Put the public garbage cans back — that was the message one supervisor sent Thursday to the Department of Public Works, which surprised many city residents by removing hundreds of the cans as part of a new program to reduce litter.
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick held a Board of Supervisors City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing Thursday on the program, after fielding a number of calls from residents and business owners in his district critical of what began as a mysterious disappearance of trash cans.
Mayor Gavin Newsom on June 21 announced The City had begun reducing the number of trash cans as part a pilot program launched by DPW in January, saying the high number of cans led to illegal dumping, overflowing cans and an increase in litter. Since then, 304 of The City’s more than 5,000 trash receptacles have been removed and 32 added, according to DPW.
“This is something that I do not believe should be done without some level of discussion. For us to be looking at this after the fact, I am disappointed,” McGoldrick said. He added, “I would like these receptacles replaced immediately.”
DPW director Fred Abadi said the department does not consult the supervisors on every initiative it embarks upon and showed no indication that he would agree to McGoldrick’s request.
Abadi said the department removed trash cans from places where they were being misused, underused or where there were more than enough.
McGoldrick countered, “I don’t think you punish all the folks who benefit” from the trash cans “because a few folks are illegally dumping stuff.”
Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard defended the program. “I’m not going to trash Supervisor McGoldrick, but he has to admit the status quo is not working,” Ballard said. “This is a program that deserves a chance.”
The department said the program has shown success. Areas where the trash cans were removed — such as along Geary Boulevard, where 49 cans are now gone — the sidewalks and streets are cleaner, according to DPW Deputy Director Mohammed Nuru.
The program, supporters say, has also exposed a rampant misuse of The City’s trash cans. Nuru said there are thousands of businesses and residences who do not pay for garbage service, as is required by city ordinance, with many using the public trash cans instead. For example, he said that since the trash cans were removed along Geary Boulevard in May, 88 small businesses have signed up for garbage service.
Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier praised the program: “Clearly, the pilot study you are doing is exactly what you should be doing.”
The department is taking photographs, monitoring the areas where the cans were removed and plans on issuing a report in December.