City leaders yesterday sought to respond to an epidemic of illegal garbage dumping that has infuriated people in Downtown and other communities.

On Thursday, Mayor Eric Garcetti appeared at Eighth Street and Ceres Avenue, a frequent site of illegal dumping, to announce that the city will ramp up cleaning efforts while also cracking down on those who toss large bags, boxes, green waste and other refuse onto city streets and sidewalks, rather than properly dispose of it in dumpsters or other locations.

“I’m here today to send a clear message that this city will take action and use every available tool to crack down on illegal dumping,” Garcetti said at a press conference.

The plan includes deploying a second enforcement team to Downtown Los Angeles (one already operates in the community) and placing new lighting and video surveillance equipment in some of the more impacted areas. Garcetti also detailed plans to bolster the effort to identify businesses that do not have proper garbage-hauling service, which is required by law.

Additionally, he said the city will augment the hours of inspection and undercover enforcement teams to catch perpetrators in the act. Downtown stakeholders have charged that people frequently come into the community after dark to dump refuse.

“If you are a business who thinks you can get away with this, you may have undercover units right across from you right now,” Garcetti said.

The mayor also announced an expansion of the Operation Healthy Streets program, a comprehensive street cleaning effort in Skid Row. Cleanings will now stretch south of the 10 Freeway to Washington Boulevard.

The new efforts are expected to go into effect on July 1.

Leaders of Downtown business improvement groups have charged that illegal dumping has ramped up significantly in the past two years, with a notable increase since the RecycLA garbage-hauling program went into effect (that awarded exclusive trash-hauling contracts to companies in 11 large zones, eliminating previous competition). In a May 6 Los Angeles Downtown News article, a representative of the Fashion District BID said her clean teams now haul away 14 tons of trash a day, up from 7.5 tons just two years ago. Similar increases were reported in the Industrial District and the Historic Core.

Dealing With Downtown's Dumping Debacle 

According to Garcetti, the Bureau of Sanitation collected an average of 228.2 tons of illegally dumped trash per week between January and April of this year, up 9% from the same time last year. During that period 25 people received citations for dumping waste.

Garcetti said that the Bureau of Sanitation plans to refer 27 businesses that lack garbage-hauling agreements to the City Attorney’s office this week. An illegal dumping violation comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and a six-month jail sentence. Penalties can increase depending on the size and make-up of the trash.

Garcetti’s announcement came a day after City Councilman José Huizar, whose 14th District includes the Central City, introduced a motion calling for additional resources to combat illegal dumping in Downtown. It cited the need to hire more crews to conduct cleanups, increased enforcement, fines and rewards to those who identify dumpers.

“It is deplorable and a health and safety issue that should not be allowed to occur in the second-largest city in the nation,” Huizar said in a prepared statement. “We must do better and it must consist of improved cleanup practices, along with enforcement against those businesses and others who blatantly pollute our streets.”

Huizar’s motion proposed further partnering with Chrysalis, a non-profit organization that hires and trains formerly homeless individuals, and that works with many area BIDs. The motion proposes increasing cleanups.

Downtown has arisen as the epicenter of illegal dumping in Los Angeles, with much of the activity taking place in alleyways and other unsupervised areas in industrial neighborhoods.

Estela Lopez, executive director of the Industrial District Business Improvement District, said that although she is pleased to hear of the plan to ramp up enforcement and cleaning, this is not the time for pats on the back.

“That’s the floor, not the ceiling,” Lopez said in the wake of Garcetti’s press conference. “This is what a city should do. A city should be looking for people who violate the law. A city should have cameras and lighting and should have investigators.”

Lopez particularly approved of expanding enforcement to evening hours. She and others said some local flower vendors are known to dump green waste across the district.

“The protection of the city’s health and safety is a 24/7 job,” Lopez said. “It’s not a 9-5 and it’s not a Monday through Friday thing.”

Lopez did applaud the expansion of Operation Healthy Street. She said the BID had previously asked for the program to be spread to Eighth Street almost a year ago, but was told that the proposal was not feasible due to a lack of resources.

©Los Angeles Downtown News 2019