Trash in streets shouldn’t be blamed on bears or tourists
Some South Lake Tahoe streets resemble the stomping ground of Sesame Street character “Oscar the Grouch.” Piles of garbage spill out of cans, giving animals a reason to rummage, and neighbors a reason to be upset about the mess.
“I have been accused of being the only one to complain,” said Robert Alexander, who divides his time between homes at South Shore and Cameron Park.
Bags of baby diapers from his neighbor’s garbage have ended up in Alexander’s yard. Alexander said most residents don’t know there are codes requiring residents to abide by certain refuse rules.
The Clean Tahoe organization addresses litter problems not already covered by another government agency. It responds to calls and cleans 350 miles of South Shore roadways which are unkept areas, including city bus stops. It also alerts homeowners when they are violating litter codes.
“A lot of people don’t know the ordinances,” said Clean Tahoe’s Sandy Belstler.
“In most cases homeowners respond very quickly to rectify the problem,” Belstler said. The organization issues a 10-day courtesy notice before reporting the problem to code enforcers at the city’s planning department, the county environmental department or the county sheriff’s department code enforcement unit.
If Clean Tahoe cleans up a mess, the resident will be responsible for the cost.
“We don’t enforce (codes) on a real strong basis, but if complaints were made we’d do something,” said Tom Hill, a detective for the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department who works with Clean Tahoe on litter problems.
Loose garbage was more of a problem when South Shore didn’t have as many full-time residents, Hill said. When vacationers would come in on Friday and leave on Sunday they would leave their garbage to fend for itself over the next week, he added.
“We don’t get a lot of complaints,” said Gloria Wood, office manager at South Tahoe Refuse, who refers callers to Clean Tahoe or the city manager’s office.
She added that most residents have neighbors who take their garbage out for them while they are away.
When asked if an evening pick-up time would change the likelihood of animals going through the trash, Wood said that morning collections are the only way for the trucks to maneuver in traffic and not disturb the peace like they would at night.
“We do live in the forest,” Belstler cautioned, reminding people that if bears get a taste of garbage they will come back for more.
“I believe that (shelters) actually encourage litter,” Alexander said, who complained about a neighbor’s illegal structure. He believes that garbage is the responsibility of the property owner or the property managers who are in charge of the home.
Ed Roe, a patroller at Heavenly Ski Resort, has found an alternative. He made himself a metal garbage shelter – appropriately named “Bearacade” – that caught the eye of a motorist who wanted to purchase one for his home. Roe sold it and has been constructing them for people in the Tahoe Basin for three years.
He said he is tired of seeing nice houses as well as small ones with rickety sheds that homeowners pass off as garbage shelters.
Roe’s containers comply with county shelter codes for people who store their garbage outside on days other than collection days, but are made of metal which is not a required specification.
The county ordinance requires shelters be no more than 54-inches tall, 12-square-feet and able to hold two 33-gallon receptacles.
It should be built out of adjacent properties’ views, be of sturdy construction, securely latched and be of earth tones to match the neighborhood.
“What makes mine different is the structure,” Roe said.
“No bears can get in (the structure) at all,” he added.
The storage units cost $625 which pays for the metal and manpower that goes into building one. Roe is already booked with orders until May.
“That has been the nicest product introduced to the homeowner,” Stan Burton, program manager at Clean Tahoe said. He said while the price may seem high it will correct the problem for good.
“For years there have been unattractive garbage can enclosures,” Burton said. Even the sheds that meet compliance are usually made of wood that can continue to absorb odors he added.
“From a sanitary standpoint (Roe’s product) is very nice,” Burton said.
Burton said that the metal containers are starting to pop up in places like the bottom of Heavenly Valley which is known to be problem area for bears. He hopes that the Bearacade is a trend that continues.
“Steel garbage cans are a thing of the past,” Burton said. He said people who aren’t required to build structures on their property should opt for rubber garbage cans because they hold their shape.
El Dorado County and the city of South Lake Tahoe have litter codes intended to keep garbage collection clean for neighborhoods and manageable for collectors.
– Garbage shall not be set out earlier than 6 p.m. the day before pick up. It must be removed no later than 6 p.m. on collection day, except for garbage stored in approved shelters or housings.
– Each residence must have one or more 32 gallon trash receptacle with water-tight lids and no holes in cans.
– Receptacles, plastic bags and refuse shall not be readily visible from public streets except during the fixed collection time.
– Bulk items such as car parts, weight goods and furniture will be collected upon special arrangement with the refuse company and shall not be visible from the public street unless it is on collection day.
– Owners or persons occupying or having control of the premises must dispose of the refuse that has accumulated on the property.
– Commercial properties, including hotels, motels and multiple-family dwellings shall have adequate removal of refuse to include Dumpsters or refuse cans large enough to handle the volume of trash and removal that is frequent enough to prevent overflow.
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