BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Downtown Bakersfield is filled with dozens of small businesses, from restaurants to clothing stores, coffee shops and more, but one thing most owners prioritize is cleanliness.
Keeping downtown clean has become a challenge for some businesses, who say they are dealing with people digging through their trash and leaving messes behind.
For Marc Deleon, owner of Mad Dog Tattoo on 19th Street, it’s been a serious concern.
“This is not a new issue,” said Deleon. “It’s just more of in now. It’s every week. We just put our trash cans out yesterday, and within 15 minutes there were people going through it and tearing the bags apart and putting them on the ground.”
Deleon says in addition to the dumpster diving issue, the business, which has operated in downtown Bakersfield for 30 years, has also dealt with having trash cans stolen. Deleon says it happens 4 to 5 times a year.
“If they just got what they needed and put it back nicely, that would be one thing,” said Deleon. “But stealing the can for whatever reason just so they can recycle is hard, because it costs $65 dollars every time they steal a can to replace a can, and you have to have one from the city.”
In response to these concerns, Ward 4 Bakersfield Councilmember Andrae Gonzales has proposed a new city ordinance that would include a dumpster enclosure policy. This policy would require commercial trash bins to be covered and secured.
Gonzales says the messes left behind by dumpster divers create not only a litter issue, but a public health issue.
“It’s related to the materials that are placed in dumpsters, and if it spreads throughout the street and surrounding areas, it becomes a real burden for the entire community,” said Gonzales. “It’s important that as we continue to build and continue to revitalize downtown that we begin addressing a lot of the smaller issues.”
Even without an ordinance, some downtown business owners are taking it upon themselves to secure their garbage cans and dumpsters. Cafe Smitten owner Shai Button says they’ve been paying the city every month to have their trash bins secured with a lock and code. It’s something Button says he’s been in favor of for the past 6 years.
“It’s definitely helps us a lot to keep our place of business clean and not to wake up in the morning and deal with so much trash,” said Button. “At the beginning we didn’t have a lock and we were dealing with so many problems.”
To assist business owners financially with the dumpster enclosure policy, Gonzales says the proposed ordinance also includes the creation of a grant program. The grant would help fund locking devices that properly secure dumpsters.
“These open dumpsters without any responsibility of anyone has really posed a problem for many of our alleys,” said Gonzales. “We have to level up our standards in downtown Bakersfield, and this is just one example of how we are going to do that.”
Gonzales says he hopes to have the ordinance established by the end of the year. City officials will now have 90 days to decide whether to adopt the ordinance.