By Eliza Partika
The Glendale City Council opened up the issue of trash collection payment hikes for public comments at the Tuesday Council meeting, which was the last day for residents to publicly protest the rate increase.
The public hearing provided information about the pending hikes to trash hauling costs, set to take effect July 1.
Despite public objections, the Council voted to approve the hikes, but limited the rate increases to a one-year period, to be reevaluated next June, City Treasurer Rafi Manoukian confirmed for the Glendale News-Press on Friday.
The city has identified 27,118 entities affected by the rate hikes. To stop the rate adjustments, the city would have needed to receive 13,560 valid protests from residents. As of the meeting, the city had received 316 valid protests against rate adjustment.
The new rates would increase more than 300% over the next few years, with the first increase scheduled for July 1.
The item was presented to the Council in January, but was postponed. Since then, said Assistant Director of Public Works Dan Hargrove, the cost of service rates has been adjusted.
“The rate increase is established on a five-year standard … and it’s optimum to realistically balance our revenues and expenditures while minimizing impact on our customers,” Hargrove said.
Beginning in July, one 96-gallon bin — used by 56% of single family homes in Glendale — will rise from $18.34 to $32.34, a rate increase of 76%. For a single family home with one 64-gallon cart, the rate increase will be $11.72 to $28.78 — a 146% increase. For multifamily apartments with two to four units, rates are set to increase by 94%, from $14.82 to $28.78. The typical single family home in Glendale uses three bins per household. Families can request more bins through a regular monthly fee determined by a fee schedule. Commercial expenses are borne by the four hauler companies contracted by the city.
Even with the proposed initial rate adjustment, Glendale’s rates for residential and multi-family of less than five units, will be lower than that of comparable cities in greater Los Angeles with similar waste collection services. Furthermore, Glendale’s rates will remain competitive with other cities over subsequent years, according to the City Council.
In answer to a frequently asked question about the rate discounts for seniors, Hargrove said any subsidies for seniors or others would need to come from a funding source separate than those allocated by Proposition 218.
Hargrove said this analysis was done to analyze cost impacts over the last 13 years since the last rate adjustment, to correct imbalance in employee revenues when compared to capital expenditures and maintenance costs, and to implement phased refuse rate increases. Fuel costs were considered as part of the analysis.
Trends affecting the rate increases over the next five years include factors impacting rates across California, like increases in recycling and organics costs and other production values, the projected Scholl Landfill closures, recycling market decline, and recurring expenditures for items like new waste management trucks. Rates need to increase, said Hargrove, to prevent a nosedive in the cash balance allotted for services by 2024.
Residential rates are bundled, meaning single and multifamily residences pay for their refuse, recycling, and organics costs within a single rate.
In December 2021, commercial solid waste franchise was implemented. As part of the franchise category businesses and buildings with five or more units pay for their refuse, recycling and organics as separate rates, and are split into four zones with identical services. Franchise rate annual adjustments are based on CPI, disposal cost and fuel cost.
Notices sent to the affected members of the public detailed rate adjustments and the reasons for them, according to Hargrove. Letters also included the city’s contact information and website address where customers can get more comprehensive information. The city’s website has all the detailed information that could not be put in public notice letters, including FAQs, rate changes and a PowerPoint detailing specifics of the how’s and why’s of the new proposed rate adjustments, and the entire cost analysis.
Councilwoman Paula Devine asked whether there was a possibility that instead of severe increases in the first year whether rate increases could balance out.
Director of Public Works Yazdan Emrani said the reason rates are calculated every five years rather than yearly is for efficiency, as it would take too much time and resources to do a study, a cost analysis and bring it in front of the Council.
“Could we lower it in the future somehow and reevaluate?” Devine countered.
“The examples that exist in this study are costs we know we will be occurring over the next five years. However, if for some reason, something would come to pass where those costs are not the reality, then yes, we could in a future year forgo one of those increases,” responded another representative of Public Works.
As to why the city didn’t implement small increases over the last 12 years, “There’s never a good time to increase rates. In the past, we have suggested raising rates and for one reason or another, the timing wasn’t right,” said Manoukian.
