No surprise: Your garbage rates are going up 23 percent


As expected, Recology sent in its application for a rate increase Dec. 11, and most residential customers will see a hike of 23.5 percent, or about $6.50 a month. The hikes will be more complicated for commercial operations and apartment buildings, depending largely on how much waste those outfits can divert into recycling or compost.

The proposal would change the way rates are charged: Residential customers, who now pay a fee for the black cans holding landfill-bound garbage, will start paying a monthly $5 fee overall and $2 for compost and recycling.

The most dramatic increases will fall on large apartment buildings, which under the current rate structure are heavily subsidized, Eric Potashner, a spokesperson for Recology, told me. "We needed to restructure so the larger residential sector was paying fairly," he said.

Most large landlords absorb the cost of garbage service as part of the rent they charge. So the new costs may not get passed on to existing tenants.

Recology is facing a mandate to eliminate all landfill waste by 2020 -- and that's a bit of a problem: For years, the company only charged for black bins, which, if all goes according to plan, will eventually go away altogether. "And the trucks, the fuel costs, the drivers are all color-blind," Potashner said. "It costs the same to pick up the blue bins as the black bins."

The rate application is complicated, and I haven't been able to analyze every page. The city has hired an outside contractor to do exactly that, and the process takes months. The current proposal would take effect in June, 2013.

It's a significant increase, although not as high as some had predicted -- and not as high as 2001, when the company asked for almost 50 percent. Back then city staffers recommended the hike be cut almost in half, but then-Public Works Director Ed Lee gave Recology most of what it wanted.

Some of the money will go to cover additional costs Recology faces since the city has asked the company to pick up large refuse (you know, those old couches) that are left on the street.

But overall, according to Recology's application, the higher rates cover "increased costs and lower than anticipated revenues" -- in other words, the sucess of the recycling program has meant less income for the garbage company. Still, while Recology is a private company that doesn't release financial information, there's no indication that it's actually running in the red.




There is already provisons in the rent ordinance to passthru increases in operating expenses. But more and more I am seeing leases stipulate that the tenant pays their share of the garbage (and also the water).

Utilities that are charged by the building have been a "free lunch" for tenants in some cases. That cannot continue, and maybe if more voters paid these price hikes, the political pressure on Recology would be higher.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 5:38 pm

Many of us have dramatically reduced our trash footprint over the years. In our household we barely fill a regular trash can a month, but we face a mandatory charge for weekly service.

San Francisco needs to provide consumers with choices of weekly, bi-weekly and monthly trash service, with the highest service level (weekly) paying far more than the other two levels, much like higher users of energy pay higher marginal costs to PGE.

The relationship between Norcal (Recology) and the city is economically unhealthy (and a long-term monopoly relationship) since there are no other options for consumers. The city should open up the bidding for any company that wants to provide bi-weekly and monthly trash pick-up service to allow consumers to have a real choice. A dynamic pricing system to encourage households to reduce their waste stream even further will help the city meet its goals and help consumers change behavior to save money.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

trash pick up. Berkeley does it and their rates are equal to or cheaper than San Francisco's. Municipal waste collection is commonplace in much of the US.

Short of that, the system should be opened up to competition.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

But you know better than them - don't you Eddie?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

That's worked so well for city transport, right?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:36 am

Actually, there used to be private transportation systems in the Bay Area. They were bought up by a consortium of oil companies, car and truck manufactureres and tire companies that wanted to get rid of rail and replace it with bus, car and truck transportation. Then they were all shut down. The Bay Bridge used to have a rail line; no more. That's what happens when private companies own transit -- it goes away completely when the money is better doing something else. See US. v. National City Lines 334 US 573 (1948)

Posted by tim on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

Those red buses and the "tube" were partly or wholely tendered off and now you have competing bus lines wanting your business. And when their equivalent of Clipper was implemented, Oyster, it gave you a 50% discount for using it. Muni's discount for Clipper? Zero.

