Trash fee hike clears hurdle

Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s latest trash fee hike, which was used to balance the city’s budget earlier this year.

The proposal would increase the monthly trash fee for homeowners to $36.32 from $26 and for residents of apartments that have four or fewer units to $24.33 from $17.16.

The council voted 11 to 1 in favor of the fee hike, with Councilman Dennis Zine opposed. Zine said he was troubled to see such a large increase when Los Angeles residents are facing financial difficulties.


“I just think it’s the wrong time to do it,” he said.

Councilman Greig Smith disagreed, saying the city had been charging less than the full cost of trash collection.

“You’ve been getting a deal for 50 years from this city,” he told the audience.

If the proposal receives final approval next week, trash fees will have more than tripled in a two-year period.

Three weeks ago, City Controller Laura Chick found that most of the new trash fee revenue collected over the last two years had gone toward such expenses as equipment and pay raises for police officers -- even though Villaraigosa promised in 2006 that “every penny” of the higher fees would go toward the hiring of more officers.

Council members heard opposition from more than a dozen residents at Tuesday’s meeting and received more than 100 written protests.

The higher fees are scheduled to take effect in September, just as city officials begin asking voters to approve a series of new taxes on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Last week, the mayor succeeded in putting a half-cent sales tax hike on the same ballot that would raise up to $40 billion for transportation. He has also supported a school construction bond measure, the fifth in roughly a decade, at the Los Angeles Unified School District.