- Both chambers of California's state legislature passed a bill this month, AB 332, that would allow municipalities to temporarily close side streets or alleys with excessive illegal dumping conditions, as reported by The Mercury News. The bill was enrolled on June 19 and is now awaiting final approval from Gov. Jerry Brown.
- Municipal officials can already make motions to close certain streets or alleys due to "serious and continual criminal activity" for up to 18 months. The bill would expand this to also include "serious and continual illegal dumping" as a valid reason.
- The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra from Los Angeles and has received support from local officials. Bocanegra's office reportedly worked with the city attorney's office on the bill.
Illegal dumping of mattresses, electronics, car parts and other random materials is an ongoing focus for many large cities, particularly in California. The theory behind this bill is closing off spots that may be popular among illegal dumpers, but neglected by residents or local authorities, will make the behavior harder in the future. Though there have been some questions about the effectiveness of this approach, elected officials are willing to try anything at this point.
Los Angeles has been very active on this front in recent years with a program that involves distributing thousands of new public waste baskets, creating an open data platform to rate street cleanliness and funding ongoing work by city clean-up crews. San Francisco has taken a similar approach with new baskets and increased resources for street cleaning. Oakland and Sacramento have also been working on their own dumping issues by encouraging citizen tips and investing in surveillance technology. The pending threat of fines for exceeding stormwater runoff limits has made this an even higher priority for Oakland.
Other cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Harrisburg have been discussing new strategies for their own illegal dumping issues recently. Common approaches include limiting options like California aims to do, providing new places to tip waste or increasing penalties. Though as the behavior persists, more cities have realized that it often just comes down to having enough resources to clean up illegal dumping after the fact.