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Workshop scheduled as Los Altos Hills residents sort through waste collection changes


Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos Hills’ new agreement with GreenWaste Recovery Inc. includes increased rates and a requirement that residents push their own yard-trimmings containers to the curb.

Los Altos Hills’ waste collection provider has scheduled a public workshop 1-3 p.m. Sunday at town hall to provide information and answer questions in the wake of notable changes to service.

City council members June 20 approved a new 15-year agreement with San Jose-based GreenWaste Recovery Inc. The new terms, effective July 1, include increased rates and a requirement that residents push their own yard-trimmings containers to the curb. Personal cans and carts are no longer permitted.

Town and GreenWaste negotiators tried to soften the “sticker shock” of the price increases, as Councilman George Tyson described it, by applying a franchise fee to subsidize rates for both base services and for special ones like trucks that drive onto properties to collect debris.

The new agreement capped weeks of negotiation as GreenWaste and town officials worked to strike a balance between the hauler’s need to cover rising costs and residents’ desire for fair and affordable services.

Even so, rates are set to increase 9% per year for the first five years. In year five, the town would begin transferring the franchise fee into a rate stabilization fund. Annual rate increases after year five would reflect the consumer price index.

Under the approved plan, a 20-gallon mixed compostables cart (gray/black-colored) runs $33.51 monthly, rising to $36.52 the following year. Residents are allowed a 96-gallon recycling container (blue) and two 96-gallon yard waste containers (green).

Residents could have paid even more. The council had the option of approving a 10-year deal with an option for five additional years. That plan would have included 11% increases for the first five years, as the last five years were not guaranteed.

Mayor Roger Spreen was clear in his support for the 15-year option, noting it provides “stability.”

“A 15-year contract is probably in our best interests because we lock in a lower rate over a longer period,” said Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan. “The history I have here in the valley is that nothing has ever gotten cheaper.”

Still, Corrigan acknowledged the town and GreenWaste – serving Los Altos Hills since 2008 – have a big task ahead in effectively communicating the changes to residents. Councilwoman Michelle Wu said GreenWaste did not do enough to “warn” residents ahead of time.

Town residents have long enjoyed services that included unlimited yard waste and no additional fees for drive-on services. But changes to the hauling industry, attributable in part to legislation like the passage of State Senate Bill 1383, inevitably impact customers. SB 1383, the “Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy,” effective next year, establishes methane emissions reductions and prohibits haulers from co-mingling compost and yard waste.

Curbside service

Emily Hanson, GreenWaste director of business development and communications, emphasized that services would remain largely unchanged for residents, other than wheeling green carts curbside.

“The system is essentially the same as what we’re doing now,” she said. “We’re just asking folks to bring (yard trimmings) down to the curb. ... If you put yard trimmings in the black (garbage/composting) container, that’s legal – it’s illegal if we do it for you.”

Having residents tote their own carts could be a problem especially for the projected 403 households living at the end of private roads that will have to cover longer distances.

The new arrangement prompted Corrigan to imagine rows of carts along Page Mill Road creating an eyesore.

“I can’t imagine the (Poor Clares) nuns hauling green cans all the way to Natoma (Road),” said resident Kathy Liccardo.

Hanson suggested the company could work with residents to cluster containers in areas just off the side of the road where trucks could still back in to retrieve them.

Hanson told the council GreenWaste was willing to bifurcate changes over the next six months to ease the transition for customers. She said GreenWaste will delay the walk-on rate changes to Aug. 1.

The new contract runs through June 30, 2035.

For more information on the service changes, visit greenwaste.com/losaltoshills.

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