Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Garbage collection rates are going up, up, up

Last month, Hayward property owners and businesses received notice of proposed rate increases for garbage, recycling, and organics services. The notice provides a table that lists comparable residential rates of nearby jurisdictions. The table indicates that Hayward's rate after the proposed increase will actually be low relative to others for the first year. This is somewhat comforting, until you realize that collection rates have been increasing significantly among all local jurisdictions and will probably continue to do so.

The issue will be taken up this evening as the City Council considers approving a new franchise agreement with Waste Management. The proposal now on the table could increase our garbage collection rates by as much as 27.5-percent over the next four years and as much as 52-percent over a seven year term.

The staff report on the matter explains that substantial increases are necessary to stem Waste Management losses and to ensure a positive return on investment.

Pardon me for being skeptical, but something doesn't seem right. How can the magnitude of these increases be justified when you consider:

  • Inflation is low and has been for years. The Bay Area Consumer Price Index (CPI) has been averaging only 2.4% per year over the past six years;
  • The volume of discarded material per capita is dropping, while more rate payers are being added in more densely populated and more easily serviced neighborhoods. Hundreds of new rate payers have been added to the Burbank neighborhood in just the past few years alone. Additionally, customers are separating more of their waste for recycling;
  • Recycled materials are an increasingly valuable commodity as a greater number of consumer goods are manufactured with them;
  • With each passing year we're paying more and more disposal/recycling fees at the point of sale or as a property assessment--this includes fees for household hazardous waste, tires, lumber, paint, electronic waste, cans, bottles, etc.

Despite all this, our rates continue to increase substantially. What gives?

Beats me. The problem here is that we have a business effectively operating as a monopoly. Waste Management has been servicing Hayward for at least four decades and will apparently continue to do so for at least the next seven years. Property owners and businesses must accept this as the company has exclusive operating rights in the city--no other company can legally duplicate it services. The city yields some regulatory authority with this arrangement, but true transparency is not available to the general public.

What is the company's cost of servicing Hayward? What amount of revenue is it generating here? Without competition, is it operating efficiently? Who knows? The only information readily available on the Internet is that the company posted a $270-million profit in its most recently reported quarter and that its CEO recently received over $10-million in annual compensation. Not too shabby, eh?

I understand the City is requesting that additional services be provided by Waste Management, which of course would impact rate payer costs. But its not clear how a dollar of additional service costs translates to the invoice of an individual rate payer. If the proposed rate increase is due primarily to the desired additional services, then perhaps the Council needs to reconsider its wish list.

Another problem, that is certainly impacting cost, is that the City is effectively taxing rate payers through the franchise agreement. This is done by charging Waste Management impact fees. The city has been charging the company a fee for street sweeping, and it's now proposing a fee for roadway rehabilitation. According to the staff report, these fees total 3.5-percent of revenue, which, of course, is passed on to captive rate payers. The result is basically a clandestine tax on property owners and businesses that was never approved by voters as required by Proposition 218.

Unfortunately, in the end, we all know how this story plays out. As long as Hayward's rate payer costs are in-line with those of neighboring jurisdictions, it makes no difference whether the proposed increases are clearly justifiable or not. They're going to happen, so budget accordingly.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Plastic plumbing... soon to be permitted in Hayward homes?

Tomorrow the City Council will consider ending Hayward's long standing prohibition of plastic plumbing in homes and other buildings.

PEXABSPVC, and CPVC pipes and fittings are all allowed by the California Plumbing Code. However, Hayward has traditionally adopted the State code with amendments that specifically forbid them. While this may have been warranted decades ago following initial quality concerns, doing so now just serves to add excessive costs to new construction and remodeling projects.

As a result, this prohibition generates a considerable amount of ridicule directed at the City. Many project owners and contractors with whom I'm familiar consider the ban incredibly burdensome and unnecessary. It's one of the frustrating hindrances frequently mentioned when discussing development in Hayward.

Now numerous city departments have come around to recommending that the restrictive amendments to the State plumbing code be eliminated. I wholeheartedly concur.

If the Council acts as recommended, construction using plastic plumbing materials may be permitted by the end of February.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

January is Restaurant Month in Hayward

Throughout the month of January, seventeen Hayward restaurants are offering the discounts listed below via a promotional voucher booklet--Dine Hayward. The booklet costs $10, and proceeds benefit the City's Homework Support Center and the Leadership Hayward Program.

Booklets can be purchased at the Hayward Main Library as well as the Hayward Chamber of Commerce.

