News - June 22, 2011

Atherton: Garbage cans in the street: Residents complain of eyesores and obstructions

• Atherton cracks down on abuses.

by Renee Batti

Atherton residents who leave their garbage cans out on the street for longer than a designated period will be subject to a warning, then a fine, under terms of an ordinance given preliminary approval by the City Council on June 15.

The council, in response to "numerous complaints from residents," approved new rules that prohibit customers of Recology waste collection service from moving their waste containers to the street any sooner than 24 hours before the scheduled collection time. The ordinance also requires customers to remove them from the street within 24 hours of collection service.

The vote was 4-1, with Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis opposed. The ordinance must be approved in a "second reading" next month before becoming law.

Residents have complained at earlier council meetings and to individual council members about the eyesore and street obstructions caused by neighbors leaving their waste containers out too long. Some neighbors wheel the carts away from the curb, but leave them for the entire week in highly visible areas, they noted.

"I have probably gotten more complaints about (this issue) than any other" from residents contacting him in frustration, Mayor Jim Dobbie said.

In a staff report, Interim Building Official Dennis Lockard wrote: "In many cases the carts are left out, on or near the right-of-way or in public view all week and are filled with refuse where they are left. This creates a public nuisance and constitutes a danger to pedestrians and motorists and diminishes the quality of life in the neighborhood."

Town officials are preparing to launch an informational campaign, with the help of Recology, about the new ordinance. Interim City Manager John Danielson said he hopes warnings issued will solve much of the problem, and if yet-to-be-determined fines are levied on residents who ignore the warnings, the penalty can be appealed.

Staff will work with Recology "to initiate outreach to Atherton residents" about the new rules, according to Mr. Lockard's report. The town will print notices or stickers to affix to waste containers with the information as well.

The ordinance as presented to the council also requires that containers be placed "so that they do not obstruct the right-of-way of street traffic," causing Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen to ask for a revision to account for times when Recology crews are responsible for the violation.

In opposing the ordinance, Councilwoman Lewis said she believes the town would be "crossing a line and becoming more of a police state."

The cost to the town of putting the ordinance in place, including staff time and enforcement, is estimated at about $20,000 annually. "These costs may be offset by citation revenues issued for non-compliance after proper notification and continued violation of the ordinance," the staff report said. "As compliance increases the cost and revenues will be reduced."


Posted by Mr. Zip, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Stop blocking access to your mail boxes too. You Postal Carrier is not your hired day laborer. Federal regulations state access for delivery shall not be hindered or blocked.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm

This is awesome! We have this problem here in the 'hood, too. A lot of it is due to the scumbag garbage collectors & people getting home late, so the receptacles sit as obstructions in the street for many hours.

I am loving three things here:

-That Atherton & EPA have something in common

-The distinction between mail carrier & day laborer - not something you'd think would have to be distinguished, but hey, it's Atherton

-That this is considered news! Awesome, made my humor quotient today, thanks for the laugh.

Posted by Thelma, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Well if you think that funny--we actually paid a staff member close to 400,000 dollars to sign us up for this problem. I bet you guys at least paid less for your mess.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

@Thelma, please, tell me more- you mean an Atherton town employee was responsible for contracting w/Recology? I truly don't know who contracted on behalf of EPA, but it does make me wonder - & I agree - most likely we paid much less. I'd be unhappy about this, too, if I lived in your town.

I also see the serious side of the problems, which we experience here as well - less visibility for sure, and now that it's summer, more pedestrians & cyclists, so it can be a hazard for everyone on the road. We often have our driveway blocked by the empty receptacles, which is incredibly annoying, as is the amount of time that elapses between the various pickups.

My landlord pays for our service, which of course we pay for via rent. While I'm glad we're food scrapping, sharing garbage receptacles is an issue & of course, where to conveniently keep them that isn't a problem for others.

What do you think of the "police state" comment? Seems to me if it's such a common complaint, the city council has to address it.

Posted by Thelma, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I only have time for a brief response and I am no expert anyway, but I'll try with what I found out by asking similar questions myself.
There was body of reps formed with about 6-8 initials in its name- something like SBWMCG or longer. The Almanac has older articles on this subject archived here online.
There was one rep chosen from each city that make up this group who as a whole, then negotiated with Recology for the entire contract and how pricing and service would be divvied up for each separate Town. For Atherton it was done by our outsourced contract City Planner Lisa Coster Saunders who owns a firm called Neil Martin Associates with planners in multiple bay area municipalities. How many other cities might have been represented by her own contract employees is not known to me-but I am sure that the dumbest deal anyone any where got, is the one she negotiated for Atherton.
The police state/garbage can comment was probably made as a joke--our officers are far too fancy to enforce mere ordinances-they have had the Town hire an outside code enforcer to do this kind of task for them, so it would be this code guy who would be dealing with tipsy cans.
Atherton is however thinking of passing a sloppy can ordinance but not to punish residents--I believe the plan is to send a big stack of citations over to Recology for the mess they leave all over the road, so that we can deduct those fees from the multi million dollar contract that we are now stuck with for years to come.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:35 am

Atherton has neither the courage of the resources to enforce its current street perimeter ordinance so why add another one?

The long standing current ordinance states "12.06.10 E 8. No logs, curbs, rocks or similar obstacles may be placed within six feet of the edge of the improved right-of-way." A short drive around Town will demonstrate that the Town either refuses or is unwilling to enforce this ordinance.

How can the proposed ordinance be enforced if the Town continues to ignore the existing ordinance? If I am fined I will certainly claim selective enforcement.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Thank you, Thelma. I'll check the archives. What a complicated bummer! Interesting how the police and garbage intersect in this issue...

Posted by Ethan, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Meanwhile the ice caps are melting, unemployment claims are back up, and Pfc. Joshua L. Jetton, 21, of Sebring, FL, died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked with small arms fire.

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Ethan -

I echo your sentiments regarding our country's occasional acknowledgement of our mounting death toll in foreign interventions.

Probably more compelling than the horror of seeing a garbage can on the street.

Posted by Lucky Dog, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

This is a new low for the town. I guess there are people who have nothing better to do. Many people do work and cannot get the cans off the curb in time to please some people. There are seniors who cannot take out the containers and have to have gardeners or friends take them out. The new garbage rates preclude many from being able to pay for special pickup.
Enforcement is not high on the list in the town. There are obstacles ( rocks,trees etc.) in the property lines along streets which are more dangerous for people walking or biking.
Garbage containers do not pose a huge problem.
Atherton get over this and work on current fiscal problems.

Posted by laughing, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

Horrors!! Visible garbage cans amok in Atherton!!! What next? The good news is the police department can justify more officers to move the garbage cans when they pick up the newspapers. This town needs to seriously re-evaluate everything from the top down.

Posted by Mrs Thurston Howell, III, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Dreadful! Can't the servants deal with this abhorrent nuisance? Not even the butler or one of the gardeners? What is this world coming to?

Posted by The Skipper, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Really !!

Posted by Ginger Grant, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 24, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Get MaryAnn to do it, Mrs Howell. I always thought I was as good as you, anyway.

(Lots of attitude here in Lwood....)

Posted by The Professor, a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Problem Solved: I've created a magic paint (using coconut extract) that, once applied, will make garbage cans invisible.
(Now I just have to figure out how one can use invisible garbage cans!)

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