Thứ Năm, Tháng Sáu 1, 2023
HomeNewsWatts has struggled with illegal dumping for decades

Watts has struggled with illegal dumping for decades

William Taylor took a picture of the trash can.

Recently, it was a the great pile blocked the Watts sidewalk and included palm branches, shopping carts, car tires and inflated trash bags. He send his picture Visit the city of Los Angeles’ sanitation department or call the 311 hotline to clear up spilled items, but says it can take many calls and two weeks to get a team out.

Frustrated, the 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran and Watts native said he sometimes dumps emptied stuff in his trash and drags it to the curb.

“If a concerned citizen makes a call, why does it take two or three weeks to get the job done?” Taylor said.

Furniture and trash are dumped next to the train tracks along Grandee Avenue in Watts.

Discarded furniture and trash next to train tracks along Grandee Avenue in Watts.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Illegal dumping plagues many neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Although the city doesn’t publish a ranking of the dirtiest neighborhoods, Watts has been known as a waste hotspot for more than half a century – but the city still hasn’t solved the problem. The devastating disease reduced property values ​​and infuriated the overwhelming Black and Latino residents of the neighborhood.

The city’s Clean Streets Index gives Watts the worst score: “Not clean.”

City data also shows that Watts has become dirtier since 2016, and news stories dating back to the 1960s details residents’ complaints about illegal dumping and the city’s failure to clean up. “It’s dangerous for my kids,” one Watts resident told The Times 30 years ago. “We knew it could be better than this.”

A city garbage truck operator, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said Watts has a reputation as an illegal dump. “Who really wants to go above and beyond if I pick it up today [and] come back tomorrow, maybe have double?

The LA Department of Sanitation and Environment has repeatedly declined requests for interviews but said in a statement that “has been Deeply aware of the problem of illegal dumping.”

The statement says that 98% of calls for service taken on a weekly garbage collection day, a statistic supported by publicly available data. LA Sanitation says it’s hiring more teams across the city to clean up illegal dumpsters, and they’ve set up dedicated teams.”proactively identify and address chronic areas where illegal dumping of materials and garbage regularly occurs.” It didn’t say whether those regions included Watts, and it declined to explain how those teams work.

All of which leaves Watts residents feeling insanely helpless. The city knows the problem is serious and says it’s taking action, but trash keeps spilling onto sidewalks, alleys and roads.

As a result, many residents have become numb to the garbage they see around them, said John Jones, who was field deputy for Watts under former City Councilor Joe Buscaino and now runs a local nonprofit cycling club. When Jones worked for City Council, he would start community meetings with the prompt: “Call 311.” But some residents will “get tired of not seeing anything happen,” he said, and give up.

‘They know they can dump it’

Illegal dumping is an ongoing problem in Watts.

Unauthorized dumping of trash and other debris has been an ongoing problem in Watts for decades.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

George Magallanes, Tim McOsker’s newly elected Councilor, said garbage accumulates in Watts for a number of reasons. deputy county superintendent for Watts.

Large trucks, often with their license plates removed, pull up to Watts late at night and dump their cargo to avoid paying legal handling fees, Magallanes said, adding, “They know they can. dump in this community and no one will care. “

Watts is also densely populated, he said, with tenants crammed into rental apartments generating more trash than their trash cans can hold. And evictions happen more frequently in communities of color like Watts, with tenants moving often leaving household items on the curb.

The Union Pacific train track that cuts through central Watts has proven to be an irresistible magnet for illegal dumping. Magallanes standing next to a cabinets, electricity fan and White board dumped next to the track, while on the other side of the track is another pile of trash, including a broken toilet. “This is nothing,” he said.

The city and Union Pacific have been embroiled in a years-long bureaucratic war over who should clean up the tracks, leaving residents with no clear target for their complaints.

The railway company has jurisdiction over most of the lines that run through Watts, and while it works to keep the area clean, the company told the Timesit must coordinate with LA Sanitation to perform tasks such as unpacking furniture and other large items.

Magallanes believes the matter is simpler: Union Pacific, he said, doesn’t “want to be held accountable.”

Magallanes said the city doesn’t have enough sanitation trucks to cover all service requests: “If I rented 20 more sanitation trucks in Watts, do you think there would be a piece of wrapping paper on the floor? ARE NOT.”

