OAKLAND -- After tens of thousands of property owners sent in formal letters of protest, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority on Wednesday dropped its plan to charge homeowners $9.55 each year to pay for the disposal of hazardous household waste.
The owners of more than 100,000 apartment units, condominiums and houses flooded the agency with letters of opposition, an unprecedented protest that was still not enough to meet the majority threshold to automatically defeat such a proposal. But it did attract the attention of the waste authority's 17-member governing board.
The fee was defeated, at least for now, when the board on Wednesday could not muster the required two thirds approval to adopt it.
Four board members representing Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton and the Castro Valley Sanitary District voted against it.
Eleven members representing the county's other cities, from Berkeley to Fremont, voted in favor.
Absent from the vote were Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis. The fee could only have been adopted if one of them -- 12 board members total -- voted in favor.
The board plans to take up the issue again on May 28, allowing the absent members to weigh in.
Defeating the planned per-home fee "means about half as many households will be served, about half as much hazardous waste will be diverted from landfills and other places," said Gary Wolff, executive director of the waste authority, also known as StopWaste.
The agency funds four drop-off sites in Oakland, Fremont, Hayward and Livermore that collect batteries, paints, solvents and other hazardous refuse that cannot be dumped in the regular trash. Those drop-off centers are only open during certain days and hours, but Wolff said the fee revenue would allow them to sustain and expand their operations amid declining revenue from landfill fees.
Owners of multifamily apartment buildings led the opposition to the proposal, arguing they should pay less per unit because their tenants do not produce as much hazardous waste -- a contention the waste agency disputes. The protests represented about 18 percent of all affected residential units in Alameda County. Forty-five percent were filed by the owners of bigger buildings with at least five units; 12 percent represented smaller multifamily homes; 43 percent were filed by owners of single-family homes.
Fremont homeowner Mike Lopez was one of several protesting letter-writers who questioned whether StopWaste had the authority to implement a countywide fee. The retired firefighter called it "an outrageous money grab at the taxpayers' expense."
Wolff has said the procedure followed California's Proposition 218, a 1996 constitutional amendment that requires local governments to get the approval of affected property owners before levying a fee.
The fee was expected to generate $5 million each year for the collection of cleaners, paints, pesticides, car products and other hazardous household waste. It would have expired in 2024.
Contact reporter Matt O'Brien at 510-208-6429.