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Council may want cans hidden away once again
• With three cans on the way, City Council asked to require cans be put out of sight
Garbage cans left out
This is an example of households in Ceres violating the Ceres Municipal Code regarding garbage can storage. All four cans here are not being stored with the proper setback. The council may revert back to the old policy that cans be out of public view. - photo by Jeff Benziger

John Warren, a vocal Ceres retiree who has pushed the city to do more to clean up the blight in Ceres, has been heard when calling for the Ceres City Council to revisit the issue of garbage cans left in public view.

In recent meetings Warren has asked the council to schedule a discussion on the topic. City Manager Tom Westbrook confirmed that the council will take up a new discussion at next Monday’s Ceres City Council meeting.

For decades the Ceres Municipal Code required residents to keep their garbage cans out of public view except for the time period surrounding collection day. The City Council led by then Mayor Chris Vierra in January 2020 voted 3-2 to no longer make that requirement.

The action, however, has not given permission for residents to place their cans just anywhere; they must be next to the house and cannot be placed in front of a garage. 

The three councilmembers who supported the change felt that the city didn’t have the resources or political will to crack down on the estimated half of residents who violated the law against garbage can storage. Vice Mayor Linda Ryno fought to keep cans out of view, saying garbage cans mar the aesthetics of neighborhoods. She had support from then Councilman Channce Condit. But in the end they were overruled by Mayor Vierra, and Councilmen Bret Durossette and Mike Kline. All three are off the council.

But many like Warren who want a cleaner Ceres say the visual blight will only be exacerbated when the city mandates three cans per household beginning in January 2022. Depending on how homes and side yards are situated, it’s possible that six cans will be stored in a single cluster.

Legislation passed in Sacramento and signed by the governor has forced the city to go to a three-can system. Bertolotti Ceres Disposal, the company contracted by the city to collect garbage, must buy 12,000 new garbage cans – a cost being passed onto customers.

Under the three-can system:

• Recyclables such as cardboard, phone books, magazines and newsprint, brown paper bags, glass bottles and jars, plastic containers, office paper, empty aerosol cans and certain plastics go into the blue can.

• The green can will be for the deposit of organic wastes like yard and garden waste, lawn clippings, leaves, limbs, coffee grounds, fruit, leftover foods, meat, paper towels and plates and small pieces of wood.

• The black can will be for household waste that doesn’t belong in either the organic or recycling cans.

Residents may refuse to take the new can but will face an audit of trash by the city because of the state law, said Public Works Director Jeremy Damas.

Also during the April 12 meeting Warren pointed out seeing “an uptick” in illegal vending on the streets. He mentioned that last year the city announced it would crackdown on vendors who were doing business without a permit. At that time the city said it had the option of seizing and discarding product being sold by people who refuse to get a license from City Hall.

“Most recently it appears there’s quite a problem,” commented Warren.

Warren reflected on the outcry from some Latinos in the community who felt the city was being unjust despite the fact that all jurisdictions have similar requirements. He referenced how one individual, Cassandra Tapia – who created a GoFundMe page to help vendors pay for $250 permit fees – pledged to collect donations to assist some of these vendors pay for a business license and come into compliance. Warren wondered about that promise, saying “that has not taken place.”

The GoFundMe page had raised $5,127.

“Money was raised but still none of these folks have obtained a business license to legally operate within our city,” said Warren. “So it’s time I think maybe the council kind of gives some direction or thought in how this problem is going to be addressed. You took a lot of time in bringing this ordinance to the general public and without enforcement you just wasted your time. I mean the city is going to look like shambles because of these types of operations. So please give it consideration.”

The city Code Enforcement team has been educating vendors on the permit requirement but nobody had bothered to obtain permits at City Hall prior to Aug. 12, said City Manager Tom Westbrook.

SB 946, a new state law, ties the hands of cities in controlling peddlers selling items on the street. The state does allow the city to require a business license and insurance. Food street vendors still are required to have a permit from the county Health Department.

Melba Court cans out
An example of illegally stored garbage cans on Melba Court. City policy forbids cans from being stored in front of a garage. Cans may be placed in public view provided that they are up against the house and not extending beyond the front of the house. Some want the city to return to the policy of hiding all cans when not on collection day. - photo by Jeff Benziger