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News Alert
Car Strikes 12-Year-Old Boy in Pacifica

Protest Of Rate Increase Well Short Of Majority; Garbage Bills Will Go Up In June

Recology ratepayers will see an 8 percent increase on their bills starting June 1.

With just about 3 percent of Recology ratepayers in Pacifica formally protesting the move, the city council tonight voted unanimously to approve an 8 percent increase to garbage bills effective June 1. 

At the close of a public hearing about the proposed increase at about 7:40p.m., Kathy O'Connell, city clerk, had received 351 valid letters of protest. A simple majority, or 50 percent plus 1 letter, would have meant 5,792 protest letters turned in. A majority would have forced the council to vote down the increase. 

Since such a majority did not exist, however, the council was obligated by its contract with Recology of the Coast to approve the increase.

For 44 percent of Pacifica customers who use a 20 gallon garbage cart, an 8 percent means an increase from $20.24 to 21.86 per month for garbage service, or about $19.44 annually. 

Several Pacifica residents who spoke at the public hearing were not happy about the increase.

"Almost everyone is cutting back, yet tonight you are poised to add to their burden," said Thomas Clifford. 

Lionel Emde, who led a the garbage rate increase over the last months, pointed out that residents and business owners in neighboring cities pay much less for garbage service than those in Pacifica. That, he said, makes those places more attractive for living and doing business. 

The 8 percent increase is effective until Dec. 31, 2011, at which time another increase may occur to compensate for what Recology is calling lost revenue while it did a study to set this rate increase.

Emde expressed concern over what he called a lack of documents showing why these increases are necessary.

"The citizens are going to continue to resist and the next rate increase in January of next year, what justification is it going to have?" he asked. "Are we going to get some documentss on this or is it going to continue to be a mystery?"

Councilmember Jim Vreeland reminded the audience that even with this increase, a ratepayer at the lowest volume threshhold for garbage service--a 20 gallon cart--is paying nearly $10 less a month than they were under Pacifica's previous service provider, Coastside Scavanger Company of Pacifica, several years ago. 

