A group of apartment and building owners, including the Apartment Owners Association of California, filed a legal challenge Tuesday to Los Angeles’ franchise waste hauling system set to go into effect on July 1, arguing it constitutes an illegal tax due to the increase in rates it may bring.

“We cannot comment on the merits of the lawsuit and (the L.A. Department of Sanitation) is moving forward with the rollout of the program as planned,” said Elena Stern, public information director for the city’s Department of Public Works.

A spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer had no immediate comment on the complaint.

Under the “recycLA” program — which was previously called the Zero Waste LA system — seven companies will handle an estimated $3.5 billion in commercial waste hauling in Los Angeles. Each of the companies will be assigned as the sole trash hauler for commercial sites and multi-family complexes in one or more of the city’s 11 zones.

City officials have said the new system will result in higher landfill diversion rates by making recycling available to many buildings that currently do not have it, as well as make rates more fair and predictable for customers.

Critics have argued that the system will cause a raise in hauling rates because property owners will no longer be able to hire the company that offers the best prices.

The complaint seeking an injunction halting its implementation argues the possible rise in rates constitutes an illegal tax which was not approved by voters.

“The plaintiffs contend the city of Los Angeles violated the California Constitutions Article XIII Sections 8 and 9 also known as Proposition 218 when increasing the franchise fee and creating other illegal taxes without a vote of the people,” said David Hernandez, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

“Instead of placing it on the ballot to be voted upon by the people, members of the City Council took it upon themselves to pass this dramatic change in how commercial trash is collected and with it, a major increase in fees,” he said.

–City News Service

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