Despite questions over legality and environmental considerations, two city panels on Wednesday pushed ahead a plan to create 11 exclusive waste hauling proposals to handle trash from apartments and businesses.
The City Council's Energy and Environment Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee on Waste and Recycling voted to back the proposal suggested by the Bureau of Sanitation and supported by labor and environmental groups.
"I distinctly remember the smell of landfills from when I was growing up," Councilman Richard Alarcón said. "It isn't something I will ever forget and it's something I don't miss. This city has a long-standing desire to accomplish zero waste. That should be the driving issue ... and I believe an exclusive franchise is the way to accomplish that."
The panels also asked for a full environmental impact report on a plan to award the franchises. They are looking to develop requirements for firms on use of alternative fuels, truck routing, trash sorting, transfer stations and developing a rate structure.
Councilman Jose Huizar also asked for more information on dealing with customer service, enforcement of city requirements and what can be done to protect smaller firms.
With a competing proposal that the city maintain a non-exclusive system from City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the panels voiced concern over the rates that would be charged customers, authority over the firms and responsiveness to
Councilman Tony Cardenas had urged that the committees spend more time in studying details of the proposals, including whether more staff will be needed under either proposal.
"I was a small businessman and I can tell you this is a major issue for them," Cardenas said. "And there is no comparison between picking up trash at homes and from businesses.
"If you're a business, you have certain needs and if the trash is not picked up, it could mean the difference between staying in business or closing."
However, Enrique Zaldivar, director of the Bureau of Sanitation, said he believes the issues are the same.
"It's all a matter of customer service," Zaldivar said. "If a resident needs us to respond, we will get there to help them out."
Councilman Paul Krekorian asked why the city was pushing on the proposal when there are only 10 waste hauling firms that handle 94 percent of the business in the city.
"It seems to me as if there is an oligarchy of companies involved in this and we are looking to create 11 franchise areas," Krekorian said.
Councilman Dennis Zine questioned if a proposed franchise fee would need voter approval as well as any controls the city would have over the rates to be charged.
Several speakers testified on both sides of the issue.
Hillary Gordon of the Sierra Club urged the adoption of the exclusive franchise proposal, saying it would do more to help Los Angeles meet state-mandated recycling goals as well as reduce truck traffic on city streets.
But several business leaders argued the exclusive franchise plan would limit competition, put many waste haulers out of business and result in higher rates.