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SAN DIEGO – A proposed ballot measure will be drafted by San Diego city leaders to amend the People’s Ordinance, a more than century-old law requiring the city to pick up trash at homes in the community.

The San Diego City Council Rules Committee voted 4-1 Wednesday to draft the measure, which in essence would allow the city to charge for trash pickup services at single-family homes. First created in 1919, the ordinance was amended in 1986 to prohibit the city from charging most single-family residences for collection services while apartment and condominium residents must pay for a private hauler.

The ordinance has drawn criticism by three San Diego County Grand Juries over time, the most recent of which came in 2009, for creating a taxpayer-funded benefit applicable only to select residents.

All three grand juries recommended a ballot measure to repeal it.

“To be frank, right now it is not the time to implement a fee, but that is not what we are asking to be done,” City Council President Sean-Elo Rivera said.

In 2009, a grand jury estimated that 304,000 city residents benefited from free trash collection and cost the city nearly $50 million per year. According to a city staff report, a 2021 independent budget analyst highlighted that the People’s Ordinance creates inequities as well as barriers to reaching goals spelled out in the city’s Climate Action Plan.

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Editorial Board also wrote a recommendation last fall to repeal the ordinance, but acknowledged that convincing voters to end the service would be “a tough sell.”

“The People’s Ordinance is really complex, and amendment may not be the only solution to the vegetarian environmental goals that the council inspires to meet,” one speaker in public comment Wednesday.

Another speaker said he was “disappointed” with the city and was not in support of the motion.

The San Diego Taxpayers Association says it’s a complex issue and favored charging all San Diegans a trash collection fee in 2015. Now, the organization is analyzing different data to possibly change its position.

“There are new rules now on food waste and green waste,” said Haney Hong, president and CEO of San Diego Taxpayers Association. “There are changes in the population; there are changes in what is going on in city finance; there have been changes on what happens in recycling.”

Hong added, “There has been some global changes as well as some state change, that really necessitate us to do a deep dive into this issue and come up with a potentially new position.”

Any ballot language would be required to be approved by San Diego City Council. If that happens, it would go before voters at the polls in November.