The UK also sold off public electricity, gas, and even water. It can be done.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

Realize that capitalists are trying to maximize their return on their investment. Right away we must assume that they are going to take a profit... from our pockets. The facile pratling about how competing bus lines "wanting your business" will likely sooner rather than later devolve into monopoly behavior on the surviving line or else public bailout to maintain critical service.

This type of privatization rah-rah-rah is tantamount to trollery as absurd as the history of it is. Look at China. Look at Russia. Indeed where privatization has been given the free rein we're being advised to embrace here, the public has gotten roundly hosed. Hosed down good.

An in regards to Clipper discounts, not one cent more. All these big-brother friendly tracking systems don't deserve a penny of subsidy -- certainly London's glad adoptation of privacy-sacrifice is nothing to emulate.

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

Almost anything can be defiend as a "social need" so by your reasoning, nothing should be private.

Prizatization has been standard good practice across the globe since the days of Reagan and Thatcher. Not even subsequent left-wing governemtn have seen fit to reverse that.

Anyway the real issue here isn't who runs a business but introducing comeptition. SFWater is as bad as Recology because both are monopolies.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

on some systems--Golden Gate Transit and Caltrain, for example. If you don't register your card online, you can minimize the big brother aspect of Clipper.

I agree with the gist of your comment about privatization.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

Essentially you get Big Brother knowing who you are and where you are, plus the uncertainty of how much value, if any, is on the card, plus no way of proving you paid if your card for some reason becomes compromized.

And not even a lousy 10% discount for all that.

One other thing too. A manual transfer effectively gives you up to 4 hours travel time. With Clipper, it's exactly 90 minutes and not a penny more.

I don't like it at all.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 2:02 pm

tangent. I hardly ever use MUNI as I prefer to walk.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

The buses are flilthy, slow, crowded and unsafe

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:03 pm
Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

One minute, you spout off about the alleged greatness of Thatcher's privatization efforts in England. The next, you refer to England as "socialist."

Socialism is the public (social) ownership of the means of production, which is not the case in England. That definition is rudimentary political science.

Sadly, you appear to be as ignorant and badly educated as your dittohead brethren. As always, an informed and educated populace is a threat to the power structure, so knowledge and education are difficult to attain for the vast majority.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

The UK hasn't just privatized - they also introduced competition. In SF terms:

Trash - private but a monopoly
Water - public but a monopoly
Power - private but a monopoly
Phones - private and not a monopoly

Only the last one is ideal.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:01 pm
Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

that ensures efficiency and great prices. Back in the 1970's I remember once it took me 3 months to get a phone line put into my new home. Now it takes a day. Back then it was a monopoly - not a coincidence.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

And its still a monopoly.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

I can get phone, internet and TV from many sources.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

ATT doesn't offer cable in my area and satellite doesn't work because of the fog.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 5:02 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

that the suspended water particles in fog are incredibly effective at distorting any type of signal, are you not? Drones cannot see through fog, satellites cannot see through fog.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

folks in Sf deal with it every day.

but heck, why not just move where it's sunnier.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

My phone always got hooked up pretty quick.

But that's not the issue. The issue is cost and quality. Throughout Europe and Asia, people have generally better and cheaper phone services and way faster and cheaper internet.

The difference is heavy government regulation that treats telecom as a public good. It doesn't seem to matter whether there is one entity providing the service (as long as that entity is the government), or whether there are choices. What matters is that the government heavily regulates it.

Governments breathing down the necks of corporations ensure that corporations actually provide the services they're supposed to, rather than just make money. Even more efficient if the government just cuts out the middleman.

That said, once the government sets up public services, I'm not opposed to private business also providing some competiton. But we're deluding ourselves by thinking the fox can guard the henhouse. Even if there are many foxes competing with each other to guard the henhouse, the result is still bad for the hens.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

inspire or reassure me at all. Often those regulators take bribes or otherwise get looked after to make sure they don't regulate too badly.

The best form of reguglation is choice. With things like mobile phones, airlines, cars, banks, newspapers etc. any bad behavior is instantly punished by me taking my business to a competitior.

