First published in the Sept. 10 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.
The City Council plans to take up a pair of items related to the future of Glendale’s waste collection services at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
One decision concerns the Scholl Canyon Landfill, which is slated to close once it reaches a preset waste deposit amount, while the second concerns waste collection fees for single-family and small multi-family residences. Though separate items, they are related in that they are likely to raise collection fees for Glendale’s customers.
The first item asks the council to consider whether to deviate from the city’s current expectation of shuttering Scholl Canyon in around December 2025, which is projected based on the current average tonnage of waste — around 1,400 tons a day — collected from the landfill’s customer cities and communities. Because the ultimate closure date will be triggered once it reaches a certain load of trash, the city — which owns the landfill — would do so by deciding to exclude certain other jurisdictions from being able to dump trash there.
Glendale has previously exercised this authority, when, in 1987, the council enacted an ordinance that limited waste tipping to a handful of cities and unincorporated communities in the immediate area specifically to prolong the life of the landfill. In the months preceding that ordinance, the city says, the landfill had reached its peak of around 6,200 tons of trash being deposited there daily.
Right now, in addition to Glendale, jurisdictions dumping their trash in Scholl Canyon include the cities La Cañada Flintridge, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino and Sierra Madre, in addition to the unincorporated communities of La Crescenta-Montrose, Altadena and the areas nearby Pasadena and San Marino. In 1989, Glendale, in a successful effort to further limit waste deposits, also enacted an ordinance enabling it to levy restrictions on those communities if they failed to adopt waste reduction activities dictated by Glendale.
According to the city, approximately 90% of the landfill’s waste currently comes from Glendale and Pasadena, cities with prominent commercial sectors and combining for around 335,000 residents.
What will complicate the council’s decision is that cutting out other jurisdictions from dumping at Scholl will also evaporate a commensurate amount of tipping fees paid by those areas.
In the current setup, Glendale brings in around $12 million annually in revenue from the landfill. If the council were to boot everyone else from using Scholl, the landfill is projected to add 4.5 years to the lifespan and last through around June 2030, but, in turn, revenues would fall to around $3.5 million. If all areas except for Pasadena were excluded, it would buy just six months of life, but still bring in around $10.5 million a year. If Pasadena was excluded and everyone else remained on board, the landfill would last until around July 2028 and bring in around $7 million annually.
At any rate, given that the landfill is projected to close within around eight years at most, the council and city will have to start planning for where to haul waste at that point — which is estimated to add $1.4 million recurring expense to the city’s budget and call for a one-time use of $640,000 to procure two more solid waste vehicles for the fleet, in addition to losing whatever revenues come from Scholl.
The council is also expected to consider kicking off the legal process to raise solid waste collection rates for single-family homes as well as multi-family properties with up to four units, which have not been raised since 2010. Rates for commercial customers and multi-family residences with five or more units were raised in December as the city outsourced that waste collection to four service providers.
According to the city, the proposed increase leaves Glendale in the bottom half of other comparable cities in terms of waste collection costs for those customers.
The staff report for this item indicates that waste collection and disposal expenses have wildly outgrown what Glendale’s rates for these customers have been, in no small part from the variety of regulations from Sacramento. Since 2010, overall expenses for waste operations have ballooned by 46%, while tipping fees at Scholl have only increased by about 25%.
As proposed in this item, single family residential customers with a 64-gallon container will initially receive a $17.58 increase, while those with a 96-gallon container will initially receive an $15.01 increase. After the rates are restructured in January, customer rates will be adjusted across the board by the same percent each year thereafter on July 1.
Under state law, affected residents have the ability to submit a written protest of the proposed increase ahead of the rate increase hearing. Should a majority do so, the council will not be able to adopt those rates. Otherwise, it is free to do so.
“The increase in regulatory requirements by the State of California for compliance, such as the most recent SB 1383 law, have significantly increased the cost for solid waste collection and management,” the city’s public works department said in a statement. “This coupled with the fact that Glendale’s rates have not changed since 2010, and if the proposed rate increase is not implemented, would impact the ability of the city to continue servicing the solid waste collection services for its customers.”