A Fresno Superior Court judge ordered the city of Fresno to rescind an ordinance set to go into effect this week that would've shut down a majority of local recycling centers by restricting where they could operate as a way to deal with homeless people and crime.
The Fresno City Council unanimously approved the ordinance in September in response to complaints from businesses and residents who said recycling centers attract homeless people and drug addicts into their neighborhoods. The ordinance, scheduled to go into effect Friday, would have put 16 of Fresno's 22 California Redemption Value recycling centers out of business. The centers are where people can get back the nickel that grocers charge for every can or bottle of soft drink, beer or other beverages that carry a California Redemption Value stamp.
Judge Jane Cardoza's April 30 order granted a mandate sought by the California Grocers Association, which argued the law violated the California Environmental Quality Act and conflicted with the state Recycling Act.
The city first began changing zoning for CRV recycling centers in December 2016. The Fresno Police Department responded to more than 260 calls for service at CRV centers in the six months before that.
The ordinance was introduced by District 4 Councilman Paul Caprioglio, a longtime local lawyer who also serves on the council's Litigation Exposure Reduction Ad Hoc Committee.
City officials declined to comment for the story, citing a policy not to comment on pending litigation. Caprioglio did not return a phone message requesting comment.
The law sought to put the onus on grocery stores that sell more than $2 million worth of merchandise yearly to accept recycled cans and bottles inside their businesses or face a $100 per day fine as mandated by the state’s recycling laws.
But the owners of two Grocery Outlet stores testified the ordinance would force them out of business, and a senior director of Save Mart said the chain would opt to pay the fine and refuse to take in recyclables for redemption. Cardoza said that could cause urban decay or blight, which is recognized as an environmental impact that should be considered under CEQA.
Caprioglio also said Fresno's strong curbside recycling program, where residents put their recyclable goods into blue bins on trash days, provided evidence the city has a less need for CRV recyclers to dispense cash for cans and bottles. "…the City appears to be merely speculating that use of the blue bins would make up for the loss of the CRV recycling centers," Cardoza said in the order.
CalRecycle, the state agency in charge of recycling, submitted a letter to the city expressing concern the ordinance would reduce recycling opportunities for Fresnans, Cardoza said. Caprioglio also acknowledged in his presentation to the council that the amended ordinance would result in the closure of many of the city's CRV centers.
Because there was evidence the ordinance would both positively and adversely impact the environment, "… the City abused its discretion in determining without further study that the amended ordinance would not result in any significant effect on the environment," Cardoza said in her ruling.