Scores of new hires planned as L.A. revamps trash hauling

Revamping the way L.A. hauls trash at businesses and apartment buildings will take scores of new employees

Revamping the way Los Angeles hauls commercial and apartment building trash will take scores of new employees, according to a plan set forward by the city's sanitation bureau.

Officials say the new workers will be paid out of fees collected from trash haulers granted city contracts, not revenues used for day-to-day services.

Businesses and apartments currently choose among private trash haulers vying for their business. Under the new system for commercial trash collection, the city will be carved up into exclusive franchise zones that haulers will bid to service.

The change was championed by labor activists and environmentalists, who argued the change will reduce truck traffic and provide a means to improve labor and environmental standards in the industry.

It was strongly opposed by major business groups, who predicted refuse pickup rates would climb and some haulers would be forced out of business. Approved by L.A. lawmakers last year, the new system is  scheduled to be operational in two years.

Rolling out the new system is expected to require more workers to manage the program, handle contracts, inspect hauling facilities and field phone calls, according to analysts. An outside consultant estimated the city would need to add 112 new positions, plus an additional 85 transitional workers for a year and a half.

The sanitation bureau said it could reassign some existing staff to fill those jobs and fill dozens more with contract employees, meaning only about 70 new permanent employees will need to be hired.

Board of Public Works President Kevin James said skimping on staff could create problems, including trash piling up, lengthy waits for customers seeking help and unsafe working conditions at sanitation facilities.

"The city has never gone down this path before," said David Hirano, chief analyst for City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. "This is a very significant undertaking. We cannot be in a place where we fail at this."

To begin rolling out the new system, sanitation bureau officials have proposed hiring 16 people at a cost of roughly $926,000 for four months during this budget year, equating to nearly $2.4 million annually in future years, according to a staff report. On Wednesday, a City Council  committee voted unanimously to approve the request.

"Trash is very personal. You blow this, it really falls back on the mayor and the City Council and the Board of Public Works and the department," said Councilman Tom LaBonge. "So we must do it right."

City officials say that existing fees charged to haulers, along with franchise fees paid by trash haulers under the new system -- estimated to total $25 million annually -- will fund the hires.

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