It's pruning season in Sacramento, City residents can always tell.
The obvious clues are the growing piles of yard waste sitting along curbsides uncollected. Some of the piles have been there so long the leaves and grass have turned brown. Limbs from trimmed trees and bushes are bone dry and brittle, a fire hazard in the recent high winds.
Sacramento has not collected loose-in-the-street yard waste citywide since leaf season ended in January. While some 10 percent of customers pay for the privilege of depositing green waste in the street, much of what's out there now has been dumped illegally, a serious problem in Sacramento where illegal dumping takes place 100 times a week on average. Poor neighborhoods in the south and north areas are the most frequent targets. But relief is on the way.
Next week, "the Claw" is back, albeit briefly. City crews will make their one and only citywide spring loose-in-the-street pickup of the year beginning Memorial Day Monday at 6 a.m. Over the following nine or 10 days, they will collect all piles regardless of whether residents pay extra for the service or not.
After next week, a new era begins in the "city of trees" one ushered in by voters last November with the passage of Measure T.
Any residents who don't yet have them will be issued green waste containers. For nine months out of the year, all yard waste must be deposited in those containers. "The Claw" will pick up excess garden waste left in the streets only during the heavy leaf season, November, December and January.
Beginning this July and throughout the year, customers who want to leave in the street tree limbs and other garden waste or bulky discards too big to fit in containers can call 311 and make an appointment for a free pickup. The city offers one free pickup of bulky waste per customer a year. Those free annual pickups are expected to help alleviate the illegal dumping problem so prevalent this time of year.
Other big changes are coming in July. Recycling will be scaled back to once every other week. Also, a quarter of city residents will be assigned new service days. Unlike past big changes, the city is making a concerted effort to get the information out. Residents will be notified of their recycling schedule and service day changes by mail. Additional details are available at www.sacrecycle.org. The city even offers an app on your smart phone that can issue reminders for your recycling collection day.
Sacramento officials have been preoccupied lately with keeping the Kings and building a fancy new arena. But they can't afford to neglect garbage and yard waste.
It's one of those essential city services. If they don't get refuse right, the waste piles begin to grow and, in neighborhoods and City Hall, residents will raise a big stink.