How do you switch with Water, trash, DBI, Muni or Planning?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

Hasn't worked in real life. Other countries have better services, even if there's less choice. We seem to have a choice of one shit sandwich vs another.

As for switching, what you're saying is a little contradictory.

Either you can set up water and trash services where multiple entities can co-exist... in which case I say give people a public option. What's the harm?

Or you can't, because it's impractical. In which case, I say that a monopoly which is at least publicly accountable and operates without the profit motive is going to do it better and cheaper than a monopoly that's not accountable and needs to skim some of your money for profit and fat executive pay.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

both public and private options, like USPS versus FedEx.

That way we both get what we want. Of course, USPS is losing billions . .

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

Only because the Bush administration saddled USPS with a mandate to have a 5 billion dollar surplus which Fed Ex or any other company doesn't have to do.

But yes, in general I agree. Having both public and private options is ideal. I actually said just that.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:57 pm

Ideal would probably be a system where public services were offered on a non-profit basis, but business had a chance to compete.

We'd have public phones, power, trash, and water. But if some private company thinks that it can actually provide better service and still make a profit, they should be welcome to try.

But replacing public services which are accountable to the people and run for the benefit of the people rather than for the purpose of making money, with private business that's only concerned with the bottom line... well that's a recipe for disaster.

This should be a no-brainer... something run for the purpose of providing a service will do a better job at providing a service than something run with the purpose of making money. Or rather, the first will do a better job of providing the service; the second will do a better job of making money. And that's exactly how it plays out.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

we cannot let the private sector do it even if that emans it would be cheaper and more efficient.

there are examples but I would not include utilities amongst them since, in the end, they are just businesses.

Public safety is the obvious one. Even the founding fathers deemed that protecting the homeland was a legitimate government function, and back when almost nothing was. For municipalities, that's police and fire. Some communities have experimented with private fire and police, but it's a problem. Safety is just too important, I'd agree, which is why we tolerate both a monopoly and cops making 200K pa

But the rest? It's a hard sell. I could easily see privatizing all utilities that aren't already private, and all fee-earning parts of the city e.g. DPT, DBI. While education and health already have competition between public and private, and anyone who can usually chooses private.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

"we cannot let the private sector do it even if that emans it would be cheaper and more efficient."

Except that it's usually much more expensive and less efficient. The only thing business is efficient at is making money.

"there are examples but I would not include utilities amongst them since, in the end, they are just businesses."

Only if we let them be. I prefer that utilities provide cheap efficient services rather than operate as money-making businesses.

"Public safety is the obvious one."

Yes, of course. Ever notice how conservatives always exempt the only public services they like from their privatization schemes. They know privatization doesn't work, except if by "work" you mean "make money." If you want the service to actually work, only the government seems to do it right. That's why conservatives reserve those services they support for the government.

"which is why we tolerate both a monopoly and cops making 200K pa"

Speak for yourself. I don't tolerate that. I'd pay them 40K, maxing out at maybe 80K. It's not a matter of monopoly vs non-monopoly, or even cost of living. In high cost Manhattan, the city of New York pays cops 40K pa (plus benefits), and it's a public monopoly there too.

"While education and health already have competition between public and private, and anyone who can usually chooses private."

Meh. I choose public. I've been acquainted with public and private education, and found public to be much better. The private schools I've had experience with seem to be only concerned with the bottom line, and there's zero evidence they actually provide better education.

Same thing with mail delivery. Fed Ex costs more than Express Mail and does the exact same thing. Why pay more for the exact same thing when the government does it cheaper?

Too bad more things don't have public competition. In other countries they have public transport like government run airlines and train systems, and they're a pleasure to use. Air New Zealand was run into the ground until the government re-nationalized it and nursed it back to health -it's a superb airline now. BC Ferries are far better run and cheaper than the privatized Washington State ferries just south of the border. I can think of many more examples.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

And "customer service" is non-existent at city hall - the folks there are slow, rude and inefficient. Why? Because you have no chocie but to use them and they know it.