McOsker pointed to a “scarcity of sanitation workers” across the city, but in an interview said he is pushing for “a fair redeployment.” He said he’s working with LA Sanitation to allocate more funding and send more cleaning staff to Watts.

“I hope that Tim will keep his word,” said Timothy Watkins, president and chief executive officer of the Watts Labor Community Action Committee. “But I’m also skeptical because it sounds good, but it sounds good every time one of them runs for office.” LA Sanitation did not respond to questions about McOsker’s proposals but said it works with “all council districts to meet their requirements.”

In 2008, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered a review of illegal dumping and Los Angeles Police Department Launches Task Force after The Times reported that garbage, including animal carcasses, had festered for weeks in the alleys of Watts and surrounding areas.

In 2014, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced formed a “strike force” to combat illegal dumping in the hardest-hit areas of the city.

In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti show a $9.1 million “Clean Streets Initiative” that promises to use data-driven ratings — similar to New York’s — to measure how clean every street is in the city. It is data that shows that Watts was really get worse since 2016.

Two years ago, the city control agency discovered that LA Sanitation was “Struggling to keep up with high demand” for illegal dumping service requests, and a year ago the City Council approved funding for double teams devoted to illegal dumping.

‘Makes a person feel less’

Tim Watkins in Watts, where illegal dumping is still a problem.

Resident Tim Watkins stands near power lines along South Central Avenue in Watts, where illegal dumping remains a problem.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

On a recent trip through Watts, Watkins pointed out piles of cardboard, tires and discarded furniture on the sidewalk. “This is life in Watts,” he said.

LA . County public health website warning that illegally dumped items attract “rats and insects that can transmit disease to humans.” Along the railway tracks, Watkins mound is determinedcomes in a variety of colors, for which he says he’s tested for poison: “My tests show everything from antimony to manganese, along with lead, chromium, arsenic.”

Trash cans also pose a fire hazard. A pile of trash burns next to one of Watkins’ buildings in 2016. cause great damage to property.

Real estate agent Rene Mexia said illegal dumping reduces property values ​​in Watts. “I did property tours where I was standing out there meeting someone and they almost turned around, just because of the way it looked,” says Mexia.

Then there is the psychological loss. “Children passing by [the trash] like it’s normal,” Phillip Lester’s Watts . Neighborhood Council. “It’s an unconscious psychological pain that makes a person feel inferior,” he said.

a year 2015 Analysis by The Times found that residents of low-income neighborhoods like Watts received slower and worse street cleaning services than the wealthier LA ZIP Codes.

In Watts, residents do something almost unthinkable in the affluent parts of the city: volunteering to walk the streets and pick up trash. “If you don’t take care of yourself here, it won’t happen,” said Lester, who leads regular garbage collection operations.

Making art out of trash

Trash and trash along the railway tracks in Watts.

Trash and trash along the railway tracks in Watts.

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Marcela Oliva, professor of architecture at the Los Angeles College of Commerce-Technology, kneels in a garden near the railroad tracks, watching two children pick up water pipes, broken glass, colorful pieces of plastic, and other objects. other pieces of trash and arrange them on back of brick. “They are using trash to create art,” says Oliva.

Oliva and her class of Trade-Tech students – many of whom grew up in Watts – recently developed a proposal for a three-mile route.”natural gait” along the Watts train tracks. The proposed project will install trees for shade, art benches and awnings, vertical trusses for growing food, and solar-powered lights equipped with cameras to arrest illegal dumping. legitimately doing this act.

Oliva is also trying to add more trash cans to Watts, where local artists can decorate with murals. “Even trash cans can be beautiful,” says Oliva.

One hundred years ago, an Italian tiler named Sabato Rodia was walking along railroad tracks, collecting Rebar, soda bottles, and broken pottery. Charles Mingus, resident of Watts, jazz legend, said: “On weekends and at night, under the lights he put up, he was building something strange and mysterious. wrote in his autobiography. Rodia’s project became the famous Watts Tower.

In the 1960s, Watts-based artist Noah Purifoy, whose work has been exhibited in museums worldwide, created visual art and sculpture from salvaged materials. use in the vicinity.

“In watts, [junk] extremely accessible,” he called back. “Garbage day is a time when people throw their trash out, but the trash is often not collected so it sits there for weeks. In some places there are no pickup trucks at all.”

This article has been reported and edited in conjunction with the investigative journalism program at USC. The reporters can be reached at and

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