California cities may face greater limitations on their ability to raise General Fund revenue following a state Supreme Court decision last week, an attorney on the matter said.

The decision in Zolly v. City of Oakland allows attorneys for three small Oakland property owners to proceed to trial in Alameda County Superior Court in the coming months over garbage collection fees.

Andrew Zacks with Zacks, Freedman and Patterson, representing Robert Zolly and others, aim to show that the franchise fee Oakland charges waste hauler Waste Management for the exclusive right to serve residents is really an illegal tax on people who pay for garbage service.

Moreover, it is also a tax on tenants who will likely have to pay higher rent because their property owner must pay more for garbage pickup, Zacks said in an Aug. 11 interview.

Zacks argued whether the franchise fee is reasonable or a disguised way to raise money for cities’ General Funds. Oakland collects more than $25 million annually from Waste Management. Some property owners are paying four to five times what they paid before the city started collecting the fee, he said.

“We are disappointed in the Court’s ruling and disagree with the outcome,” Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said. “We are evaluating all of our options.”

Keith Burbank, Bay City News

Keith Burbank is currently a fulltime reporter covering Alameda County and Oakland news for Bay City News. He has also worked on the Data Points project for Local News Matters, finding trends and stories about the region through data. In 2019, he was a California Fellow at the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, producing a series about homeless deaths in Santa Clara County. He worked as a swing shift editor for the newswire for several years as well. Outside of journalism, Keith enjoys computer programming, math, economics and music.