Supervisors revise construction and demolition ordinance

Construction and demolition projects in unincorporated San Diego County will have new landfill diversion regulations.

A 4-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote Jan. 29, with Kristin Gaspar was not present when the vote was taken, approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinance.  The supervisors approved the second reading and adoption of the ordinance on a 5-0 vote Feb. 12.  The new regulations take effect April 1, although for the smallest projects exceeding 1,000 square feet the new regulations will be effective Jan. 1, 2021.

“It’s a significant step forward in meeting our diversion goals,” said county Department of Public Works deputy director Rich Whipple.

The county implemented a construction and demolition landfill diversion ordinance in 2007, which includes a requirement that permit applicants pay a refundable deposit which is returned if the recycling requirements are met. 

The 2007 ordinance applied only to projects of at least 40,000 square feet, and while approximately 4,000 tons of construction and demolition material have been diverted annually DPW estimates that more than one-third of all materials sent to the landfill from the unincorporated county are from construction and demolition projects.

The lower threshold is expected to increase construction and demolition material diversion to 44,000 tons annually.

“This drops that threshold eventually to 1,000 square feet, so more projects will be brought into the fold,” Whipple said.  “It will help us capture more diversion in these smaller projects.”

The April 1 effective date is for projects of at least 5,000 square feet while those between 1,000 and 4,999 square feet will have until Jan. 1 to meet the diversion threshold.  The 90 percent diversion requirement for inert materials such as asphalt, brick, and concrete will still apply although the 70 percent requirement for non-inert materials such as wood, metal, and plastics will be replaced by a requirement that at least 65 percent of all inert and non-inert materials combined be recycled.  That would allow the non-inert debris to be sent to a mixed recycling facility including placing construction and demolition materials in a mixed recycling container.

The deposit per square foot will increase from 20 cents to 40 cents, which will be capped at $40,000 per project or development phase.  The ordinance adds the requirement to use a franchise waste hauler although some self-hauling is allowed and for projects under 5,000 square feet if a franchise waste hauler is used no deposit will be required.  The new ordinance also requires the use of an approved construction and demolition recycling facility.

“It’s a part of a comprehensive plan of measures taken to reduce our overall diversion,” Whipple said.

“Our goals are to conserve our natural resources, decrease pollution, and strengthen our local economy,” said Supervisor Kristin Gaspar.  “Diversion is a great start.  I would very much like to see these materials locally repurposed.”

The benefits of the ordinance are not limited to landfill diversion.  “A superior use of these materials is in our local roads,” Gaspar said.

In September 2018 Gaspar’s colleagues on the Board of Supervisors adopted her recommendation to create a working group of industry associations, public agencies, and county staff members to identify innovative and cost-effective pavement preservation treatments which can be used on county roads.  “I’m pleased to see that the Building Better Roads working group I established has been working toward that goal,” Gaspar said.