The only thing the government does well is defence, police, fire and coastguard.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

Funny, the times I've had to deal with the city, they've been courteous and efficient. Hell, I'd even say friendly and people-oriented.

The DPH travel clinic nurses are just fantastic, and the services they provide are cheaper than going to my own doctor, even with insurance!

Getting licenses has always been a breeze.

The Traffic Engineering department was superbly helpful when I had to fight a traffic ticket. Not only did they get me what I needed to get the ticket dismissed, but they seemed to genuinely want to help me succeed, even though helping people fight traffic tickets isn't their main job.

The clerks at the DOE have always been incredibly helpful and personable with anything I've ever needed. Arntz is a hack, but the people who work in the department are the nicest ever.

The library always has copies of everything I could ever want. I never need to buy travel books anymore because the library has it all.

Even the parking ticket adjudication officers (!!!) have always been super nice, and eminently fair (!!!). All the parking adjudication officers I've ever worked with (and I fight all my tickets as a matter of policy) have probably given me more slack than I deserve, and done it with a smile.

In fact... with the exception of law enforcement itself (particularly SFPD, not even so much the sheriffs), I'm trying hard to remember a single time I've had a bad experience dealing with the city, and I simply can't.

Customer service with private corporations, OTOH... that's an entirely different story. Hold times with telecoms are just maddening. And when you finally get through, and explain your problem to some flunkie in India, it's not the right department, they transfer you to someone else, except the transfer doesn't go through and they hang up on you, and you have to start the whole process over.

PG&E... they're just evil. Installing smart meters without your permission and then charging you to have them taken out! Public agencies don't do that kind of crap, because public agencies are ultimately accountable to the public.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

corrupted by the big money spent by a private company trying to protect its economic interests. Let me introduce you to pay to play "democracy;" thanks for playing.

By the way, I'm a renter and I pay for garbage. A clause in our lease allows the landlord to bill us the pro-rated share of the garbage bill.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:52 am

(which is pretty much every time they run in an election) they always rationalize their defeat because of "voter fraud" or "vote buying" or some other lame excuse. Anything rather than accept that the people quite simp[ly rejected your platform.

And yes, landlords are increasingly writing into leases that the tenant pays their share of utilities that are charged by the building i.e. water and trash. It would be better if they were simply charged by the unit, and take landlords out of the equation altogether.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:17 am

Eddie, there is a pattern where some progressives think that their bright idea is the best thing since sliced bread and without doing any political work, they get enough sigs to put it on the ballot and then go down to bruising defeat.

The way to win these is to have the ballot measure be the end rather than the beginning of the process, where the political work of building support is done long before the petitions are circulated.

It is almost like if you can't get 4 supes sigs to qualify for the ballot, most of the time but but always, you probably don't have public support to win.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:31 am

when it became obvious eo even the most pig-headed liberal (Bruce, anyone?) that it would never muster public support.

Sadly, the voters trust government even less than they trust corporations.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:46 am

I'm a grassroots guy myself. Despite the weaknesses of "progressive" electoral efforts that you point out, the process still remains corrupted by the influence of big money.

That said, all electoral efforts (successful and unsuccessful) merit critical analysis. Thanks for yours.

Posted by Eddie on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 9:51 am

The ONLY way that we counter our economic disadvantages is by massive grassroots organizing. There are reasons why we had that kind of organization a decade ago and don't have it now.

That is because the grassroots organizers are all paid either directly or indirectly by the City that is controlled by corporate capital that buys elections.

They continue to get paid under proviso that they fully accept corporate framing of policy and only nibble around the edges and stand down on grassroots organizing.

This is a prescription for diminished rates of progressive political return and eventual full incorporation into the corporate political class.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 10:24 am

From my experience participating in the small-scale democracy of organizations with general membership meetings run along the lines of Robert's Rules of Order, I know it is absolutely true that voting must be viewed as the last step in any policy change process, but that said, it seems that signature gathering provides a significant means for grassroots networking and policy discussions -- as are the campaigns which stem from them.

