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Tougher trash laws in the offering

January 31, 2002

Residents' fears of rodent infestation and blight caused by

overflowing trash bins in Huntington Beach have prompted city officials

to consider tightening the rules governing when and how residents and

businesses dispose of their garbage.

The City Council directed staff to revise language in the city's

existing ordinance relating to trash disposal, and for staff to return

with its findings at the council meeting Feb. 4.

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Councilwoman Pam Julien Houchen first raised the issue with staff nine

months ago after she heard Downtown residents' complaining about litter

left by people scavenging through rubbish in bins.

"People were going through trash left outside of a business," Julien

Houchen said. "Cans were left outside and weren't put behind a fence or

an enclosed area. I think [a change to the ordinance] is long overdo, but

I think for the time being the problem of undersized bins and trash left

outside in the alleys is being addressed."

Trash piling beyond the capacity of bins, residents leaving their cans

in the middle of alleys on non-trash collection days and people dumping

their trash in other's bins concerns both city officials and trash

collectors.

"This problem has not been addressed adequately for years," said Bob

Beardsley, the city's director of public works. "We need to have more

tools to deal with the problems we have seen. [The problems] have been

around as long as trash."

Specific problem areas include bins placed behind Downtown businesses,

in the middle of alleys and near multifamily residences, he said.

"There's a high concentration of people living there that overload the

[bins] with trash and the apartments are not designed for that,"

Beardsley said.

Though overflowing trash isn't a "simple" problem to identify, areas

with multifamily housing have had more instances of overflowing refuse,

said Ron Shenkman, senior vice president of Rainbow Disposal, the city's

refuse collector.

"The issue here is with health and safety. We're trying to do our best

to maintain a clean city as a healthy place to live," Shenkman said.

When Rainbow enters into contracts with commercial businesses and

multifamily residences, the owners tell them the level of service they

want, including the kind of bin and how often they want Rainbow to

dispose of their trash, Shenkman added.

Residents living in single-family homes put out their own cans and

haven't traditionally been a problem, Shenkman said.

The language in the ordinance has confused some council members.

A section of the ordinance that baffles Councilwoman Connie Boardman

is the city's ownership of the trash once a bin is placed curbside for

pickup.

"So does this mean that if I put my trash out and need to go back to

grab something I could get fined because the city now owns my trash?"

Boardman asked staff at last week's city council meeting.

"I think I don't like this ordinance very much," Boardman said with a

smile.

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