complexes and commercial building waste.


According to the city document, there are currently 15 private haulers that collect trash in Long Beach. However, six of the haulers listed are branches of EDCO Waste Services, meaning there are actually 10 separate private trash hauling companies. Other companies include Serv-Well Disposal & Recycling, Athens Services, CalMet Services Inc., Consolidated Disposal Services LLC, CR&R Inc., Haul-Away Rubbish Service, Olympic Disposal Company, Universal Waste Systems and Waste Management.


Citing the 15 operators, the city document claims the number of companies serving Long Beach exacerbates problems in dense areas where families do not have private yards and experience heavy traffic. The document states that in these parking-impacted areas, trash haulers are forced to park in the middle of the road to perform their duties, obstructing traffic flow and limiting traffic sight lines, which leads to an increased risk of traffic accidents.


“The City of Long Beach should explore a move to an exclusive franchise system in order to, in part, reduce the amount of unnecessary truck traffic caused by inefficient routing systems and the related impacts on all Long Beach residents, businesses, and their quality of life,” the document states.


The document goes on to say that an exclusive franchise system allows for cities to better enforce environmental and safety standards through contract provisions, require haulers to improve recycling rates and assure haulers are compliant with all new mandates without increasing strain on city resources.


Opponents of the exclusive franchise system include some of the current operators, as well as property and business owners. Opponents claim that taking away competition will lead to increased trash hauling rates, which would raise rental rates and have severe negative impacts on businesses – small businesses in particular. Additionally, Ron Saldana, executive director of the California Waste and Recycling Association (formerly the Los Angeles County Disposal Association), said the five-year notice would have severe consequences.


“If they issue a five-year notice, what that does to the industry haulers is there’s no guarantee there that they will have business in Long Beach at the end of the five years,” Saldana said. “So that really goes a long way in discouraging investment.”


Saldana explained that the city could easily accomplish all the goals laid out in the agenda item without the notification and do so quickly. He recommends instead forming a task force to determine how best to achieve these goals while keeping everyone involved.


“This industry is changing too fast. Why isn’t the city listening to staff? Staff isn’t supporting this,” Saldana said. “You have a vice mayor report on your agenda Tuesday night, but you don’t have a staff report on that agenda.”


Business Journal Publisher George Economides weighed in saying that the city study, if done properly, should clearly indicate the negative impact on business and apartment owners. “This will increase rates, no doubt, and those increases will be passed on to renters,” he said. “The same people who are complaining about rent increases are being used to support this.”


According to the city document, the city must give a five-year notice to all private waste collection companies that have been active in the city at least three years prior to considering a move to an exclusive franchise system. The document states that the notification would not commit the city to a specific course of action. Shawna Stevens, Richardson’s chief of staff, said if the item passes, no action could be taken to modify the trash hauling system until after the five-year period.


Prior to the council meeting, at 4 p.m., Richardson is holding a press conference outside of the entrance of city hall regarding his agenda item. Councilmembers Lena Gonzalez, Dee Andrews and Roberto Uranga and Don’t Waste Long Beach, a coalition of environmental, community and worker rights organizations, including the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, will join him.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.