The Los Angeles City Council was voting on zoning issues and awarding commendations to local citizens Friday when the discussion turned to a less savory topic: horse manure.
The issue was raised by Councilman Joel Wachs, whose northeast San Fernando Valley district includes hundreds of horse owners who would like the city to provide curbside manure collection.
But after a few jokes and some other refuse-related discussions, sanitation officials concluded the city could not start a citywide manure pickup program until the council adopts a collection fee for the added refuse.
Wachs expressed some frustration because the city already provides free manure collection for about 600 horse owners throughout the Valley.
"The question is how can we treat all horse owners the same?" he asked.
Drew Sones, manager of the city's recycling and waste reduction division, explained that the 600 horse owners had been putting horse manure in bags and setting it on the curb for many years.
When the city automated its trash-collection program in 1990, sanitation officials decided to provide the horse owners and other longtime customers with extra refuse containers, Sones said. The extra containers are collected at no extra charge, he said.
But Sones said the council cannot extend the collection program throughout the city without instituting a fee to pay for manure pickup. With about 8,000 registered horse owners in the city, he said a citywide collection program could cost about $60,000 per year.
A plan to impose a fee for residents requesting extra refuse containers is now making its way through the city's approval process. City officials could not estimate when the fee would be considered by the entire council.
Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg, who represents the Hollywood area, suggested that for the sake of fairness the city eliminate the collection program for the 600 horse owners until a citywide program is implemented.
But Wachs asked that the entire topic be reviewed further by a council committee on waste and environmental quality before further action is taken. The rest of the council concurred.