From Trash Collection To Streetlight Repairs, San Diego Services Suffer During Pandemic


With San Diego going through a $154 million budget gap, metropolis officers know there are challenges to coping with repairs and fundamental providers.

“Without question, over the past 11 months the pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on every sector of our society,” metropolis spokesperson Nicole Darling mentioned in an e mail.

Darling acknowledged complaints are up however mentioned that could be as a result of promotion of the town’s Get It Done app. Another metropolis official mentioned residents additionally could also be noticing and reporting issues extra now that they are caught at dwelling.

inewsource‘s evaluation reveals the app has additionally gained customers over time, and that could possibly be an element within the will increase.

Volume of trash, recycling and inexperienced waste is up

With individuals restricted from regular every day life due to the pandemic, it means extra takeout meals containers, extra tending to gardens and lawns, and extra cooking at dwelling and meals waste. Put merely: extra trash.

City data shows trash, recycling and inexperienced waste quantity is up 10.5% from March to October in comparison with the year earlier than the pandemic.

Complicating the scenario are staffing shortages within the Environmental Services Department, together with with trash truck drivers. In January, 12 workers had COVID-19. Nearly two dozen extra had been symptomatic or uncovered.

The division additionally has 9 open driver positions as a result of retirements, promotions and resignations, a spokesperson mentioned.

When absolutely staffed, the division employs 160 drivers. Drivers have to separate up the remaining work and tackle further shifts when individuals are off as a result of COVID-19.

Laurie Simmons of Lemon Grove retired from driving trash vehicles in December after 36 years with the town.

“There was overtime every day, and especially when the pandemic hit it got even worse,” mentioned Simmons, 59.

Her routes included Point Loma and Logan Heights. She mentioned she collected roughly 850 cans a day throughout her shift. But as COVID-19 took maintain, the routes took increasingly time to finish.

Typically vehicles make three to 4 runs every day to the landfill, however with quantity up they need to make extra, Simmons mentioned. Often drivers aren’t in a position to make it to the landfill earlier than it closes, she mentioned. That creates delays the subsequent day as a result of staff have to start out their shifts emptying trash from the day earlier than.

“The pandemic just changed everything for everybody,” Simmons mentioned. Some of her co-workers bought sick from the virus, she mentioned, and others had been single dad and mom juggling childcare tasks with colleges closed.

Waste assortment creates complications for residents

Roxanna Faust, 74, has lived within the Middletown neighborhood close to Mission Hills for 50 years. In the previous couple of months, she’s observed the trash and recycling service has change into much less dependable.

The final week of January, her regular Wednesday recycling pickup was missed. Faust mentioned she reported it to the town and it was picked up over the weekend. The vehicles are additionally arriving later within the day, once they used to come back within the morning, she mentioned.

Recycling containers are put out for pickup in City Heights, Feb. 12, 2020. (Brad Racino/inewsource)

In North Park, Christopher Dye, 57, has had two inexperienced waste pickups missed within the final month or so. He reported each of them. The first time, the waste was collected later the identical day, he mentioned, however the second pickup had a hiccup.

“The regular refuse truck came and emptied it into the trash instead of the greens,” Dye mentioned. “Then a few hours later, there was the greens recycling people outside.”

He mentioned he went out and defined {that a} completely different truck had already come by.

“In that case, their time was kind of wasted,” he mentioned.

Darling mentioned that the town strives to be open and conscious of residents’ issues and considerations.

“Our goal has been to communicate any potential service delays directly to our residents and visitors,” Darling mentioned in an e mail.

Environmental Services, for instance, now posts on the city’s website by 3 p.m. every day any deliberate pickup delays so residents can see if their neighborhood is affected.

As of final week, there had been 45 days of scheduled recycling delays since July 1. The metropolis has not had any deliberate delays of trash pickups, a division spokesperson mentioned.

COVID-19 has hit metropolis workforce onerous

COVID-19 has contributed to just about 1,800 of the town’s 11,200 workers lacking work — both as a result of they examined constructive, had signs or had been uncovered and wanted to quarantine. The days add up: As of final week, 12,128 work days have been missed since March, in response to the town.

The Police Department has had essentially the most constructive instances with 249 as of Feb. 4. The Fire-Rescue Department is subsequent with 156, adopted by Parks and Recreation with 80.

The numbers balloon once you embody metropolis staff who’ve been uncovered to the coronavirus or are displaying signs.

Electricians who repair the town’s streetlights have had a few 20% discount in staffing as a result of COVID-19, mentioned spokesperson Anthony Santacroce. There are different vacancies on high of that, which the town is making an attempt to fill, he mentioned.

It’s change into “more difficult to mobilize teams to address larger streetlight issues” and sustain with resident complaints, he mentioned in an e mail.

The division additionally faces main funds challenges and rising streetlight alternative prices. An infrastructure planning report published this month famous that the town would want to up its streetlight spending to $52.7 million a year to satisfy service wants. It presently spends $864,000.

Staff are having hassle maintaining in different areas, too. While visitors sign issues are listed on the city’s website as being mounted the identical day, graffiti removing from non-public properties or house buildings takes an estimated 75 days. With the exception of palm bushes, bushes within the public proper of method that want trimming have to attend for much longer for consideration: seven years.

To assist cope with San Diego’s response to COVID-19, the town employed two workers in August. One of their tasks is to assist reduce the pandemic’s toll on the town’s workforce.

“The city is doing a lot to ensure that the employees are safe,” mentioned Nick Wright, labor relations supervisor on the San Diego Municipal Employees Association. The union represents about 5,000 workers.

“But at the end of the day, COVID is still there,” Wright mentioned. “And so what unfortunately has happened is it’s impacted a large number of employees throughout the city, but that does cause delays in service.”

inewsource investigative knowledge reporter Jill Castellano contributed to this report.

inewsource is an impartial, investigative journalism nonprofit in San Diego that’s supported by foundations, philanthropists and particular person donors. For extra tales from inewsource, go to


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