Lionel Emde May 24, 2011 at 05:54 AM
Well, you have the chamber of commerce group that's headed by our friend Chris Porter, general manager of Recology of da Coast. Wouldn't want to step on any toes! Independence of viewpoint is hard won. It's not for the faint of heart. Do the people matter? Does the public interest ever enter into business group's discussions and viewpoints? We'll see.
Mary Ann Nihart May 24, 2011 at 05:59 AM
Tom, I am not sure where this idea comes from except to say that Recology purchased Coastside's contract and we allowed them to do it. We watched very closely all of the information at that time. If we had continued with an RFP, the City would have walked away from $1 million of your money. We simply could not do that. When this contract is up and that will be long after I am off council, the an RFP or a JPA will be appropriate, of course.
Mary Ann Nihart May 24, 2011 at 06:17 AM
Let's be clear. Since this is a private company with only a franchise relationship with the city, the requirements of Prop 218 fall into a gray area that has as yet not been resolved in court. When the suit was filed, we chose to settle because to be "right" and clarify this point of law would have cost the taxpayers over $1 million. As it was, the suit cost the taxpayers just about $200,000. Now the whole thing is handled by Prop 218 rules and there is really very little latitude given to the council. We are required to follow the rules. If Recology has met all of the requirements including a detailed formula for rate increases (which they did including proving costs that qualified them for an even larger increase than the capped rate increase) and the city tried to ignore those requirements to decrease it further, then we would most likely face another lawsuit from Recology. The only way around it would have been to meet the required protest numbers of Prop 218 which were far short as Camden reported. Sorry no charade, just the law.
Lionel Emde May 24, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Mary Ann, It's funny how other cities such as San Bruno, Atherton, Menlo Park, Redwood City all acknowledge Proposition 218 as the law and Pacifica, being special, fought so hard and wasted so much taxpayer money trying to avoid it. It probably has to do with bad legal advice received by the council from a city attorney (now departed?) who apparently didn't know that Proposition 218 does not forbid a private business entity, such as Recology, from making a profit. One of the awkward aspects of 218 rules that Pacifica managed to avoid is a rate survey of surrounding cities. The San Bruno staff report I referred to last night at the meeting confirmed, once again, that Pacifica pays the highest rates od all communities surveyed. Other rate surveys in other cities' proceedings confirm this over and over again. Yet because Pacifica STILL doesn't acknowledge 218 fully as the law, staff sits there in the meeting telling people their rates are going down when they are going up! It's Orwellian.
Aware of Vacuity May 24, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Readers here might like to take a peek at the comment made by Chris Porter in the Riptide on May 16, 2011 @ 01:56PM: http://tinyurl.com/3mmkafq It is very long and detailed and about the only thing she doesn't reveal is the Sales Document for Recology buying Coastside Scavenger. Let's see if Lionel is able to get this document in a Public Records Act request, like he boastfully claims he will do. Did Recology pay $810,000 dollars too much for Coastside Scavenger? If they did, I would also like to know, are they recouping this money on the backs of Pacifica ratepayers? How many people are really privy to this "secret" information?.......the City Council?.....Chris Porter?......Picardo obviously!
Charles May 24, 2011 at 05:25 PM
Hold on to your wallets "Its City Council Gone Wild"............
The People Have Spoke May 24, 2011 at 06:19 PM
The people spoke said Fred Howard. 12,000 yes and 371 no.
Aware of Vacuity May 24, 2011 at 10:19 PM
I'm sorry Fred, it's more like 12,000 households are barely aware that Obama is now President. How many residents in Pacifica do you think could name our city council members, our mayor, our Congressional Representative, our two US Senators or even care who they are?
Mary Ann Nihart May 24, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Lionel, The council did not "fight so hard" about the Prop 218 noticing. If the lawsuit had been only about that issue, there would have been no contest. You could have had that. The problem and the cost was related to the fees and other issues in the suit. For example, Frontierland was the old garbage dump and that has to be monitored and at some point we (the citizens) will most likely have a significant bill for methane gas recapture. Palmetto was repaved only a few years ago and the trucks have in a year worn grooves in the asphalt. We (the taxpayers) will pay for that repaving. These are just examples. The City Council needs to protect the public's interest and prepare for the costs related to the garbage service. The lawsuit simply increased the cost to people like myself aka the public.
