Every Friday in Hillcrest an advertisement circular is tossed from a delivery van to driveways and sidewalks around the neighborhood. The publisher calls it Local Community Values. Some from the community call it litter.
The deliveries are made Fridays and Saturdays throughout San Diego County. They began in 1994 and have come under scrutiny the past several years.
In 2012 the Reader ran “Bugged by U-T Litterbugs.” The circulars are a sub-publication of the San Diego Union Tribune. The reporter described “sun bleached” and “decomposing” papers lying on the ground around Pacific Beach.
Marianne Regan wrote a letter in response to the story and stated, “The U-T needs to know that their ‘experiment’ is a complete failure, fosters no good will towards the U-T, and is making homeowners angry.”
In 2014 the La Mesa city council took action against “unsolicited distribution of advertising materials.”
La Mesa councilwoman (at the time) Ruth Sterling stated that when residents are away from home and the advertisements accumulate outside their property they create “security risks as thieves and burglars realize no one is at home.”
In 2015 the problem was addressed in Ocean Beach at an O.B. Town Council meeting. Angry residents protested the circular and dumped a pile of them on the floor at the meeting to express their feelings.
A U-T representative at the meeting argued that several non-profits relied on the circular as an inexpensive way to advertise. He suggested residents could opt out of receiving the ads as a way of solving the problem.
The March 30, 2018 edition of Local Community Values distributed in Hillcrest had four commercial advertisements, zero non-profit advertisements and a coupon book for one store.
Hillcrest resident Gregory May runs a Facebook page called Gregory’s San Diego. He posted 55 photos in his album U-T Community Litter. May started a petition on change.org asking the Union Tribune to stop littering in San Diego communities. It has about 100 supporters.
May’s petition includes instructions for opting out. He said he was successful in getting his building opted out for a couple years, but delivery started again this past month and he has taken up his protest efforts again.
May said, “Everyone I talk to about this hates them, feels it's litter, and a blatant disrespect for their neighborhoods...No one I've ever talked to wants them.”
Deborah Zugel commented: “In my neighborhood, there is a lazy [driver] that ... barely lobs them out of her window. 90% of them end up in the street or the gutter. One day I picked up five or six of them ... marched up to her driver side window and threw them inside ...She now avoids my street … This was AFTER I called the stupid call center 9 different times to put our home on the do not deliver list.”
A google site Stop UT San Diego Spam was set up to inform people of the actions they can take in response to unwanted ads.
According to San Diego municipal code, it appears the unwanted distribution of the circulars to driveways, sidewalks and streets could be considered littering. Litter is described as small amounts of waste including newspapers. Papers that are left on the ground and not requested by or used by residents effectively become waste. The definition of littering includes dropping litter in a location that is not meant for its disposal.
Mayor Faulconer published a news release Thursday March 29, stating the city is cracking down on illegal dumping and fines are increasing for offenders.
*When I contacted the City of San Diego Communications Department, a spokesperson said newspaper debris on streets and in gutters "is not an outsized problem relative to other litter." He said residents are encouraged to keep their property clean and the city has a "comprehensive street cleaning program."