Los Altos Hills residents will need to pay more for collection of garbage, yard waste and recyclables. But a 15-year agreement city council members approved at their June 20 meeting ensures residents will pay less than they could have.
The new long-term contract with San Jose-based GreenWaste Recovery Inc., which runs through June 30, 2035, saves nearly 2.5% over an alternative 10-year plan with a five-year extension option, according to Public Works Director Nichol Bowersox.
Last week’s action capped weeks of negotiation as GreenWaste and town officials worked to strike a balance between the hauler’s need to cover increased costs and residents’ desires for fair and affordable services. Town officials last month discussed applying a franchise fee to subsidize rates for both base services and for special ones like trucks that drive on to properties to collect debris.
Details of the plan
The town went with an “Alternative 2” rate setup, with rates rising 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. The increase for 10-year/five-year option would have totaled 11% per year.
Under the approved plan, a 20-gallon mixed compostables cart (gray/black-colored) would run $33.51 monthly effective Monday, rising to $36.52 the following year. Residents also will be allowed a 96-gallon recycling container (blue) and two 96-gallon yard waste containers (green).
Bowersox said there would be no additional on-premise distance change the first 11-100 feet, but added the monthly price for drive-on services would rise from $21, discussed last month, to $26.
Mayor Roger Spreen was clear in his support for the 15-year option, saying 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 have a big task ahead in effectively communicating the changes to residents.
Councilwoman Michelle Wu felt 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, thanks in part to legislation like the passage of Senate Bill 1383, inevitably impact customers. The “Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy,” effective next year, establishes methane emissions reductions and prohibits haulers from co-mingling compost and yard waste.
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 Kathleen 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.
Council members and some residents speaking at the June 20 meeting commended GreenWaste, which has served the town since 2008, for its service. But some wondered whether the price hike and other changes with the new agreement would take residents by surprise.
“I have apprehension of people’s reaction to the sticker shock,” said Councilman George Tyson.
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 by 30 days, from Monday to Aug. 1. GreenWaste also has scheduled two workshops at Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 9-11 a.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. July 14 to conduct outreach and receive feedback.
For more information, visit https://www.greenwaste.com/los-altos-hills/residential-services/contact-us.