LA WATCHDOG - A recent article in the Los Angeles Times (Illegal Dumping Has Plagued Watts for Decades. Residents are Fed Up) discussed how the Watts community has been a hot spot for illegal dumping of trash, bulky items, and construction materials as well as toxic substances and materials.
Unfortunately, according to the article, the blight in Watts is only getting worse, not better, despite the mumblings from the Bureau of Sanitation and City Hall. The tonnage related to the illegal dumping has increased dramatically and the response to service calls appears to take longer than the rest of the City, creating an unhealthy environment for this disadvantaged community.
One of the major problems is that the Bureau of Sanitation and its management is stretched too thin, charged with numerous responsibilities. Sanitation is responsible for four major operating programs: the Clean Water Program, the Environmental Quality (Livability) Program, the Solid Resources Program, and the Watershed Protection Program.
Furthermore, the teams charged with cleaning up the illegal dumping are also involved in cleaning up homeless encampments, a priority in the current administration.
At the same time, Sanitation is understaffed with a vacancy rate of over 20% at the same time as service calls have increased by more than 40% over the last three years.
These issues are compounded by the lack of proper funding as revenues from the Solid Waste Fee and transfers from the Sewer and Maintenance Fund have not provided adequate funding to fill vacancies, to replace outdated capital equipment, and update management information systems.
These shortfalls and possible solutions were addressed by Controller Ron Galperin in his March 2021 report, Piling Up: Addressing L.A.’s Illegal Dumping Problem. His recommendations included:
- Increase the number of permanent, dedicated illegal dumping cleanup crews
- Reorganize LASAN’s enforcement and investigations unit
- Expand LASAN’s illegal dumping surveillance camera program
- Increase administrative citation fines
- Develop a public awareness campaign
- Make it easier for residents to legally dispose of excess waste
- Boost oversight of commercial trash customers and construction projects
- Develop new funding sources to support more illegal dumping abatement programs
The Bureau’s 2,200 page Budget Proposal does not give a detailed explanation of Sanitation’s efforts to curb illegal dumping on our streets, sidewalks, parks, and private property. It also gives the impression that curbing illegal dumping is not a priority for Sanitation given all of its other responsibilities, including cleaning up of homeless encampments.
Maybe it is time for the Mayor and the City Council to make the curbing of illegal dumping a priority by providing the proper funding, staffing and equipment that will improve the quality of life for Angelenos, especially for the people of Watts.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)