Last year, San Pablo’s maintenance division set a new record by hauling about 640 tons of illegally dumped furniture and trash from city streets.
“That’s like picking up the weight of a Ford F-150…every day for the entire year,” said Becky Haworth, an Americorps CivicSpark Fellow for the city.
The cost to remove all of that discarded furniture and other trash is about $68,000 per year, Haworth said. But illegal dumping and litter remains a major problem in the city.
While San Pablo has deployed a lengthy list of strategies to address blight, from offering residents to discard items on free dumpster days to weekly cleanups at Davis Park using the County Court’s Work Alternative program, a 2019 citywide community survey determined city cleanliness and garbage collection remains the “number one identified concern for residents.”
Now, the city is proposing additional strategies to tackle the issue, from replacing trash bins with newer and more efficient models to adding fencing and surveillance cameras.
At its meeting last week, the San Pablo City Council approved an effort by city staff to develop an enhanced, multi-year plan to further address the problem. The plan will return to council for approval at a later date.
Currently, Dumpster Days are offered at 2600 Moraga Rd. up to eight times per year in addition to a dump voucher program, and 37 city-owned cameras are monitoring and enforcing against illegal dumping. An illegal dumping hotline allows residents to report problems and offenders. Regular street sweeping service assists in the cleanup effort.
The city also partners with Earth Team, an educational program providing paid internships to Richmond High students for cleanups. Since 2015, the Earth Team has removed 34,000 pieces of litter, Haworth said.
To augment those and other efforts, city staff proposes installing additional trash capture devices in storm drain systems. To prevent interruption to street sweeping, curbs are set to be repainted, and damaged or faded street signs will be replaced, a project that’s already funded. The city also proposes replacing all 103 trash bins with modern, tamper-proof versions. The city hopes to add another 50 bins citywide.
Staff is also proposing to install fencing at dumping sites and to remove 15 unused phone booths that attract blight. In addition, the city proposes more community outreach and participation programs. As an example, San Pablo would encourage property owners to adopt spots in their areas to keep clean.
The proposals also include hiring one full-time police services technician to enforce parking and illegal dumping, and a maintenance worker to remove dumping and to empty bins. A new part-time staffer would help implement outreach and community based programs, like neighborhood cleanups.
New city ordinances are also recommended to deal with the problem, such as requiring County permits for haulers.
The full package of proposals would cost the city $750,000 in the first year, slightly less in the second, and $450,000 annually thereafter, according to city staff. To pay for it, the city is seeking grants and is also considering fees on property owners.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Becky Haworth’s last name.