25% off on full order
  Bijou Restaurant & Bar (with purchase of entree)

20% off on full order
  IHOP (after 2pm)
  Kin Cafe (excludes beverages)

15% off on full order
  Acqua e Farina Ristorante (excludes alcohol)
  éko Coffee Bar & Tea House
  Ristorante Di Palermo (2 dinner entree purchase)
  San Marcos Taqueria (minimum $25 purchase)
  The Golden Peacock

10% off on full order
  Bubble Crab Cajun Restaurant
  Buon Appetito (dinner order)
  Skywest Bar & Grill
25% off a dozen cupcakes
  The Cupcake Shoppe (2 dozen maximum)

Buy one, get one free
  The Cannery Cafe

Buy one, get one 50% off
  The Golden Tea Garden (high tea service)

One free dessert
  Buddy's Bites & Brews (w/purchase of 2 meals)

Free Buffalo Poppers
  Buffalo Bill's Brewery (w/purchase of an entree)

Free flan
  El Taquito #2 (w/purchase of specialty items 1-12)

Note that all the coupons expire at the end of the month, and they may not be combined with any other offer or promotion. All restaurant offers are for dine-in only.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Explore Hayward Businesses using Google Business View

Now here's something fun. Have you ever used Google Maps Street View to move from an outdoor street scene to an indoor view of a store or restaurant?  It's a Google feature called Business View, and scores of Hayward businesses can be explored this way.

Business View of Val's Burgers. Click on the image to navigate around this venerable Hayward institution.

Participating proprietors offer a navigable, virtual tour of their business locations with the hope that you'll be enticed enough to visit in person. Having perused some interesting sites, like The Book Shop, the Reptile Room and Karen's Flower Kottage, I would say mission accomplished. Some others, however, may leave you wondering what they were thinking.

Whatever the case, check out some of what Hayward has to offer using the links below. If you like what you see, resolve to visit and support them in 2015.

Note: Fluid navigation requires a high-speed Internet connection.
        Links will open in a separate tab.

Auto DealersRestaurants / Cafes / Bakeries
Hayward NissanAcqua E' Farina
Team Volkswagen of HaywardBest Burger
Bronco Billy's Pizza Palace
Barbers / SalonsBuon Appetito
Antonio's Old Fashion BarberCaffe Caribe
Cuts n Stuff - Hair Designs Phase IICalifornia Gyro & Pizza
High Fashion StudiosCarmen Family BBQ
Nails InternationalCelia's Mexican
Perfect Hair & NailsChina Best
Tracy Hair SalonEl Taquito
Vizion's Beauty SalonEl Taquito Restaurant #2
Wonder NailsEmil Villa's California BBQ
Eon Coffee
Gyms / Fitness / HealthFink's Bakery
24 Hr FitnessGrand Taipei Restaurant
24 Hr Fitness Super SportGreen Tea House
Arthur Murray Dance StudiosHayward Ranch
Hayward Martial ArtsKenkoy's Grill
Hot Box YogaKona BBQ & Grill
Kraski's NutritionKorea House
Sparta Gymnastics AcademyLa Cosita
La Paradis
OthersLos Compadres
Acme Awards and EmbroideryLos Dos Hermanos
Airport Home ApplianceLos Planes De Renderos
Alma's CreationsMr. Pho
Avalon JewelryMy Favorite Indian
BedrosiansPizza House
Chalk It Up Pool HallRed Chili
Colyer's Used AppliancesRibs-n-Things
Cycle Path HaywardShark Shack
East Bay Lawn MowerSunflower 2
Eden Jewelry and Loan Co.Taqueria Los Gallos 2
Fiesta DepotThe Bistro
Hayward FloralThe Golden Tea Room
Hayward GiftTogos
Hayward Minuteman PressTommy's Donuts
Hayward VideoTomodachi Sushi Bistro
Higgins Jewelry CenterUnited Bar & Grill
Karen's Flower KottageUnited Paleria y Neveria
Kim Pacific Martial Arts SupplyVal's Burgers
La Esperanza TricolorYuki Hana Sushi
La Mexicana
R&H Liquors
Reptile Room
Sun Tans to Go
Superway Aquarium
The Book Shop
Tu Tiendo Azteca

Lastly, for those who like to reminisce; here are a couple of old time classics--gone but not forgotten...    Vasiliki's (now Black Bear Diner) and Medina's Gym.

Please report broken links, businesses that no longer exist, or businesses using Business View that have not been included here.