Friday, May 18, 2012

Pomona's war on recycling and Stater Brothers' future

At Monday's City Council meeting, the Council is poised to reject, without a public hearing, the existing recycling center located at Pomona's Stater Brothers at 1045 North Garey Avenue.

According to the City's own staff report, this recycling center has been in operation for about 23 years, with no complaints until a recent examination by a Planning Commissioner after other recycling centers were being considered for adoption.

The applicant makes several points regarding the operation of the recycling center. State law creates "convenience zones" within a half mile of supermarkets. What the staff report glosses over is that "convenience zones" offer a convenience not necessarily to the consumer, but to the supermarket. The supermarket can redirect persons who have recyclables to a location within a half mile, and absolve themselves of the responsibility under State law to redeem cans and bottles at the site.

Otherwise, the supermarket must either redeem cans and bottles at all open hours within its walls, causing issues with Public Health and possibly resulting in violation of other City and State Codes, or pay $36,500 a year in fees to exempt themselves of this rule. With the growing competition from low priced supermarkets like Cardenas, Super King, and El Super, and "Anglo" supermarkets like Vons and Winco only a few minutes away by car, it is possible that Stater Brothers may opt to reevaluate their business plans if they have to manage the cans and bottles redeemed by residents, or pay a large fee.

In addition, a state mandate, AB 712 passed unanimously by the State Assembly and State Senate and signed by the Governor. Pomona could lose grant funding. As stated in the bill, "This bill would, notwithstanding the above expenditure requirement, prohibit the department, on and after July 1, 2012, from making any payments, grants, or loans, as provided, to a city, county, or city and county, if the city, county, or city and county has adopted or is enforcing a land use restriction that prevents the siting or operation of a certified recycling center at a supermarket site, as defined, as may be required pursuant to a specified law." 

As the City is enforcing this land use restriction, supplemental payments that the City is entitled to receive for its curbside recycling will now be cut off. The City will also be ineligible for grants related to recycling. In a year where the City Council considered holding a special election to increase the hotel tax and property transfer tax just to get a few more months of revenue, any loss of easily obtainable funds should not be acceptable. It also increases the risk that the City will not comply with trash diversion mandates, and subject the City to fines.

City staff has not identified any other location within a half mile of Stater Brothers that would be desirable for a recycling center, as most of the commercial sites along Garey abut neighborhoods.

The bottom line is, if the recycling center goes, Stater Brothers could go with it, as it has at its South and North Pomona locations, thus creating a huge blight on the neighborhood. While some markets would have no issues with redeeming containers within their walls, it is doubtful that Staters would allow cans and bottles to be stored within their boundaries. In order to maintain a quality supermarket in the Lincoln Park area, this Planning Commission decision must be overturned and the original City planning staff recommendation, which offered reasonable limitations on its operation, be upheld.

The meeting is May 18 at Pomona City Council Chambers in the Civic Center. This is Item No. 14, which if the current staff recommendation is turned down, would only allow for a new public hearing to be held, possibly on June 18. If the staff recommendation is upheld, there is no date set for closure of the recycling center, or of the market.

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