Am I the only one who can see them? All over my neighborhood are plastic bags filled with newspaper advertising. The circulars are everywhere.
I live in Pacific Beach and first noticed them in December. On my way home from my Saturday-morning walk, I spotted several lying in the street in front of my apartment complex. I hate it when guys come into the complex and place a circular before each door, but I really hate it when they leave them out front.
The circulars are distributed by the San Diego Union-Tribune — it says so right on the plastic bag. They are a subpublication of the U-T, delivered not just to the paper’s subscribers but tossed in front of every residential building.
On my morning walk the following Saturday, down Opal between Mission and Bayard, it was the same thing, about 50 newspapers lying around. I noticed several from the week before, their plastic bags missing and the damp and sun-bleached newsprint decomposing. Now we had a new crop strewn on the streets and sidewalks.
I resolved to resolve this problem.
I figured the first step was to contact the U-T directly, just in case they were unaware of how their advertising was being distributed.
This is the email I sent:
Every Saturday the UT has an advertisement. Instead of delivering them to the door, they are just left on the sidewalks. Pacific Beach is now covered with these, nobody picks them up, and they are all over the place. I think this is littering, and you should stop doing it.
I apologize for the inconvenience. Your address has been added to our “do not deliver” list for Local Community Values and your request has also been forwarded to the appropriate distribution company.
U-T Customer Service
I don’t think you understand. I’m not just concerned about my own place, but the entire town is strewn with them. Please see the attached photos. They are from ONE SINGLE BLOCK of a street.
Here is their second response:
I do understand how frustrating this can be. Our system only allows us to look up address by address so I am unable to do anything at this time for the entire block. Each resident would need to call in to be removed. If there is a homeowners association that can provide a complete list of addresses faxed to our office we can make sure the third party company who delivers this publication is notified and the addresses removed from their route. The fax number to our main office is 619-293-2331.
U-T Customer Service
I did not know what to do next, but since littering is against the law, I called the Law.
I called the San Diego Police Department’s non-emergency line, and the dispatcher sent out an officer. He understood my problem but felt I had not given the U-T a fair chance. He said I should call them instead of emailing. He also gave me the number for community service officer Alan Alvarez.
My first call to the U-T seemed to go well. I had a chat with Aaron. I explained what the U-T was doing to the city and suggested that maybe they did not understand how their circular was being distributed. He said he understood and promised that someone would call me back.
I did not get a return call. The next day I gave the U-T another call and talked again with Aaron. He seemed surprised that no one had called me. As we were talking, we were disconnected. I called back, someone else answered, and I was told that Aaron had left. So much for trying to work directly with the U-T.
That same day I took another walk and chatted with neighbors. Everyone I talked to had noticed the problem, but I was the only one who had called the U-T. Sally on Loring Street was almost as upset as I was. She had walked up and down her block picking up circulars out of the street. She complained that the plastic bags were useless, too narrow to use for picking up dog poop.
On Opal Street, I caught the distribution guys. I stopped them and asked who had hired them. Someone at the U-T, they said, a guy named Oscar. Their SUV was stuffed with thousands of circulars. They tossed them from the front seat. I reached inside, grabbed a bunch, and threw them up in the air. “See! That’s what you are doing!”
Just then, a woman walking to her car came upon the scene. “Pick those up!” she shouted at me. “That’s littering!”
Oh, the irony. “Yes!” I said. “Please, call the police and have me cited for littering. That’s my whole point!”
I called Officer Alvarez on January 3. He agreed that littering was going on. He told me to call the Environmental Services Department of the City of San Diego.
I called Environmental Services. Lisa understood because, fortunately for me, the U-T was tossing them at her house, too.
Here is her reply:
I received all the pictures. I will review and decide where to go from there (call and/or letter). Our Public Information Officers handle all media related issues. I appreciate your time and concerns and the phone call to clarify exactly what they are doing, littering vs. handbill distribution.
I guess I have done my duty. I tried to do something that I think is good for San Diego. I never did hear back from Lisa or the U-T customer service department.