In Zolly v. City of Oakland, the Supreme Court yesterday concluded that a fee imposed by a city on waste haulers for the right to provide services in the city might be a tax that, under the state constitution, requires voter approval.

The court’s opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu first held the plaintiffs — “owners of multifamily properties who pay their tenants’ waste collection bills” — had standing to challenge the fee, even though they did not directly pay the fee, because it is enough that the “fees have caused their waste collection rates to increase every month.” The court also concluded the city cannot avoid a vote on the fee just because it was negotiated. And it determined that the fee did not as a matter of law fall within constitutional provisions exempting certain fees from the vote requirement.

Justice Martin Jenkins separately concurred, for himself and Justice Carol Corrigan. He said he “largely agree[s] with the majority’s reasoning,” but felt “some of the majority’s discussion” — part of the court’s interpretation of an exemption — “is unnecessary to resolution of this case.”

The court affirms the published opinion of the First District, Division One, Court of Appeal.