Berkeley began using automated single-operator garbage trucks as a cost-saving measure in late 2012. Photo: City of Berkeley
Berkeley began using automated single-operator garbage trucks as a cost-saving measure in late 2012. Photo: City of Berkeley

Faced with a projected shortfall of nearly $3 million for waste pick-up services, Berkeley officials voted unanimously late Tuesday night to increase residential pick-up fees by almost 25% beginning in July.

Customers will also see a new description on their tax bills, as “Zero Waste Services” will replace the category previously described as “Refuse.”

The city has not been charging enough to cover costs associated with recycling and organics pick-up, which has contributed to the problem, according to staff.

Tuesday night, council was advised either to increase fees by 24.7% come July, or phase in a 35.5% increase over three years. 

Council members voted unanimously to take the former approach, which includes an annual 3% inflator.

Council members Max Anderson, Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguín and Susan Wengraf had left for the night by the time of the vote, which took place after 11 p.m. Mayor Tom Bates said Wengraf previously told him she would need to leave by 11 p.m. to catch an early flight the next morning. No explanation was provided for the absence of the other council members.

Chart: City of Berkeley

Residents using the smallest bin will pay about $3 more, while those using a 20-gallon bin will pay nearly $5 more, and those with a 32-gallon bin will pay more than $7 extra for service. See the chart above for specifics.

The rate increase is expected to both fix the deficit, and raise money to help rebuild and improve the Transfer Station, rebuild the Materials Recovery Facility, and conduct an outreach and education campaign about recycling.

The Zero Waste Fund also pays for Clean City Program services totaling nearly $3.5 million. The program includes street sweeping ($2.3 million), the clean-up of illegal dumping ($465,000), graffiti abatement ($331,000), and a BOSS contract to cover hand sweeping ($321,000).

Commercial rates will go up 2.5%. Officials explained that the smaller increase is due to the fact that those services are already mostly covered by existing resources, so there’s a much smaller gap to fill.

Commercial rates will go up less because services a mostly covered by existing fees. Image: City of Berkeley

On March 28, the city will mail notices to residents about the rate change.

A public hearing is scheduled on May 20 about the fee increase. Rates will be adopted at that time if there’s no “majority protest” as defined by Proposition 218. New rates are slated to go into effect July 1.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the key issue is that the city had not previously adopted a rate structure that could cover the costs of the services it provides. This change is meant to fix that.

He also noted that Berkeley’s pick-up fees are still very much in line with the average rates of nearby cities.

During a work session related to this issue in December, city staff said Berkeley might in the future look into cutting back some pick-up services to every other week to reduce costs, which has worked in other cities.

See the presentation from Tuesday night’s meeting here.

Residential garbage fees could rise 25% in Berkeley (12.05.13)
New waste bin pick-up plans: Impossible in Berkeley? (11.30.12)
Layoffs, fee increases proposed for 2012 budget (05.03.11)
Are plastics good or bad? An author explains (04.25.11)
Berkeley’s new recycling carts: How it’s going so far (10.27.10)
City’s new recycling carts met with mixed reception (10.15.10)
New powder-blue split recycle carts coming your way (10.12.10)
A new type of green: Berkeley may charge for recyclables (03.29.10)
Garbage rate structure the problem (02.11.10)
Recycling success leads to city budget woes (02.09.10)

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...