Why Does My Multifamily Alley Look Like Rubbish?

Here is a question many multifamily residents ask themselves every time they drop a bag of trash in a busted-up refuse bin: Why are so many of these giant black containers cracked, broken or missing a lid entirely? These cans, along with the proliferation of dirt and debris, make our multifamily alleys look like a rubbish bin. Won’t anyone in City Hall give a crap about the crap in our alleys?

Update Evidently our query to Public Works about missing and damaged lids produced results: the department has promptly replaced all of the missing container lids on the Reeves block. It’s been a long time coming. Contact Public Works with an email to askpw@beverlyhills.org if there are missing or broken trash container lids on your block. Please get in touch with Renters Alliance if that complaint goes nowhere.

The neglect of our multifamily alleys suggests the extent to which the city gives second-class service to multifamily residents. There is the never-ending dirt and debris that gets stirred-up by pointless leaf blowers. Loose gravel that was left behind a decade ago after the city last paved our alleys is kicked up by passing vehicles. Then there is the sight of all those industrial-sized bins with busted or missing lids.

Just compare the average single-family alley with a multifamily alley. It is a big difference.

Multifamily alley comparison
Multifamily alley: busted bins and broken lids.
Single-family alley
Single-family alley: tidy intact bins and free from dirt and debris.

It is a night-and-day difference between multifamily alleys and alleys that serve residents who live north of Santa Monica Boulevard!

Broken and Missing Refuse Bin Lids

Rotational Molding 300-gallon-refuse containerCity of Beverly Hills last replaced the lids on these ubiquitous 300-gallon capacity black refuse bins eight years ago. The bin lids then were “damaged and beyond repair,” according to a city report in 2013, and 3,500 of them were replaced by the Public Works Department at a cost of $100 per lid.

Today these bin lids show the same kind of wear and tear — the very same conditions that prompted replacement in 2014 — but we are not seeing damaged or missing lids replaced at all these days. Isn’t it time they were replaced? So says the manufacturer: Rotational Molding, Inc. warranties their bin lids for five years. By that measure the current refuse bin lids are already three years beyond their service life.

This is a pressing issue because many bins in multifamily alleys are missing the lid. And when there is no lid these industrial-sized vessels yawn wide with mounting trash inside. It is exposed to the elements and it stinks.

Here’s the mystery: where are the missing lids? Residents aren’t carting them away. If the Public Works Department has removed them because they were damaged, why didn’t the department ever replace them? Take for example the alley between Reeves and Canon on the 200 block. So many busted and missing lids!

Broken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alleyBroken lid in Reeves-Canon alley
It’s not only the big 300-gallon bins. Even our 96-gallon green waste bins need replacement.

green bins broken
Broken green waste bins are also an eyesore — not to mention they can’t properly function WHEN BROKEN.

An alley in this condition is nothing but a reminder to multifamily residents that we don’t matter. We are second-class in Beverly Hills. Those of us who live in an apartment right on the alley get that reminder daily from the whiff of household waste in open bins. And it’s not only the whiff; uncovered bins are an invitation to rodent infestation — a health hazard.

Heavy Use, Insufficient Maintenance

The proliferation of damaged rubbish bins and busted lids is only one reflection of negligence. Trash often overflows the bins and especially those without lids. This is especially likely to happen when solid waste collection skips a holiday or near to the end of the month prior to moving day. Why isn’t solid waste collection more attuned to the heavier demands placed on multifamily alleys by so many households?

That demand can’t be difficult to predict: the city knows there are about five times as many multifamily households using an alley for trash disposal as compared to a comparable single-family alley. Take for example the 300 south block alley that is shared by multifamily households on Elm and Rexford. There are 237 multifamily dwelling units here, according to the unit count provided by the tax assessor.

Even after accounting for three large buildings that may use roll-off carts to collect trash there remains at least 150 multifamily households that use the refuse bins. Compare that to the single-family just a block to the east where only 32 households use a comparable alley.

That additional use by so many more multifamily households suggests greater wear and tear. And we see that wear-and-tear reflected in the prevalence of busted or missing bin lids. Shouldn’t they be replaced more frequently? We asked the Public Works Department if missing bin lids in multifamily areas have ever been replaced since 2014. The department’s evasive response: “A service request can be entered if the lids and/or bins are damaged.”

Yeah, no kidding. But most residents won’t know how to file a service request or even that we can do so. So Renters Alliance filed a request by email (askPW@beverlyhills.org) for all multifamily alleys:

Please replace the missing 300-gallon bin lids and the damaged bin lids at every multifamily address with alley solid waste collection throughout the city. Hopefully you have about 3,500 lids because many bins are missing lids and many others are busted. For reference I will attach recent photos of the 200 block of Reeves bins, but the problem is not limited to this one block of alley.

We see if and when those busted and missing lids get replaced.

High Service Cost, Low Service Level

Shouldn’t alley solid waste collection improve? Multifamily apartment operators are paying for better service. The city charges owners a bimonthly solid waste fee of $48.17 per multifamily dwelling unit plus an additional $32.54 per unit for alley maintenance. That totals to $80.71 every other month per unit.

refuse fees FY 2022-23
City of Beverly Hills solid waste and alley maintenance fees from the fiscal year 2022-23 schedule of taxes and fees.

Those fees add up! The city collects as much as $18,321.17 from the 300 south block between Elm and Rexford alone.

Yet service hasn’t improved — even despite a fee hike. In 2020 the solid waste and alley maintenance fees were raised sharply especially for multifamily operators. That can be a problem for tenants because the landlord can pass-through those fees with just a 30-day notice… at least according to this table of allowable pass-throughs that was recently generated by by the Rent Stabilization Office.

If you think that passing-through to tenants the landlord’s cost of doing business then please inform our Rent Stabilization commissioners. The commission is discussing the solid waste pass-through (and other pass-throughs) at its upcoming meeting on Wednesday June 1, 2022 at 6 pm. View the agenda online and read the staff report discussion beginning on p. 3-2.

Solid Waste Tips

Multifamily residents can do a better job of keeping our alleys tidy. With some exceptions, all household waste goes into the black bins. That includes all organic waste (bagged and tied) and packing boxes (and material) if it can fit in a bin. That’s the motto: “If it can fit in a bin, fit it into a bin!”

The exceptions are electronic waste, which can be disposed periodically through a city contractor at the farmers market; volatile compounds like solvents and paints, which should be left outside the bins; and dead animals which the bin manufacturer says shouldn’t go into bins, according to the product spec sheet. Call animal control at 310- 285–7387 to pick up dead animals.

City alley guidance graphicHousehold miscellaneous matter that can fit in should go in too.

Big bulky items — mattresses, big TVs, armoires, etc. — should be left in the alley out of the way of traffic. That goes double for large glass objects like a tabletop: if it is broken in the alley it is a real nightmare to clean-up. Call 310–285–2467 to schedule a special bulky pickup at no cost.

For broader concerns about alley waste collection, alley maintenance, or broken bins and lids, please contact Public Works solid waste director Colonel Burnley at AskPW@beverlyhills.org or 310–285–2467. Tell him Renters Alliance referred you!