It’s not every day that constitutional rights and trash collection collide. But both are at the heart of a legal battle Los Angeles landlords and hotel owners are waging against the city.
The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles Hotel Association have filed a lawsuit in federal court saying the city’s trash and recycling pickup program — dubbed recycLA — violates their constitutional right of due process.
The waste collection program separates Los Angeles into 11 zones, with private companies paying the city for the right to collect trash and recycling in each of the areas, then passing on the costs to landlords and property owners.
The three-year-old program is a major break from past city policies that essentially let each owner choose their own trash collection service. A main reason the city implemented recycLA was to reduce vehicle emission and truck traffic.
But according to the lawsuit, the program has “led to systematic abuses by the city.” Those allegedly include “awarding franchise agreements to a small, limited amount of franchisees in private with staff members and city employees negotiating the agreements and not in open, public hearings.”
The result is that landlords “have seen their monthly trash hauling charges increase by approximately 200 percent to 400 percent” compared to what they paid before the ordinance, according to the suit. In one example, the landlord of a four-unit building saw his monthly trash collection fee go from $75 to $190.
Landlords also have allegedly lost their right to transact with the waste hauler of their choice, which the lawsuit says is a deprivation of their constitutional rights.
Messages left with the mayor’s office and office of the city attorney on Friday were not immediately returned.
Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association, acknowledges prior attempts to dump the program. But, he said, “Those were filed in state court and were going nowhere. We have engaged with attorneys with experience in federal law.”
Frank Weiser, a Koreatown-based attorney, represents the plaintiffs.
This suit is the just latest one that property owners have filed against the city since recycLA took effect. The City Council has also scrutinized the program after landlord complaints.
The lawsuit comes while landlords and city hall continue to battle over eviction and rent payment policies; the city imposed a moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants affected by the coronavirus. Yukelson promises that a lawsuit on the eviction moratorium will be the group’s next legal action.