On February 17, state assemblyman Todd Gloria hosted a town-hall meeting in Point Loma. Topics ranged from car-registration fee hikes to renewable energy, but the standing-room-only crowd was due to the controversy swirling around a recycling center behind Stump's Market in Loma Portal.
Ever since a rally protesting Prince Recycling on February 10th, things have become more heated. According to one nearby resident, James Prince, owner of Prince Recycling, agreed to work with residents to relocate only if they paid his moving costs. Prince has been looking at moving to Ocean Beach, said one reliable source.
On February 12th, an eviction notice was served by the shopping center's property manager to have Prince immediately vacate the premises, citing that Prince was never given permission to operate onsite. Prince opened in July 2014.
A conference call on February 14th between city and state officials, community leaders, and Prince didn't resolve anything, but there were discussions of eviction proceedings, a permit application to prevent the recycling center's encroachment into Stump's loading area, and plans for gutting a senate bill to turn it into a measure to reform statewide recycling practices.
In October, due to the state losing hundreds of recycling centers in recent years, governor Jerry Brown signed into law a mobile recycling pilot program. The program will allow more flexibility and relieve small businesses of the requirement to accept recycling for redemption. The mobile recycling centers will qualify as full recycling centers.
I asked Prince if mobile recycling was an option he would entertain. He said he tried it before and it didn't work. "It's hard to do. The glass is heavy; it's hard to lug up into the truck. In a different place every day, it's confusing for the consumer. It's been done; it's been a failure."
Based on applause and cheers at the meeting, attendance seemed to be evenly split between those who want Prince to stay and those who want him to relocate. Prince said it takes 120 days to get licensed for a new location.
Gloria said facilities are closing across the state because something is fundamentally wrong with the system. He said this problem isn't unique to Point Loma, that he hears complaints from other local neighborhoods and from throughout the state.
Residents who live near Prince Recycling say they are fed up with homeless people loitering, littering, urinating, defecating, and doing drugs in their neighborhood. One resident said, "Until you live next to [a recycling center], you have no clue what's going on. Visiting one isn't living with one."
Nobody blamed Prince personally for the problems they see as a result of the recycling center's being in their neighborhood. There wasn't one person who didn't think recycling was important — it was all about location.
Point Loma resident Don Sevrens wants the recycling center located away from residential areas. He raised concerns about there being no services for homeless people where they are being lured "to an area that promises only another night in the cold, another day of hunger, more months of being miles away from resources."
A 30-year resident across the street from Prince Recycling said, "I have seen a man come from the recycling center, one of [Prince's] clients, with his zipper undone and his penis hanging out going to pee in the bush on the street side of that short wall. I saw another man go in those bushes, pull his pants down, and defecate."
Prince denied the urination and defecation problem, which elicited loud rumblings from the audience. Prince said that homeless people are a tiny portion of his customers and that he shouldn't be blamed for what they do.
One gentleman said, "It feels like a lynch mob to me." He asked where it would end — pointing to liquor stores and bars that also foster negative consequences. "I love Stump's — I go there all the time. I love recycling — I love Prince. Can't we all just get along?"
Gloria discussed legislation being worked on by state senators Steve Glazer and Toni Atkins to address outdated recycling legislation. In December 2016, Glazer co-introduced a bill to provide immediate and temporary relief for retailers and grocers by pausing sanctions resulting from January 2016 recycling-center closures — sanctions like the $100 daily fine Stump's and others might face if Prince Recycling closes. The bill died in committee.
Gloria said a host of questions needs to be asked and answered before introducing new legislation. Questions having to do with location, radius, subsidies, and if communities with curbside pickup should be treated differently.
A member of the Point Loma Association asked what can be done about those who donate their recycling to the city through curbside pickup only to have it taken and redeemed by people who didn't buy the product in the first place.
Gloria responded that it's against the law to scavenge trash bins and that it's an issue that impacts the solvency of the recycling program by removing the donated recycling from the city's revenue.
A Point Loma resident wants Prince to relocate because her children can't walk to school anymore due to homeless people dragging recycling through the neighborhood.
An Ocean Beach resident who wants Prince to stay said homeless people are scavenging because they aren't being served by the housing market. He said while some homeless people can be disgusting and have all sorts of problems, not all of them do and they shouldn't be discriminated against.
Gloria said the recycling-center issue is akin to the homeless problem because shooing folks out of one neighborhood into another doesn't solve the problem. He promised to do his best to get something that works for everyone but pointed out that hundreds of facilities across the state are closing because there is something wrong with the overall system. He said this is the reason it'll take action on the state level.
UPDATE 2/23, 2:40 a.m.
Dave Rolland with senator Toni Atkins's office contacted the author on February 22 to say that Atkins "is not currently working on recycling legislation."
Atkins did coauthor a California Tire Recycling Act bill introduced on February 16 for an incentive payment program for tire products.