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  • MANNY CRISOSTOMO / Bee file, 2011

    "The Claw," driven by a Sacramento employee, grabs a load of leaves before dumping them into a truck to be hauled away. The device, which has fans as well as detractors, will disappear from Sacramento streets until the fall.

  • Hector Amezcua / Bee file, 2011

    A Sacramento city employee uses "the Claw" to clear a street. Year-round pickup of yard waste that's loose in the street is ending, with containers required starting Monday.

Sacramento's 'Claw' lovers brace for its departure

Published: Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Jun. 27, 2013 - 9:02 am

On Tuesday, Bruce Graves piled his green waste at the curb for the last time.

At least, until "the Claw" - Sacramento's distinctive yellow leaf scooper - returns to make regular waste pickups in November, one of several changes to the city's waste disposal services to take effect Monday.

Next week, Graves will have to pile his yard waste into the 96-gallon green containers that most of the city already uses. Graves' can was delivered 10 days ago, but he still hasn't used it.

"I'm putting it off as long as I can," said Graves. "I figured this is my last shot."

Pointing out several trees that dump leaves and branches on his property, Graves is skeptical of how his street is going to manage with the yard-waste containers.

Other residents of the tree-lined streets off McKinley Park aren't too happy, either.

"I love the Claw," said Caroline Goddard. "The can is so inadequate."

Goddard walked up and down her street, pointing out the large canopy of trees whose limbs and leaves she said can't fit in the city's cans.

But the Claw isn't disappearing from the streets of Sacramento. In fact, the city just bought seven more of them, said Erin Treadwell, spokeswoman for the city's Recycling and Solid Waste Division.

"The Claw drivers and the truck drivers are going to stay the same. They're just going have different focuses," said Treadwell.

The Claw will still be deployed from November through January, when yard-waste production is high. In the meantime, Treadwell said, customers can request an extra green-waste can for $3.34 per month.

And starting Monday, every city waste account is entitled to an annual appointment for the Claw to pick up whatever bulk waste they may have, from tires to tree limbs.

"We already have like 100 appointments starting next week," she said. "It's just a better way to deploy the equipment and offer a new service at no extra cost."

Treadwell said the changes were the most practical option facing the city.

"Sacramento is one of the last cities that still allowed green waste to be put in the street for pickup," she said.

She said free-riding neighbors and gardeners dumping waste on other people's piles, reduced parking space during the fall, and reduced stormwater quality are all problems that could be attributed to loose-in-the-street pickup.

Besides, Treadwell said, the cost of operating two gas-guzzling vehicles for some 10,000 households was problematic. Because state law now requires cities to provide services at cost - no more, no less - she said the charge for the service would have jumped to $30 to $40 per month.

If that increase scared customers off, Treadwell said, those who remained would in turn have to pay even more.

Some east Sacramento residents suggested the costs could be contained in other ways. Several neighbors said that the November-to-January regular Claw service wouldn't be enough, and said they would gladly have pooled their resources to keep their piles tidy and meet the Claw halfway.

Goddard is skeptical of the high costs the city claims it takes to maintain regular Claw pickup services, and she speculates that excess yard waste may lead drains to clog more frequently.

Other residents are more acquiescent.

"The city's gotta do what the city's gotta do," said Larry Sheingold. Though he said it would be difficult to put the thorny branches of his lime tree into a green container, Sheingold and others said they'd adapt.

"We've been spoiled, surely," said Graves.

But yard waste isn't the only service being changed. The City Council has approved paring back recycling pickups to every other week, saying that most consumers don't come close to filling their containers.

Prolific recyclers, Treadwell said, can get a second recycling can for $1.76 per month.

The city said these measures will help keep costs down and stave off rate increases until at least 2015.

Call The Bee's Jack Newsham, (916) 321-1100. Follow him in Twitter @TheNewsHam.

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