Businesses targeted for ‘litter’ fee

Those San Francisco businesses oft-blamed for the litter in the streets — the food wrappers, drink cups, bags and napkins — could be forced by The City topay an annual fee to help fund cleanup efforts.

Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval told The Examiner on Monday that he will introduce legislation today that would impose a fee on fast-food businesses, convenience markets and gasoline-station markets. The money would go into a city Excess Litter Fee Fund and pay to clean up the streets and sidewalks.

San Francisco would not be the first major city to impose such a fee. Oakland adopted a similar fee in February 2006 with a sliding scale ranging from small businesses having to pay $230 annually to large businesses paying $3,815 annually.

The legislation does not set a specific fee amount but says it would be a sliding scale based on gross receipts of a business. He said “a couple million dollars a year” in the fund would be needed to “make a difference.”

“A large part of the litter problem we have is due to the wrappers and the disposable canisters that are produced by fast-food restaurants,” Sandoval said. “Right now, the taxpayer is picking the tab up for picking up this mess.”

The proposal is expected to draw opposition from the business community, which has long complained that City Hall is overburdening them with fees.

Last year, a city commission audit on litter found 100 sites inspected had, on average, 36 pieces of various types of litter. At the time, it prompted Mayor Gavin Newsom to call on fast-food restaurants to do more to curb littering, but he said he would look unfavorably at the idea of a litter fee.

Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard said Monday that Newsom and other officials “met recently with the owners of fast-food restaurants and coffee shops” to have them increase efforts to reduce litter in city streetscapes.

“We’re in the process of finalizing which restaurants are going to step up to the plate and do their fair share to ensure that The City remains on track to meet its litter reduction goals,” he said.

Sandoval said the cost of the litter cleanup should fall to the “businesses and the people that patronize them. They are the ones who rightly should be paying for this mess.”

Sandoval said he is working to have the board approve the legislation within 90 days.

The litter “not only impacts the tourist economy, but it just degrades everyone’s daily quality of life,” he said. “We got to find some way of turning this around.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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