Are there other mechanisms do you see that are missing from a more robustly democractic public policy arena? Do you think that a focus on cutting off the political money stream to the Andrea Shorter types is the most crucial need?

Posted by lillipublicans on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:13 am

The contradiction here is that lower mayoral election turnouts mean lower numbers of sigs to be gathered and hence less of a chance to connect with the fewer voters.

The pile of failed progressive initiatives where public support is attainable is legion, Hetch Hetchy, prostitution, public power and at the state level cannabis and ending the death penalty.

If showing up with bright ideas were sufficient, then the world would look much different. Politics is about meeting the voters on their terms and walking with them to the place where the political space they share with advocates/activists is maximized.

For all of the progressives whose "other centered" politics revolves around them being seen to help "the most vulnerable" they forget that the license to use public resources to do any of this is predicated upon appealing to a majority of voters.

So the self centeredness that "my agenda" is pure and good because I am sacrificing to help the poor, and others are bad and tainted if they don't support me is a prescription for failure in a democracy.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:28 am

Much of the debate here instead is seen as a minority trying to impose their will AGAINST a majority, hence the endless debates about which form of election is most favorable to the left. Rather than making those policies and platforms more appealing to Joe Sixpack, who doesn't have much truck with ideology

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 11:54 am

Ideology drives the advocate or activist to a political position but does not drive most folks to their political positions even though there is significant overlap between the ideologically derived position and the intuitive position.

The artifacts of ideology are what divides otherwise congruent politics, the prejudice that if one is not "on the left" or "the most vulnerable" then one is by necessity a right winger or super rich.

Yelling at people who are scraping by and fear falling off of the edge that they don't care enough about the oppressed and the poor is not worth scratch politically in the current context. Maybe it worked in the 60s.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

They don't want socialism, communism, marxism or any other 'ism,

They want competent management and efficient government structures. They want the roads fixed far more than they want municipal power. They want efficient transit far more than they want the opportunity to vote on every little thing. And they want criminals caught and convicted far mroe than they want "hug a thug" programs.

Activists and advocates try and lead but end up chasing their tails because they don't address peoples' real concerns.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

Folks want the wars to end, they want secure retirements and access to health care that puts their health rather than corporate middlemen profit first.

The fact is that there are powerful forces with access to massive resources who do not want any of this because they get rich off of insecurity. These forces have purchased government and have run propaganda operations for the past 40 years to change public opinion.

Propaganda manipulates people into thinking a certain way based on psychological interventions and repetition. Dr. Goebbles perfected this and the techniques being used today to promote corporate dominance here are his.

The worst case scenario for this kind of propaganda was manipulating Germans into supporting the holocaust. That is not quite in play here, but the manipulation is similar and the corpses are piling up in AfPak as well as due to lack of access to health care and retirement security.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

Businessmen are like Nazi's huh?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

No, propaganda functions as designed by Goebbels and is dangerous.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

movement in Sf, why do you also not see how unhelpful it is to constantly blame the failures of the left on "voting fraud" or "big money" or "propaganda" and so on.

to rationalize away failures in that way is to disown the failures that the elft have brought upon themselves and that has led to them being regarded as irrelevant and quirky by the majority who decide elections.

You can't change society by blaming everyone else but yourself.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

in politics it is only your fault when you lose. blaming your failure to assess and respond to reality in others accomplishes nothing. That said, we can name the cards being played against us so that we can figure out what makes them tick so that we can disarm our opponents. A structural problem is that corporate power has access to resources which allow them to run circles around us. So any adapted progressive response needs to assume that by the time we've decoded current tactics and strategy of our opponents, they've already advanced three steps further. The analogy that comes to mind are antiretroviral research where we don't fight the virus but disable its ability to reproduce.

Posted by marcos on Dec. 13, 2012 @ 2:08 pm