“We were also waiting for commercial franchise to go into effect, which took close to five years. We didn’t want to do new cost analysis without knowing the impact,” seconded Hargrove.
Mayor Dan Brotman asked if Public Works had considered the cost of contracting Republic or Athens to handle waste management and collection as other comparable cities do. Hargrove and Manoukian responded that while they haven’t reached out to Athens or Republic yet to inquire, there would be little point in drawing up a new cost analysis,
as other cities are smaller in size and have far less consumers to account for, which plays a big role in cost.
Brotman wondered why, when the state approval was passed years ago, the city is only now responding to the cost impacts. Senate Bill 1383, California’s climate pollutant reduction strategy that gives instruction for waste collection, was passed in 2016, but the implementation laws were not finalized until two years ago, Emrani said. In addition, Hargrove said there were multiple delays in the city actually doing the rulemaking and implementing SB 1383 as a law. “SB 1383 went into effect in January 2022 so we are a year after that,” Hargrove said.
Councilmembers unanimously agreed to come back with a report every year by June, around the time they discuss and finalize their budget.
About a dozen members of the public weighed in on rate increases.
Some criticized City Council for their methods, while others agreed there should be a rate increase after a 12-year hiatus.
“The rate increase is for next month and for the 12 months after that, so that’s even rougher,” said Glendale resident Peter Perigo.
“You say that there’s a cost of service analysis for five years but you didn’t do one in individual years on that one. And you’re saying it could cost more if we went back and actually analyzed the idea of voting on this one year at a time. That reeks of a hard sell, sir. I just don’t agree with that. I also wonder why there wasn’t a cost analysis for franchises. Why didn’t we do Republic? Why didn’t we ask Athens? It’s like you guys came up with one thing and you’re all out of ideas,” Perigo said.
“You might have had years to deal with this,” he said, “but the public hasn’t had more than six weeks.”
Letters written to the Council adamantly opposed the hikes.
Hazmik Najarian read a letter “from the majority of the homeowners in Glendale” stating that the rate increases “will place an undue burden on our community.”
Another letter, dated April 19, said the proposed rate hikes would “squeeze money from the poor.”
“I am already paying $36.68 for rubbish waste not including the recent gas increase of 300%. These increases are only making families live in hardship, and unable to invest their time outside of work to pay for such utilities. This increase is not acceptable due to the current economy we are living in on poverty level just to pay for utilities and bills,” wrote Susanna and Daniel Manukyan in a joint letter.
Public comments put increases at anywhere from 314% to approximately 380% higher than current rates over five years. Some letters claimed increases were going to be as high as 538%.
Richard Lee, a 51-year resident of Glendale, said he has several issues with the studies used to justify a “quadruple increase in rates.”
“The elderly and those on fixed incomes will be severely affected, so my final conclusions are the city’s study is seriously flawed. It’s deceptive, and does not match all revenues and expenses properly,” Lee said.
Prominent owners of businesses and real estate also wrote to oppose the rate increases.
Matt Sherman of the Apartment Association of Los Angeles wrote: “Looking at the rate increases of 76% to 156% for apartments of four units or less, we have apartments throughout Los Angeles, including Glendale. A large portion of them do have four units or less, so this is a huge impact to those owners. We urge the City Council to utilize the funds to decrease or delay the implementation of these drastic increases,” Sherman said.
Steven Garfinkle, who owns a property on Pebbleshire Road, opposed the increases and suggested the Council adjust rates to coincide with the Consumer Price Index, which is 4.9% in the United States.
Michaela Carris, a new homeowner in Glendale, said, “Obviously waste management is essential. No one wants a rate increase. It’s something that needs to happen on some level, but it’s the scale of the increase that is overwhelming.
“The way the rate is structured out is misleading. It’s a 386% increase over four, five years. I would love to see if there are more options that could be explored, like right now the difference between a 64- and a 96-gallon can is only a $7 savings. That’s some savings, but that’s not significant savings and I think there could be some more incentives built in to reducing waste.”
First published in the June 10 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.