By Michael Hernandez
(Editor’s Note: Thousand Oaks City Council honors the nine victims of the Sunday helicopter crash in Calabasas that was on its way to the Mamba Sports Academy, 1011 Rancho Conejo Blvd, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320: Kobe and Gianna Bryant; John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and Ara Zobayan.)
THOUSAND OAKS—The City Council decided Tuesday to do a Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the $300 million 15-year waste hauling contract that has been serviced by both USA Waste of California, Inc. (a Waste Management Company) and Newbury Disposal Company (E.J. Harrison and Sons, Inc.).
Both solid waste haulers have served residents of Thousand Oaks for many years and provided residential services to two distinct geographic areas of Thousand Oaks with commercial services provide only by Waste Management. These two solid waste haulers provide services that are used by almost every city in Ventura County except for Oxnard and Santa Paula.
At the meeting were employees of both companies with six speakers (including Mark Jacobson, the Cal Lutheran University Facilities Director) asking the City Council to instead approve a Memoranda of Understanding negotiated between the companies and city staff and bring final agreements back to the City Council for approval prior to March 2020.
A supplemental informational packet to the City Council agenda featured five letters of support for the city’s two waste haulers including a letter from Richard Khoury, Gelson’s Director of Facilities Maintenance and a letter from the Danielle Borja, the President and CEO of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“We are ranked as one of the city’s top services,” said Steve Lee, Waste Management District Operations Manager, and 23-year resident of Newbury Park. “We are the best of the class for middle of the class rates, why change? said Lee who claimed that Mayor Pro-Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena had remarked at the December City Council meeting that she had not had one complaint on waste hauling in the city.
The City Council approved 5-0 the motion made by Mayor Pro-Tem Claudia Bill-de la Pena to begin the RFP process. “As waste management customers, we are happy with the service,” said Bill-de la Pena. “But when you have a $300 million contract and commercial rates will go up by more than 50 percent over the next two years, you put it out to bid.”
“I have a good relationship with both companies,” said Councilmember Ed Jones. “It is not a good idea, to not test the free enterprise system and have competitive bids.”
“The recyclable market has collapsed thanks to China,” said Mayor Al Adam. “Some 75 percent of organic waste will now process out of the landfills and this will require special pick-up and machines. We have not had a Request for Proposals for decades (30-40 years). We know the rates are going up and this is not in (our waste haulers) control. We need a RFP process if we are going to defend the rising rates.”
“The people in the audience are not city employee but people who work for our citizens,” said Councilmember Bob Engler. “We appreciate the impact of these folks. They have put a lot of work in our city.”
“These are remarkable companies that I commend,” said Councilmember Rob McCoy, who at the Dec. 10 City Council meeting had defended both waste haulers for their long-time service and commitment to the city. “They have provided remarkable service especially these past 20 years and I thank you all.”
The City Council was responding to an expected raise in residential rates of 13 percent between now and 2025; of 26 percent in commercial rates over the next five years; with a commercial rate increase to 54 percent commercial over the next five years when organic trash fees were added into costs.
Several laws passed by California lawmakers since 2011 have affected the processing of trash, recyclables, and organic waste:
- AB 31 (passed in 2011) requires all businesses to implement an organic waste recycling program with a 75 percent recycling rate goal by 2020;
- AB 1826 (passed in 2014) requires an organic waste recycling program to divert landfill organic waste from businesses and multi-family dwellings;
- SB 1383 (passed in 2016) requires that organics be kept out of landfills and requires a 50 percent reduction in organic waster disposal by 2020 and 75 percent reduction by 2025. Beginning in 2022, organic services will be required for all residents and businesses as well as an edible food recovery program with required monitor compliance and enforcement.
Currently, residential rates in Thousand Oaks are $33.52 per month and commercial service prices are currently $168 per month for a three-yard one-time/week pickup. A recycling bin (three-yard, one-time/month) costs $52.92. If the MOU had been signed for the two existing waste haulers the residential rates would have gone up (this year) by 26 cents per month; commercial rates would have gone up (this year) by $5.05 per month; and recycling rates would have gone up (this year) by $1.59 per month.
No report was made at the City Council meeting on how rates this year will be impacted by the RFP process now that there is no longer exclusive franchise solid waste agreements with Waste Management Company and Newbury Disposal Company.
City Approves Urgency Ordinance for Accessory Dwelling Units; changes zoning to accommodate Rancho Conejo apartments
According to Councilmember Rob McCoy, five California bills: AB 68, AB 671, AB 881, SB 13, SB 587 have in effect, “done away with single family zoning” which Councilmember Ed Jones said “is now overridden by the State” and resulted in the Thousand Oaks City Council passing an urgency ordinance amending the municipal code in regards to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)—second residences that are classified as either: junior, attached or detached with regulations for each.
The city has received 22 applications for such units since the new laws went into effect on Jan. 1st. The new state laws allow for: larger residences (up to two bedroom and 1,000 square feet); reduced parking requirements; reduced or removed fees; reduced the amount of time for city approval; removed owner occupancy requirements; changed the amount of ADUs permitted in a lot; and gave more flexibility for conversions.
City staff will rewrite the regular ordinance and bring it back for approval to the city council in the next few months. California is hoping that the ADUs will provide more affordable housing.
Matthew Gelfand, counsel for Californians for Homeownership, a Los Angeles non-profit addressing the state’s housing crisis sent a letter to Mayor Al Adam, City Council members and City Staff questioning whether the city’s urgency ordinance was in compliance with the new state regulations.
City Council also approved a motion to make a General Plan Amendment changing zoning from “Industrial” to “High Density” for a 26-unit apartment complex on a 1.6 acre property opposite of existing apartments at Rancho Conejo Blvd. and Corporate Center Drive (which will include three affordable apartment units according to Measure E). Shappel Properties, Inc., the project developers, will have 12 months to submit a formal application with the city.
In other City Council action:
- Board Chair Leanne Nielson, of the Thousand Oaks Alliance for the ARTS (TOARTS) gave a report to the City Council of the six months ending Dec. 31, 2019. In July, an operating budget of $970,421 was adopted (which does not include: $2.5 million for programming expenditures for the CAP Presents concert series (32 performances featuring 24 artists which attracted 23,448 patrons—a 19.3 increase in attendance from the year before—and generated $1.37 million in ticket sales) and $210,860 for concessions budgets ($3.68 million total) with $170,042 in concessions revenue at 126 performances (an increase of 18.3 percent over last year). Donor contributions for 2018-19 totaled over $225,000 and naming rights for two different walls will bring in over $500,000 in the next 10 years. Two arts education performances: an adaptation of Peter Pan was made to 763 elementary school students and Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium made to 570 elementary school students.
- Honored retiring Public Works Director Jay Spurgin “as the face of the city.”
- The City Council adjourned in memory of: Ed Lawrence, photo historian of the Conejo Valley, who took over 17,000 photos from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected]
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Well, it looks like the State of California is on fast track toward a future of section 8 housing. That, and the overly generous open space policies of Thousand Oaks and generally Ventura County will kill the concept of single family, detatched wall, housing.