Thomas H. Clifford May 24, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Mary Ann correct me if I am wrong but I believe that a lot more happen then the City Council just allowing Recology to purchase Coastside's contract. Four years where add to the life of the contract and the contract was rewritten to reflect the new services and rate structure. For all intents and purposes a whole new 7 year contract was entered into with Recology. I am not saying this was a bad thing for one thing the $800,000 plus that was owed to the City was paid. Also the service provided was greatly improved. I am concern that the cost side of the picture was not studied as hard as the revenue side, as an example why is there a rate increase floor of 4% , if Recology is making the agreed upon profit margin why should they get an automatic raise? What equipment are we leasing for $522,000? I know,I know the contract we have is the one we have to honor. I am just asking Staff and Council to do everything they can to protect the ratepayers interests. Oh and by the way will you please, please tell people that it was not a million dollars of MY money that the City would have had to walk away from. You know how people can misunderstand an get the wrong idea. Be well and thanks for all your hard work.
James Wagner May 25, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Lionel, jeez, give it a rest! I'd love to know what people tip food servers. One list for people pounding on Recology and the city, and one for those that think "much ado about nothing". That may be revealing.
Rocky May 25, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I wish I could see all the comments. The little balloon at the top says there are 15 comments, then below the article it says there are 7 . Over on the right hand side, there are several comments that I can see the first part of, but they don't appear at the end of the article. Pretty lame software. Can't this be fixed?
Rocky May 25, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Now it's fixed. Did my complaint change anything? Or is it just me that experiences this?
Chris Fogel May 25, 2011 at 03:23 AM
I think it's just you. I read your previous comment, but everything was a-ok for me at the time. I guess you can try hitting F5 for a refresh or try clearing cache/cookies on your browser next time this happens.
Lionel Emde May 25, 2011 at 04:38 AM
"Lionel, The council did not "fight so hard" about the Prop 218 noticing. If the lawsuit had been only about that issue, there would have been no contest. You could have had that." That is absolutely incorrect. Staff (city attorney) blew that off at the beginning, prompting the suit. You want the emails, I've got 'em. "Frontierland was the old garbage dump and that has to be monitored and at some point we (the citizens) will most likely have a significant bill for methane gas recapture." That fee is still being collected; $75,000 per year. It is as it was before, we realized it was an important future contingency. "The City Council needs to protect the public's interest and prepare for the costs related to the garbage service. The lawsuit simply increased the cost to people like myself aka the public." That isn't true either; according to staff's estimate, the amount saved to the taxpayer was over $300,000 in fees the city would have skimmed off the top of the contract had it remained in its original form. My attorney's fee was $55,500, well worth the savings generated. And I profoundly disagree with your assertion that the council is protecting the public interest. Where are the cost savings from a competitive bidding process on the garbage contract? Nowhere to be seen.
Scotty May 25, 2011 at 04:54 AM
It's not just you. For some reason this is the only article where I can read comments. Probably a good thing with Simons loose.
Mary Ann Nihart May 25, 2011 at 04:58 AM
Then we will have to disagree. As they say "perception is the editor of reality."
Mary Ann Nihart May 25, 2011 at 05:02 AM
By the way, I can not for the like of me figure out why I would not be interested in protecting the public. I am part if the public. I pay the rates. I have never been wealthy. I work as a nurse and last year spent a great deal of time not working. What would I have to gain if I did not scrutinize the money, the rates and the contracts very closely?
Lionel Emde May 25, 2011 at 05:10 AM
As I said earlier , you want to see staff's response to my initial inquiries, they're all available. Our personal situations, yours and mine, haven't a damn thing to do with public service. The garbage contract stinks, and people know it. Places like Atherton have councils that go to bat for the people, get better rates, etc. Why don't we have that here, instead of excuses, excuses, excuses.
Rebecca Lorenz May 25, 2011 at 05:51 AM
Is this the scenario? Coastside Scavenger owed the City of Pacifica lots of money. Recology "kindly" bailed Pacifica out of the situation by taking over the contract and paying the money owed by Coastside. Did anyone honestly believe that Recology would NOT recoup their $850,000 (approximation)? WE, PACIFICA, WE are paying back the money owed to us by Coastside Scavenger. Coastside Scavenger got off, Recology gets their money back. We are "paying" twice, and if it truly was about $850,000, then we are paying $1,700,000 for new trash pick-up? Of course the rates have to go up: how else will Recology get the rest of the money back?
Eddie Shore May 25, 2011 at 06:01 AM
real mature, Sinai. Go back to your failblog
Rebecca Lorenz May 25, 2011 at 06:26 AM
Choices: pay sewer and garbage or go to ChitChat for coffee once a month? Pay for sewer and garbage or go to a movie? Pay sewer and garbage or go the the DeYoung? (have to wait about a year for that) Lovely. With gas prices and everything else going up due to the gas prices, and our City Council having us pay more for "services" than anyone else in the county, it's horrifying. I know a few retired folks who have decided they can't afford to live here anymore. Does the City Council not understand that a fixed income is "fixed?" It means someone only has a certain "fixed" amount of money coming in each month. NO MORE and no hope for more. And heaven forbid they get sick or hurt. Or their car needs repairing. Or a fence falls down. Think.
Frank Parks May 25, 2011 at 10:54 AM
