The lawsuit, filed Jan. 22 in San Mateo County Superior Court, seeks a court order to reinstate his once-a-week garbage pickup, which he said he canceled more than a year ago. San Carlos also seeks to be reimbursed for attorney fees and other costs associated with the suit.
The city became aware in July that House, 53, did not have garbage service, in violation of its ordinance, according to the suit.
Deputy City Attorney Linda Noeske said she can recall a few other cases in which San Carlos residents have canceled their garbage service.
"It's not frequent. Most people obey the law," she said.
House, who lives on the 500 block of Cedar Street, said he canceled the service because he can recycle his trash or dispose of it safely on his own. He also said he proposed having his garbage collected every two weeks, but the city rejected that idea.
"Most of it is all recyclable anyway, and I figured, why don't I just do it?" House said. "As far as I'm concerned, for them to force me to have a service I don't need is extortion."
House said he usually hauls away recyclables in his truck every three or four months and cashes in the load at a recycling center for $5 to $10.
According to Allied Waste, garbage collection service in San Carlos costs about $16 a month for one garbage can and $34 a month for two trash bins.
House said he also turns yard waste into mulch and feeds food scraps to his dog or puts them into the garbage disposal.
City officials said House's approach has created a real stink with his neighbors, who have complained about odors they say come from him burning garbage in his fireplace. House denies the allegation.
Neighbors' complaints are what brought the situation to the city's attention, and House has ignored repeated attempts by the city to get him to restart his garbage service, Assistant City Manager Brian Moura said.
Moura said every city he knows of requires residents and businesses to have garbage collection, and that the lawsuit was San Carlos' last resort.
"The main issue is getting him to comply so he has appropriate garbage collection," Moura said.
E-mail Mark Abramson at email@example.com.