A Downtown Garbage Disaster

DTLA—Here is something everyone in Downtown Los Angeles can agree on: The garbage on the streets in some neighborhoods is out of control.

Downtown is facing a severe refuse problem, much of it the result of people who toss various kinds of garbage onto sidewalks or in gutters, rather than take it to bins or dumpsters. This isn’t the occasional candy wrapper dropped on the sidewalk or an overflowing garbage can, but rather intentional, and illegal, dumping.

Dealing With Downtown's Dumping Debacle

This is offensive, disgusting and violates what should be basic social mores. It is also an extreme health hazard. Remember the recent typhus outbreak?

The situation demands immediate and ongoing attention.

This does not mean a study of where the garbage is or why it is not being disposed of properly. This does not mean a task force that will report back in 60 days with “best practices” suggestions. This does not mean empty promises and Tweets from concerned leaders.

There are laws on the books about this. They need to be enforced, and Mayor Eric Garcetti and Downtown Councilman José Huizar should lead the way. This means attention and a plan of attack from the Bureau of Sanitation. The bureau may already have an action plan, but could be stymied by budget or resource constraints. If that’s the case, the elected officials should flex their muscles.

Those studies and 60-day reports? Sure, order them and determine specifically what has occurred, but do that in concert with focused attention on cleaning the streets.

Los Angeles Downtown News last week reported on the situation and how numerous community leaders say garbage has proliferated since the launch of the RecycLA program in 2017. For those who have forgotten, this was the city effort to reconfigure garbage hauling in commercial buildings and housing complexes. Whereas property owners previously could hire a garbage hauler of their choice, RecycLA divided the city into 11 zones and an exclusive trash hauler was selected for each. The rollout was notoriously bumpy.

Recycle and L.A.'s Epic Garbage Disaster

The chosen company is supposed to execute a trash-hauling contract with each building owner in its territory. But people who run the cleaning teams of local business improvement districts say the amount of garbage they pick up has spiked since RecycLA began. The Downtown News story reported that whereas Fashion District teams hauled 7.5 tons of garbage a day two years ago, now they pick up 14 tons a day. Other BID leaders reported similar spikes.

What happened? There are multiple factors, including refuse from tent encampments. The real question, though, is, in how many instances have property owners and the chosen hauler not signed a contract, with the result that the owner or building tenants are dumping their garbage with impunity, knowing that someone will take it away. Too often BIDs must pick up the slack. That’s not right.

There is probably blame to share here, but results are what matter. Fair contracts must be signed. The haulers must do their job. City leaders must crack down on illegal dumping. The onus can’t be on the BIDs.

Downtown is dealing with a garbage disaster. The situation must be treated as such.

Copyright 2019 Los Angeles Downtown News