Personally, I am very very disappointed in Len Stone. I voted for him because I was hoping that he would effect change, and not simply continue the insanity. It's sad to see that he has become one of "them" - the one' s that have been in power way too long, and don't give a damn about us. Where does the money for all these fee's come from? (Sewer/Trash, etc. etc. etc.) DISGUSTING
Rocky May 25, 2011 at 12:00 PM
Refresh doesn't do it. Neither does logging out and back in. Looks like I have to quit the browser and restart it. That's a pain, but it seems to work.
Mary Ann Nihart May 25, 2011 at 01:19 PM
It is not about personal situations. It is about your accusations of motive. I can tell you, I spent hours just myself, going over the comparative rates, looking at the contract, asking questions, asking for more, working with the consultant, working with the negotiators, and trying to get the very best I could for the citizens of our City. To say otherwise is inaccurate at best. There are no excuses, when the contract was purchased we wanted the very best for our community, My point was that to say otherwise simply does not make sense. Argue with my decision that this contract was the best we could do at the time, but the supposition about motives and that I don't care is completely out of whack with everything I have done. There is simply no rational motive to support the accusations.
Todd Bray May 25, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Mary Ann, getting documentation to back up statements made by either you, city staff or Chris is basically impossible, on all kinds of topics. This one should be easy. I would suggest to Lionel he contact the California Integrated Waste Management Board and tell them about the trouble he's having getting written confirmation of the terms of the sale. If Picardo did indeed pay the money owed or Recology did there is a document somewhere that will illustrate that... or not.
Thomas H. Clifford May 26, 2011 at 12:05 AM
I for one am more than willing to believe Chris when she said that Mr. Picardo paid the City of Pacifica the $800,000+ that he owed it. Since he was not able to make that payment until Recology became involved I suspect that some form of structured purchase was arranged. Mr. Picardo receives an advance on the purchase price, pays the city what he owes, the City signs off on the transfer of the franchise, Recology pays the balance of the purchase price. Everybody is happy and the records show that Mr. Picardo paid The City. I doubt that Recology Paid anymore then they had to for Coastside Scavenger. The fact that Mr. Picardo owed so much to the City probable gave Recology more leverage with both him and the City, they both wanted a way out of the mess they where in.
Mary Ann Nihart May 26, 2011 at 12:14 AM
Thanks Norm. I appreciate your support. The Coastside Scavenger mess was building for years. I recall even when there was an entirely different council, the coastside fees and the late payments of franchise fees were on the council agenda. I believe at one point there was a court action to compel payment. Lots of finger-pointing among the parties, some legal pursuits and yet still payments were late. I know who I blame, but that is just speculation plus I really do not think it is one person or one circumstance. What I have problems with in general is all the speculation and of course without information people naturally tend to speculate. I can tell you this, prior to Recology, we the citizens were about to lose garbage service all together from Coastside. If they had walked away, we had already explored a back-up plan but it was certainly not a preferred plan. I know of no backroom deals only efforts to fix the problem. Council cannot reveal the contents of closed session or suffer legal consequences, but I can tell you this we made every effort to fix the problem including coming forward with the RFP proposal for a new contract. That process could have cost as much as $200.000 by the time a new contract was signed so the purchase by Recology saved us, the taxpayers, a total of about one million. The differences in cost to the ratepayer has always been of concern. I will dig up the details and get back to you. Right now I have to run. Best, Mary Ann
Mary Ann Nihart May 26, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Thanks Todd, I agree, getting government information is challenging at all levels. In addition to the CA Integrated Waste Management Board, this was all part of the city's public record for the council meeting in which the contract with Recology was voted on. As for the lawsuit with Lionel, he has his version, we have probably an equal number of memos, emails and such from his attorney, and yet we have very different conclusions about what happen. And, I am willing to more on. Sorry I can not be of more help on that one. Anything else I will try to help.
Aware of Vacuity May 26, 2011 at 01:03 AM
Thomas, I have to believe you're correct. You're description of what went down dovetails with Mary Ann's summation that the deal with Recology saved the cost of the RFP and they got the amount Louie Picardo owed, totaling about $1,000,000. The money fronted to Louie P. was not a "gift." They had to get that money back by drawing up a favorable contract that allowed them to recover that expense...just business. They are not a charity. At this point, I'm not sure where Lionel wants to go with this. Recology is not going to pick up our garbage at a loss. Is their profit margin too high?.....I guess that's what an INDEPENDENT audit would determine. The City of Pacifica would have to pay for this and would it in the end show something different than Recology's audit? If it showed the same results, I'm sure all the chronic naysayers on The Patch would try to skewer The Council for wasting all that money too.

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