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Politics

San Francisco To Decide On Garbage, Coit Tower In June Primary

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(Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A measure on the June ballot in San Francisco would require the city’s waste collection services be put up for competitive bidding, but the proposal’s opponents claim it would create an unnecessary bureaucratic headache.

Proposition A’s backers include community activist Tony Kelly and retired Judge Quentin Kopp, who said the city’s current garbage company, Recology, has an unhealthy monopoly over San Francisco’s waste collection services thanks to a local law passed in 1932.

That law, which created a nonpartisan board to set the rates for the city’s garbage services, would be amended by Proposition A to set up competitive bidding for five different aspects of the services.

Companies would have to bid on separate contracts for residential collection, commercial collection, recovery and processing of recyclable materials, transfer and transportation of the residual waste, and disposal or conversion of that waste.

Kelly said Recology currently receives about $220 million annually from residential and commercial ratepayers in the city. He said that figure could be reduced by as much as 25 percent through competitive bidding.

He cites a 2011 report ordered by the city’s Local Agency Formation Commission that found that San Francisco was the only one of 71 Bay Area cities that did not have a franchise agreement with its garbage company.

“We’re really getting ripped off,” Kelly said.

However, the No on A campaign, funded primarily by Recology, argues that Proposition A would throw into turmoil a system that works.

“This is a system people are comfortable with,” said Brian Leubitz, outreach director for the campaign. “This measure would create confusion where there’s none now and really isn’t necessary.”

Leubitz pointed out that Recology’s current residential garbage rates are right around the Bay Area median and that the company “offers a service that’s really unmatched in the Bay Area,” including what it touts as a nation-leading 78 percent waste diversion rate.

He said Proposition A has brought together groups accustomed to opposing each other, from the local Democratic and Republican parties to labor and business councils, almost all of whom have come out against the proposal.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, six other supervisors, as well as state Sens. Mark Leno and Leland Yee and Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano and Fiona Ma are among the city and state officials who oppose the plan.

The ordinance was crafted “without the input of stakeholders or city officials in the type of transparency that San Francisco has found over the past few years really works best for the city,” Leubitz said.

He added that the proposal “offers no guarantee for lower rates but does guarantee an increased bureaucracy at City Hall” while also putting at risk around 900 existing garbage collection and disposal jobs.

Kelly acknowledged that the ordinance faces stiff opposition, likening its chances of passage to “the odds of Luke blowing up the Death Star” in the movie “Star Wars.”

He said, “If you’re trying to go up against a monopoly, they have a lot of resources. Why? Because they’re a monopoly.”

The ordinance needs majority approval to pass.

Proposition A is one of only two local measures on San Francisco’s ballot for the June 5 election.

The second, Proposition B, is an advisory, non-binding measure encouraging the city to limit commercial activities at Coit Tower, which is visited by more than 200,000 people annually.

Members of a group called the Protect Coit Tower Committee gathered signatures to get the measure on the ballot in response to San Francisco’s request last year for proposals by contractors to lease and operate the elevator, food and beverage concession stands and gift shop at the tower.

Along with leasing operations at the tower, the city would also allow contractors to hold private, late-night parties there.

Proposition B calls for strict limits on such events and for the revenue gained from the tower to be funneled toward preservation of the tower’s historic murals.

The San Francisco Parks Alliance is one of the groups opposing the measure, saying revenue from the tower should also go toward other parts of the city’s park and recreation system.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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