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."