recycLA Roll Out Aggravates Area Businesses

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti posing in a sanitation truck February 16th as part of his “Clean Streets” initiative, which includes the recycLA program.

Amid outcry from some owners of businesses and multi-unit residential buildings that their trash pick up costs have doubled while service has diminished under the city’s new “recycLA” trash collection program, the Los Angeles City Council directed the city’s sanitation department in September to recommend fixes.

According to Luis Lopez, executive director of the Atwater Village Chamber of Commerce and owner of Luis Lopez Automotive, under the new program his trash pick up costs will nearly double, from $150 to $290 a month.

“It’s really a wowzer,” Lopez said.

Andy Hasroun, who owns commercial property and Link N Hops, also in Atwater Village, said his costs will go from $300 a month for trash pickup six days a week to $848 for just four days weekly.

But Hasroun, Lopez and others aren’t just balking at the price increase.

Many have said the city’s new, mandatory program offers reduced service, has had scheduling problems and missed pickups and that it reduces competition.

“They told us it was going to be wonderful and ‘we’re going to organize it in a way that we’re literally going to save you money,’” Lopez said. “Well they’re offering one supplier and it’s given us less service at higher costs, as often happens in a monopoly.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has championed the program in an effort to increase recycling to a goal of near “zero waste” by 2025 to reduce trash in landfills and to make trash pick up more efficient and less costly across Los Angeles.

The program, for the first time, provides trash pick up to about 80,000 Los Angeles commercial and large residential buildings. Previously, without any such service offered by the city, business owners and landlords negotiated and contracted for their own trash pick up.

Businesses and landlords will now receive blue, black and green bins, just like city residents do, or dumpsters in the same colors. The colors signify recycling, solid and landscaping waste, respectively. A business that currently has one dumpster, for example, will now have two—one blue and one black—under the program.

According to Tony Arranaga, spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, while awaiting any proposed fixes from the city’s sanitation department, the councilmember has also asked his staff to evaluate other options to help ease any potential financial burden on business owners.

“In the meantime,” Arranaga said in an email, “we are encouraging stakeholders with questions or concerns to connect with our office or the Bureau of Sanitation Customer Care Center,” at (800) 773-2489.

Under the new program, the city has contracted with seven exclusive trash haulers servicing 11 different areas of the city. Businesses and multi-unit buildings are required to use the assigned trash-hauling contractor for their areas.

According to city officials, the program is designed to encourage recycling. Trash pick up costs are based on the size of the trash bin or dumpster while there is no additional cost for picking up recycled trash.

In theory, officials say, commercial and multi-unit residential owners can save costs by recycling more, which should result in needing smaller black solid waste trash bins or dumpsters.

The program is the largest single transition of its kind for the city and a massive logistical undertaking, said Enrique Zaldivar, the city’s director of sanitation. “So this is perhaps a bit of a new and even surprising initiative for [business owners].”

According to Zaldivar, a “few glitches” in the roll out were almost to be expected, but they were “only a few” and the program is moving forward.

The program started in some areas in July and city officials expect it to be fully implemented by February 2018.

“At the moment I’m going to try it out, see how it works out,” said Vincent Amador, owner of Atwater Screen and Glass.

He and many other Atwater businesses started receiving service under the new program in September.

“As it is right now they’re not doing a good job. They have no schedule, they were supposed to pick up Tuesdays and Fridays and they haven’t been on time one day yet. So I’m going to give them another week and then figure out who I have to contact.”

Amador said his collections costs will now be $100 more per month, but he said his biggest concern is the poor service and the way the program was forced on him.

“It would have been nice to have been notified with more than just a month’s time that this was going to happen. We had no choice in the matter. We should have been able to vote on it or something,” he said.’’

Tricia La Belle, owner of several Los Angeles businesses including Bon Vivant market and café in Atwater Village and Boardner’s lounge in Hollywood said she estimates her monthly trash collection costs will increase by $300.

“I’m livid over this, absolutely livid,” she said. “To throw another $300 a month on a small business owner who is already being inundated with costs and taxes in this city, this is just crazy, absolutely crazy. It’s more and more incentive to leave this city. We’re pushing businesses out.”

La Belle said that over the years she has faced a pattern of increasing costs and reduced freedom. She said the way recycLA rules have been written and enforced without reaching out to businesses for input is part of that pattern.

“Where’s the anti-trust? Where’s the free commerce in America? It’s crazy,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m in America anymore.”

Currently, the program is ramping up in more areas, including Los Feliz. Business owners and landlords there began receiving notices of the program in mid-September.

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